"mastering" orchestral music

Hello everybody, I'm new here but instead of a cheesy introduction thread or spamming my music I wanted to dive straight into a technical discussion.


I released lots of electronic (dance) music in the past and there the mantra for masters is louder than loud and than a little bit louder. Of course this got extremely ridiculous and resulted in the overcompressed , limited to death tracks you hear more often than not. Pop and rock music has the same disease.


Nowadays I'm getting more and more into orchestral music and start to get the grips of how to mix everything properly but I wonder what kind of final mastering tricks are acceptable ( or not 'acceptable' but used anyways ) When I listen to recent movie soundtracks it seems that they aren't really holding back that much... I rather still have some dynamics left though, what is your opinion ? And what are the tools you use to make the final mix sound the way you want to ?


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  • Those settings seem reasonable indeed, thanks for sharing your insights.

    I only have experience with virtual orchestration which of course already makes your life a lot easier in some ways as you don't have to worry about a quadrillion mics but I think in the end the mixing itself isn't that different. I starts to get interesting though when doing hybrid music, combining orchestral sounds with synths. I guess trusting your ears and treating every instrument with common sense is what you have to do in such cases ( a synth bassline or guitar benefits from 'slightly' different compression approaches than a contrabas in an orchestral setting :D )

  • Hey Jonas, what Jerry said is totally right.  You must have good orchestration to save you a lot of trouble in the mix.  This is different from mastering.  In short, mastering is just about getting each song on an album to sound good from track to track.  Mixing deals with each individual song.  


    Folks go to school for years for this sort of thing, but some keys include:

    1. Orchestration - Ex. Not putting two bass parts on the same MIDI track that are several octaves apart. It will haunt you in the mix.
    2. Realistic pan positioning - thinking like there are a quadrillion mics and trying to mimic the stereo field of an orchestra)
    3. Cutting and boosting frequencies - reducing/cutting low frequencies and slightly boosting high frequencies for  instruments in the upper range and doing the opposite for lower range instruments. 
    4. Not over doing reverb  - unless you want a special effect

    Hope that helps!

    Be well


  • Hey Greg,


    I actually did go to school for this kind of thing and the points you mention are certainly true.

    I was mostly interested in some things that are specific to dealing with orchestral music nowadays, I tend to be very careful myself not to overdo it and keep the dynamic range as intact as possible. Some movie soundtracks are quite loud though but I guess that's what you get when in the final mix you have to compete with all the sound effects and dialogue. Depends a lot on what kind of project it is probably.

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