Wedding Music|Orchestral Recording Techniques and Sound Observations

This is a bit technical and probably not compelling reading unless you happen to be an engineer, producer, or are quite interested in the sound of orchestral recordings.

Today while mixing the new string orchestra tunes, I was “A-B-ing” my mixes against some major orchestral recordings of these same pieces. Having not listened to the mixes on these classical standards very critically before (except to take note when there is an especially sweet sounding room or soloist), I was rather surprised at how many of the recordings are exceedingly “bright”, to the point of lacking warmth in the low end.

I did adjust my mixes to be a little less boomy, but they still clearly have more low end than at least the mixes I was scoping. Now I’m pondering how much of that almost shrill sound on the comparative recordings is variously due to the recording techniques, the equipment, and the personal taste of the mixing engineer and producers.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that I was listening to them on iTunes – most were downloaded at 256 Kbps. Now granted, 256 is nothing close to audiophile quality, but it should not be degrading the sound so much that warmth is noticeably lost.

Additionally, it does not escape my notice that many of the songs in question lack instrumentation in the low end of the sonic spectrum, so at least to the degree that affects the recording, I understand there is no milk to be gotten if there is no cow from which to get it.

The takeaway – my mixes have more body, and perhaps I’ll listen next week and find some of them too “dark” or lacking clarity – time will tell. But for now, as we add these to our Wedding Music Samples album and to our other offerings as well, they will just have to be more round sounding than some of their counterparts that have been recorded by high powered orchestras and mixed by excellent sound engineers. The thought occurs to me that perhaps just as there is a “loudness” war that has been killing the dynamics of pop music over the last few decades, might there be “brightness wars” among those that produce, record, and mix classical music of this sort?

You can listen to short snippets of our Wedding Music Samples here, and make your own judgements about the relative brightness and warmth – the overall sonic quality – of our music. Or listen to the WEDDING MUSIC SAMPLES on our own website (the previous link takes you to Bandcamp, the primary site where our albums and songs reside). I don’t know what the kbps is on our website – on Bandcamp, the songs stream at 128, which is barely adequate (the cool thing about Bandcamp, though, is that you can download our music at the highest quality level available in any format today – better than CD quality if you have even a reasonably quick connection.

Steve Millikan

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