Workflow for mixing multitrack classical recording (imported tracks)

(Stefan) #1

I have been using Ardour for editing classical concert recordings (oratoria, chamber music, lied singing) mostly for documentation purposes. The actual data acquisition (2-track stereo) is always done outside of Ardour. In a second step I then import the recorded files and do my editing. Often I merge tracks from several concerts (consecutive nights) and pick the best pieces. However, I have now the option to go beyond simple 2-track recordings and will in the future add to the main set some (limited) additional tracks (for solo-instruments, singers, outriggers,…). The recordings will be imported as multitrack BWF files.

Now my question: Before I just ‘cut and pasted’ everything into one stereo audio track and then sent it to the master track. Now with some necessary mixing this work flow makes maybe not so much sense anymore. What would your advice be with regard to a suitable work flow achieving the following:

  1. edit the ‘pieces’ together, (cuts, crossfades)
  2. change overall levels to adjust for loud/silent spots)
  3. mix the tracks together to a two track stereo ‘master’. This includes adding and panning the outriggers, soloists, etc.

Help is greatly appreciated :slight_smile:

best regards stefanm

(Vasakq) #2

I also use Ardour mainly for recording and editing classical music.
As always there are many ways to accomplish certain tasks. I can share my workflow, I hope you will find it useful:

1.) I think the fastest way to edit multiple tracks simultaneously is to use “groups”. You can create (and add…) group by right-clicking on track headers (Editor screen) and select “Group” from the dropdown menu, or in the Mixer screen click “Grp.” button. You can create as many groups as you want but for classical music editing it is important to have only one group (you can name it as you wish) and that all tracks are the members of the same one group. That way you can edit all tracks just as if you would single stereo track. Just remember to disengage grouping when you mix the tracks and engage it back again for editing (doing so is easy: just click on the colored group stripe - which is present both in Editor and in Mixer screen).

2.) To change overall levels you can use stereo compressor, of course, but I would strongly advise against it, because it ruins much of the emotional content of classical music. It is much better to use fader automation on the Master bus. In the Editor screen, Master track there is a button with the letter “A”. Click on it and select “Fader” from the dropdown menu. Draw levels as you see fit with the drawing tool (“d” shortcut or click the button with a pencil in the top left corner). When playing back switch from “Manual” to “Play” in the automation track header.

3.) You can mix tracks together the same way as in the 2.), just use fader automation on the particular tracks instead of the Master bus (don’t forget to disengage grouping after getting finished with editing). As for panning, as usual, toggle “Mute” button of the spot mic track on and off to determine where the sound is situated in the stereo image. It takes a bit of trial and error. (in case you don’t know, for doing the panning you switch to the Mixer screen and move pointer between letters “L” and “R” in the upper-middle of the mixer stripe)

(Colin M Fletcher) #3

Groups are definitely what you want for this type of work. To add to vasakq’s advice: you can create a group which just groups tracks for editing, not for mixing, if you untick ‘Gain’ in the ‘Sharing’ section of the group properties. That way you don’t even have to remember to disable the group before adjusting the mix.

See for more.

(Stefan) #4

Thank you, vasakq and colinf.

So far I have tried to import the recording as one poly-channel track. If I have recordings from three concerts I import them as three ‘poly-channel tracks’, lets call them the source tracks -with each 2 channels when only a simple AB or XY pair is involved, or more channels if other channels - solo voices etc. are recorded also. I did not know the grouping functionality and I tried it - but it does not really work for me. I try to explain why - maybe you can give advice where I go wrong.

To cut and cross fade the pieces together and add mixing afterwards I so far tried to do the following:

  1. Open one more empty poly-channel track (the same number of channels as in the concerts). Let’s call this the ‘edit track’
  2. I then cut the best pieces out from the three concerts and copy them on the newly created empty track (A kind of poor man’s 4-point editing) and cross fade the pieces together. I have tried to use grouping of tracks, as you suggested, but the cutting of pieces can not be done group wise. So here it feels headier to have all channels in one track.
  3. in order to be able to mix the different channels together I then had the idea to use jack to route the different channels of the edit track to new ‘functional’ tracks, that is:
    a) the main AB set (stereo channel)
    b) the outriggers, soloists, etc to a seperate track each
  4. the ‘functional channels’ can now be mixed together to and the mix send to master stereo mix.
  5. the master I have so far just run through a limitor (never any compression) with the gain adjusted such that just a few peaks throughout the entire production will be limited.

I know, this is a somewhat complex work flow. The problematic, tedious step is the mixing step - 4) in above list. I use the ‘touch mode’ of the automation - so no faders moving up and down just, but instead I entirely relied on the graphical gain and pan adjustment on the track itself - moving points up and down on the time line of the recording. But maybe this is what you actually meant, vasakq? Unfortunately you can not easily see where one changes gain or pan settings relative to the timeline of the audio - because the ‘functional tracks’ are kind of empty - the waveform of the recording is not shown here, since I just use the track for routing.

Any suggestions how this can be simplified. If the gain/pan of individual channels in a poly-channel track could be individually adjusted with the automation that would actually help me get rid of the ‘functional tracks’ that just serve for routing.

regards stefanm

(Colin M Fletcher) #5

You should certainly be able to edit regions on multiple grouped tracks together: you need to make sure ‘Selection’ is ticked in the group’s properties. If the original files aren’t all exactly the same duration or don’t start at exactly the same time, you’ll also want to change the ‘Regions in active edit groups are edited together:’ setting, as per