Academy Dashboard Forum Academy Academy Lesson Suggestions Brass and woodwind Reply To: Brass and woodwind

Derek Nellis

    Hi Nick!

    I've actually been doing a lot of mixing horns, particularly with my band that has 4 horns: Trumpet, Alto, Tenor, Trombone. I totally agree that info on mixing horns is much more sparse than with other instruments, but I've learned a few things so far.

    For EQ, I generally put a shallow low cut below bottom of the register (in case they want to go there), and then do some reductive stuff on very resonant areas of the horn.  The tricky part with this is that every player has a different sound/tone/timbre (especially considering mouthpiece differences), so these resonances can vary from player-to-player.  Sometimes you won't have to do much with EQ, and in general I'd say go easy, since you don't want to butcher the sound they've worked so hard to develop over the years.

    Outside of that, I find approaching a horn section as a single entity works really well.  I have all the individual tracks sending to FX tracks (so I can level balance the sends separately), and all the balanced horn and aux tracks get routed to a horn bus that I can THEN do some real EQ shaping on to match the rest of the tune.  This seems to keep a good balance between keeping the integrity of individual instrument sound and blending with everything else.

    As for using samples, I can't say I've tried to make it actually work, but I've worked with it and can say that they tend to clash in a not-so-pleasant way.  Basically, it really brings out the fact that some of the horns are sampled, which could be distracting, but if you can make it work then more power to ya!  If anything, I'd suggest just doing multiple takes so you have a "section" of real horns.

    Lastly, it can be hard to get horns to sound like a cohesive "horn section" when recorded separately as apposed to live recording a whole horn section together at once.  Lining up the tracks helps (of course), but the subtleties in timing/feel can be pretty tedious and hard to line up.  I've found that a good deal of parallel processing can help with a cohesive sound, as well as mask subtle differences in articulation, leading to a fatter horn section sound.

    Hope this gives you some direction, I'm still learning too!