Mixing low string staccatos and epic percussion

I’m having trouble trying to figure out how to sit really low string staccatos in a mix. Using Ark 1, and wondering if anyone has any tips for this library as well.

I’m thinking I should avoid using other instruments in the low end at all unless they are doubling accents on the staccatos. In other words no long low brass / bass.

Also all these big percussion libraries, from Ark and Stormdrum, for example, are so low and boomy they always seem to either overtake everything or not cut through. The spectrum on the persuasions seem to cover a wide range. Seems like a single sample can be turned into a high frequency hit, or a low boom, with just eq / multi-band compression. Is it typical to use these libraries like this, and just cut to whatever frequency you want in the sample?

And if I do want low percussion with low orchestra parts, should I be narrowing the stereo field of the drums or orchestra and panning…?

Any ideas or links would be helpful, thank you :slight_smile:


Well, the rule of thumb in orchestration (and EDM arrangement, for that matter…) is to stick with unison and octaves only down there. Bass is difficult to hear (especially if you don’t have massive speakers and a well treated room), and there isn’t much space to work with, so you need to keep it very clean and simple, compared to the higher frequency ranges.

Of course, you could layer different articulations in the bass, just like everywhere else, but (even more than in the higher ranges) you need to think about it as layering for sound design, rather than on a musical level. For example, brass staccatos + woodwind and strings longs to create a beefy sound with bright, distinct attacks - but they need to play the exact same notes, or it will just blur everything.

Indeed, one can use EQ to shape the sounds to fit together in the mix, but if we’re talking traditional orchestra, that can only be used for subtle tweaks, if you want realistic results. Of course, if there are synths and sound design all over the place, anything goes, but even then, it’s usually better and easier to do the basic “mix” on the arrangement/orchestration level, and by selecting sounds that actually go together without radical processing.

As for stereo field and panning, you should generally not mess with that, at least when using wet samples, as manipulating the reverb tail can create pretty weird results. The whole point of using wet samples all recorded in situ, in the same hall, is that the instruments really sounds like they are where they’re supposed to be, and that is ruined if pan/balance/width is altered per track in the mix.

That said, you probably should make the very lowest bass more or less mono, but that should be done with a suitable plugin (an EQ that can work in M+S mode, for example), either on the master, or on the problematic tracks only. The change should barely be audible (and literally won’t be on a 2.1 system), but if you play “wide bass” on stereo (non sub) speakers or headphones, it will sound and feel very weird.


Great tips from David, but I’ll add some too. I come from an EDM/Metal background so mixing kick+bass has always been the main issue. here’s what I learned:

  1. Choose the main focus of the low end: Percussion or Bass. In almost all popular genres the low percussion (kick drum) takes presedence. But in cinematic and orchestral music it is usually the opposite, unless we talk trailer music which is more similar to EDM imo.
  2. In EDM, with a low boomy kick, there is no room for a deep bassline. Same is true in every style, if you want more focus on the bass parts, use snappier kicks, or tighten them with transient designer to shorten the sustain.
  3. For tonal parts (you asked about low staccatos etc.), as a rule of thumb I only use octaves and unison below C3 (when using C4 as middle C standard). Also, the more sharp and focused you want the stabs, the more careful you should be with layering ‘sloppy’ sustains…meaning any short notes that has unneccessary long rumbles after the note ends. Transient designers can work if you don’t care for keeping it classically natural and authentic.

@Michael , see my and David’s tips above, but another thing I can recommend…use different low end percussion depending on how much headroom there is in different parts of your music. Layering is your friend. So if the low end percussion takes up too much room in any one place, use a tighter Gran Cassa (bass drum) on those beats. Then open up with a boomier drum when there is room for it in the mix.


Wow super helpful Mikael. I was just studying up in using transient shapers.

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David thank you for the detailed response! After work I’ll have a chance to explore your advice.

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Sometimes when I feel like experimenting I even reduce the sustain with transient shaping on the entire percussion bus, or even “rhythm bus” = ostinatos etc. :stuck_out_tongue:

I would love to try the transient designer from XLN audio, it’s made for percussion, but I don’t care lol. :stuck_out_tongue:


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Wow that sounds pretty solid. I would get it if I wasn’t trying to be careful to make sure I can afford the Komplete 12 sale.

Thank you, David. I’ll remember to keep it at octaves in the bass. I think I was already doing this, but I’ll double check. I like the idea of getting some other layers in there to beef up the same notes.

I also like the idea of keeping the samples the way they are already designed to fit in the space, and not having to do much sound processing.

I’m still wondering about how much the percussion applies to these guidelines, though. Seems like some people widen the stereo field for that, and some narrow it. I suppose it depends a little on what you’re going for. I’ll play with it. Thanks again for the advice.

Thank you Mikael. I’ll play around with transient shaping a bit. I was actually thinking of doing it with audio, and splitting the transients and then using fades to shape them.

Only thing I’m still wondering is using eq on percussion samples to change a hit to a high or low sample as needed. It seems like some of these massive samples are made so that you can cut either end of the frequency and it still sounds natural, because the sample fills the whole spectrum.

With Ark they also have their Time Machine function, which I was thinking of using. But it seems to have a limited number of voices since it’s so cpu intensive. But it’s supposed to allow one to shorten the sample while keeping the reverb tail. I’ll have to do some experimenting based on your and David’s advice. Thanks again.

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Try also using a tighter bass drum sound for hard accents in the low end when layering with short strings etc. For example, one of my favorites for this atm is the bass drum from Orchestral Percussion SDX. No rumble, just a very tight and controlled bang in the lows.