Top 5 Considerations When Mixing Orchestral Music

This article about mixing orchestral music first appeared in FlyPaper by Soundfly. I reprint it here with permission and I encourage you to check out their courses. You can get a 15% discount code on a subscription using the promo code AJTRUMM15. Finally, you may come across affiliate links, and I may make a commission if you buy.

Hey – not everybody is making electronica and indie-rock here. There’s a whole world of creativity (and money, if you’re good at it!) in orchestral music – especially since orchestral samples are so good these days. But mixing an orchestra can be a bit different than mixing a rock band or an electronic track, so here are five of our top considerations when mixing orchestral music.

Great music mixes itself

This may be disappointing for the tinkerers out there, but the number one key to getting a great orchestral mix is a great source. This means great arrangement and great recording. If you’re mixing tracks from a real orchestra, you’re probably getting an awesome set of tracks – but make sure!

If you’re using orchestral samples, make sure you use high quality stuff, and do your homework. Don’t arrange instruments in ways that wouldn’t be possible for an orchestra, don’t have instruments play out of their actual range, and take the time to really get it sounding right at the writing, arranging, and recording stage. This ain’t “fix it in the mix” stuff.

Dynamic Range

Orchestral music requires a much larger dynamic range. So, this is not the mix you want to squash to oblivion with the hardest baddest compressor in your toolbox. Since orchestral pieces are often long and transitions between loud and soft slower (sometimes!), you may find that manually applying subtle fader automation helps reign in a dynamic range that’s too big. You’ll probably end up using a bit of limiting at the end to tame peaks – but do so slowly.

In general, orchestral music doesn’t call for a whole lot of processing, especially compression and limiting.


Where you position instrument sections in an orchestral mix is crucial – more crucial than other genres, because orchestral music tries to sound real, even if it’s sample-based. Think about the audience perspective and place tracks in the mix in a way that makes sense – as if you were there. Watching live orchestras while listening deeply can help with this.

Or – don’t. You may find yourself breaking the rules, and that’s ok. Just remember that panning is a major component in an orchestral mix – unless your source is only one stereo pair – then skip to the next section!


All mixes exist in a three-dimensional space – not just left right. The main way we position elements closer and farther back is with judicious use of reverb. As with panning, reverb is an even more important part of an orchestral mix than normal.

In a live setting, one would almost never here an orchestra without a large influence from the hall or space it’s performed in. So, when mixing an orchestra, reverb may be your number one concern. Live orchestras present as a coherent unit coming at you from a stage in a well-designed concert hall, so an orchestra mix may be a good candidate for having one shared reverb buss, rather than different busses and different effects for different instruments.

Depending on your recording, though, you may find yourself with plenty of nature reverb already there, which brings us to our last concern…

Leave it alone

Orchestral music may be the most “natural” and “organic” kind of mixing you’ll ever do. If the track sounds great out of the gate – leave it alone. Some orchestral music is so well recorded that the mixer’s job is basically to get out of the way.

If this is the case, check the mix on various systems and listen for any problem areas, applying subtle EQ cutting as needed and as little other processing as possible to let it shine forth.

A subtle art

Orchestral music can be really fun to mix – and yes it can be a challenge, especially if you’ve got a lot of separate tracks to weave together into one coherent tapestry. But it’s also a gentle art that can be quite subtle and rewarding, when all the pieces are in place. Mixing orchestras requires a soft touch, a keen ear, and a lot of faith in yourself and your sources. It’s definitely not rock and roll mixing, but it can be just as fun!

I’m a producer, vocalist, and writer. I like audio stuff, too 🙂 Let’s talk about it on Facebook or Instagram and while you’re at it – check out the 10x My Tracks eBook!

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