Orchestral Composing and Mixing Views (using synths under orchestra?)


I watch loads and loads of these type videos on youtube and one of the best I have seen is how Junkie XL composes his scores.

Ok, like most film score composers, they all use the libs to make the mockups which in themselves do sound pretty damn good lol but they will have the mochups and cues eventually recorded by live orchestras.

The thing is though one of his videos was how he uses synths underneath the orchestral libraries to beef up the piece. I had never really thought of doing that and I havn’t really tried that.

When I write orchestral music I tend to just use orchestral libs and my sound just doesn’t seem to really ‘punch’ but his orchestral mockups sound huge and very powerful.

Does anyone else here use synths with orchestral libs. The synths are not really ‘heard’ but they are used just as undertones to bring out the orchestral instruments used.

Is it because his studio is mega huge and expensive although I use quite a few of the same orch libs as he uses or is it because he doubles and trebles up different libs together or is it the synths that bump up the power of the pieces?

Any views on this would be appreciated.


Yes, I do use synths in the background some times. And I do layer the libs to get that airy or beefy sound. But its more seldom now days as I tend to move towards more subtle styles and smaller arrangements.
Albion One do have some good examples of “discrete” foundations for bass sections. As do some of Natives synths in the Komplete range. It can be massive to add it on a crescendo or a build up, but the problem is that you have to leave it in a smart way, or you be stuck with it for the rest of the piece.

Tricky sometimes:)

Best to you

MOMA, Sweden


hi there. just kind of wandering around looking to share random opinions, so why not?

I’ve been creating and mixing synth sounds for just a few months but it has been educational.
Is your composing very formal, like you went to school and learned about orchestration?
I didn’t, but I used to play violin in an orchestra, teaching myself about composition and paying attention, so I have some observations.

I had the privilege of attending a concert by the Emerson String Quartet recently, the first time I’ve heard live music like this since learning how to mix. And I had this wild thought: they are eq-ing and compressing themselves! I could hear every note, tell who was playing which part, and it all blended together and sounded more perfect than I could ever have imagined a real time performance could sound!
Part of it is the somewhat conflicting waveforms created by the players’ inconsistencies but they work together to use those to good advantage. Adjust pitch, playing technique etc. by micro increments that most people would never notice.
That’s never going to be possible with samples, so one thing to try is saturation on your tracks. Rough them up a bit so they sound more full individually and they’ll take up more space in the mix. Synths is a fantastic idea: lots of complexity in saw and square waves and a subtle low end boost will change all the harmonics in the mid range very easily. (Something I’m often trying to undo because strings swallow vocals in a mix.)
Also mixing different instruments is the historic way somebody like Mozart got his mixes to convey in a large hall. A tuba and a bass violin section playing unison will sound more full than either of them alone, even at equal volumes. Flutes and violins often share parts. Composers combine different instruments to create the effects for their compositions.
My knowledge is imperfect, I only just read parts of one orchestration book recently, but it was enough to provide me with the general concept.
Dig up few scores or watch some stuff by this guy and it might give you some ideas. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSt_ZRe_mla4tRgYC_GNElQ

Some advice from a friend, long time electronic music composer, render the midi files to audio and mix as if they were audio, i.e. more eq, compression, reverb balancing panning etc. That will also help create a more full and finished product. Although I may be tell you something you already know! I only just learned it.

I love it that someone else is thinking about this stuff! Thank you.
: )


@JustLisa Thanks, some interesting points. I usually mix the midi tracks then export the whole track to audio, maybe that’s where i’m going wrong.
I will try printing each stem as audio then mix.
Using synths under orchestral instruments does sound logical to boost certain instruments but maybe like you say, it’s all to do with the mixing side and getting each instrument heard over the stereo field.
I know I am a pretty crap engineer when it comes to mixing lol.
I started at the age of six having classical piano lessons till I was twelve then I stopped to teach myself guitar and keyboards.
I think I am lucky I had the classical piano lessons because it got me into listening to orchestral pieces from all the greats like Beethoven and Mozart so I learn’t orchestration just by listening to their works with headphones on and analizing how they wrote.
Then I got into rock and blues and EDM and trance so I really widened my style of composing which does help me understand music more.
So now I am into cinematic music which can use many styles and instruments too.
I will check out that link as everything helps :slight_smile: