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How do you group and color code an orchestra in your mixes?

Got this question about grouping and color-coding you tracks you might be interested in:

“When you group instruments together and color code them, should it be done by Instrument Family or by Range? For me, it seems like it would be easier to group bass instruments String Bass, Contra -bassoon, Bass clarinet, etc together, Then Baritone -tenor instruments, Cello, low horns, tenor trombone etc? What would be the pros and cons of such a grouping? Wouldn’t the functional range be more important than the family , at least sometimes? If not, then why not?

This is an excellent question, and although I am no expert in extensive orchestral grouping, I would think that each section should be grouped together. Not by frequency range, but by family.

If you’re grouping different instruments together you’ll have a harder time creating separation between those instruments. If you group two different low-end instruments you’ll have no way of giving them separate boosts and cuts in the frequency spectrum.

But if you group each family of instruments together that should sound like a whole, then it’s easier to glue those groups together with overall compression and EQ.

Think of each family of instruments as one element of the mix that you need to control as opposed to needing to control a specific frequency range across all instruments.

Of course, this all depends on how extensive you want your grouping to be. If you want to group down your entire 80-piece orchestra down to one bus, you’re going to make some sacrifices.

However, the grouping above that could be all string sections together into one bus, enabling you to control each element of the orchestra independently of each other. And because you don’t ever mic individual instruments in an orchestra if they’re in a section, that’s about as extensive as you can group those instruments together. The same goes with the other orchestral families.

That’s my take on how I would approach this particular grouping, and the way I’ve done it when I’ve mixed orchestral instruments.

I don’t talk a lot about orchestral instruments inside my Mixing With 5 Plug-ins course that’s on sale this week, but it does have a multi-track with a 16-piece orchestra and a whole video on how to group and color-code your tracks.

If you’re interested in that sort of thing, head over here and use the coupon code NAMM50 when you check out to get $50 off your order.

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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