Classical Temptations — Recording, Editing, Mixing, and Mastering a Wind Orchestra with Pro Tools and S6

By in Music Creation, Pro Mixing

Hello, it’s Alex Reaper here, today I am so excited to retell one of the experiences I had late last year. On the 9th of December, 2017, I participated in an opportunity to work at The Old Museum building in Brisbane with QWO (Queensland Wind Orchestra).

Myself and two other audio students from SAE were given the opportunity to record, edit, mix and master Queensland Wind Orchestra end of year performance.

The venue was a large hall fitted with acoustic paneling, and as the building was brick in structure, with extremely high ceilings, the resonance was clearly heard and needed only minor tweaking in the final process.

On the performance day, we were advised that we were to be recording an opera singer from the organ loft. After the initial mock setup  the team decided to tweak the stage right set up slightly so as to capture the full range of both the orchestra and the vocalist.

On recording day, the team arrived at the venue approximately 2 hours prior to the performance. This allowed enough time to set up, find levels and tweak our equipment before the performance.

We decided to use a pair of Neumann KM184’s and a pair of DPA 4011’s to be able to capture both the raw sound of the orchestra, the vocalist and the specific resonance of the venue.

It was decided that the two Neumann KM184’s would be the centre pair, and the DPA’s would be the side microphones, using this combination, instead of trying to achieve a sound spectral image, we aimed to achieve it within the recording process instead. With the Neumann’s at an OTRF position and the DPA’s at an on axis position also with a slight downward angle. To achieve this, the two DPA microphones were also placed around 4.5 to both the left and right of the centre microphones, flush with the edge of the stage.

They were then connected into a multicore which ran along, flush to the edge of the stage. To control the signal we used a Focusrite Clarett 8, then Pro Tools 12 which was being used on a MacBook Pro.

The entire process for the night went really smoothly, and fortunately we had no hiccups. The team was mainly focused on keeping an eye on the dynamic ranges of each song. We did, however, have to focus on the balance between the left and right sides of the orchestra due to the opera vocalist in the loft as well as having a harp, piano and heavy brass, and a double bass on opposite sides of the stage

The team recorded 8 songs on a 4 track setup. The set list was as follows:

  • Country Gardens
  • Mississippi Suite
  • How Deep the Father’s Love for us
  • Angels in the Architecture
  •  Intermission
  • Symphony No.2 (3 Movements)
  • With Every Sunrise
  • Groovy Loops
  • Paprikash

The day after the performance it was time for some editing!!

Before going into the studio on the Tuesday I decided it would be helpful to do some ‘pre-editing’ just to conserve some time as studio access was sparse. I used an Audient 8024 for around 2 hours in order to edit the heads and tails of each track. To sure that everything was at a professional standard I used the ABC’s Classical Editing Tips as my reference.

Whilst completing the heads and tails of the track I noticed a few random noises on the recordings. To resolve this, I did some sneaky edits with marginal fades and eliminated the extra noises.

The next day I, one of my team members and our mentor, Adrian Carroll headed to the Avid Pro Tools | S6. This is where we began our mixing and mastering process. This was done with minimal processing as recording too much interference in orchestral recording causes issues.  For these particular tracks we used from EQ’s, Compressors and Limiters. Firstly we sent the tracks, both Neumann and DPA to an auxiliary track with an EQ3-7Band where we rolled off the low end starting at 100Hz. Also on those auxiliary tracks we sent the signal through a Pro Compressor to give the signal a little bit of a punch.

Those signals were sent into a Main Mix Bus where we had another EQ3-7Band, then an Abby Road RS127 Rack, a Pro Compressor, a Pro Limiter and finally a Pro Multi-band Dynamic Compressor.

Ultimately, I listened to the tracks over 14 different pairs of speakers in different spaces in order to optimise the sound quality.

In summary, the entire project ran smoothly with a great final outcome. Yes, there was a good amount of time invested into the project, but I think that’s why we managed get the result that we did. This experience really gave me a reason to come back to my roots with classical music. I’m happy to say that I think this recording experience is one of the best I have done to date, and I’m sure my team members would agree as well.

In the future I will definitely utilise the skills and knowledge that I have gained from this opportunity for further endeavours. Finally, I would really like to say thank you to our mentor Adrian Carroll, as he guided throughout this whole project and also was the one to grant us this opportunity with QWO.

Peace Out.

Pro Tools | S6

Choose a pre-configured S6 system or build your own. Speak with our experts to determine the best fit for your workflow and business.

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.

I’m an aspiring engineer, musician and producer from Australia. I’ve produced and co-written a handful of alternative, indie, and classical works. I’ve also been classically trained, with numerous instruments for the past 12 years.