Tips For Mixing String Instruments

Mixing String Instruments

Strings are really good for adding that final touch in your productions but they tend to stick out in a mix more than you need them to.

That mostly happens because strings can have a lot of high frequency content. In this tutorial I will show you how to fix that problem by simply using an equalizer, reverb and modulation plugins.

High string sounds such as cellos and violins are not that hard to mix because the ear is sensitive to high frequency content. Lower frequency strings are the ones which tend to be challenging and can make your precious mix muddy, especially if the strings are playing chords.

Now, let’s look at what you can do to make your strings sound good and work well with the other sounds in your mix.

Dynamic Processing

The first thing I always do is to add compression to tame out the loud peaks and keep the strings at a constant level. If the music notes are long then I use a fast attack and medium to long release time. If the strings are playing short notes, like Pizzicato strings, then a fast attack and fast release time will work well.

The ratio settings will depend on how loud the peaks are. The louder the peaks the higher the dynamic range, which means you’ll need more ratio to smooth out those loud peaks. And the lower the peaks then a lower compression ratio will work.

Keeping the volume of the strings constant makes the equalization process a lot easier. But you don’t want to kill all the dynamics, over-compression will just ruin the life out of the strings and make them sound robotic or unnatural.

The more compression you add the less realistic the sound will be, especially for VST instruments. All you need to do is to make sure there isn’t too much difference between the loud and soft parts of the sound.

Equalizer Settings

Keep in mind that low strings wont be mixed the same as high strings. Let’s first look at how one would mix high strings. If you’re mixing high strings then you will mostly do some boosting in the lower range of the spectrum and a lot of cutting at the top-end.

Firstly you’ll need to remove anything below 80Hz to get rid of low-end mud and rumble. A small boost with a narrow Q at around 100Hz to 150Hz will add some bottom to the instrument. A cut around 205Hz will remove any low-mid muddiness.

To add some body or fullness to high strings make a boost around 380Hz, use a wider Q factor. Most of the loud peaks you’ll need to cut are around 2.5kHz, 4.6kHz and 7kHz. Cut each of those frequencies using a narrow Q for all. Sometimes you might find that there are more peaks, cut them out if necessary.

For low frequency rich strings, the opposite of what I said above will work. You’ll start by removing anything below 80Hz. If the strings are clashing with the bass guitar in the lower mid frequencies then a cut around 100Hz to 250Hz will fix the masking.

Another cut from 250Hz to around 1kHz will remove any muddiness. To help lower strings sit well in the mix then you’ll need to make a boost with a wide Q at around 1kHz to around 6kHz. That will add some crunch, but sweep around that frequency range to find a good spot.

To add some presence or clarity a boost around 6kHz to 8kHz will do the trick. Finally make another boost around 8kHz to 12kHz will add some air to your strings.

Use these eq settings as a guideline when you’re mixing your strings, they work for me all the time and hope you find them useful.


Strings always sound better with reverb whether they are real strings, samples or from a VST instrument. On this part of the tutorial I’m going to help you find the right settings for your reverb to help the strings sing.

Strings sound good when you place them in a medium to large artificial hall. If your reverb effect has a hall or church preset then that’s a good place to start then tweak it till it fits with what you’re working on.

A reverb decay of 4 or more seconds works well on string sounds. A short decay time will usually make things sound bigger but that’s not the sound you’re going for, when mixing strings you want to get a lush sound.

To avoid the reverb from causing your strings to be muddy, use the pre-delay parameter to let the attack of the strings kick in first. Don’t let the reverb kick in at the same time with the strings and use a long or medium reverb time.

Note that these settings will work well for a string section that is playing longer notes. The opposite of these settings might work well on strings that play shorter notes. Just play around with it. But without the reverb, you’re strings will sound dull. Reverb just makes them sound more realistic.

You can also use modulation effects to make your strings sound a lot better. For instance, adding a chorus effect can make your strings sound larger. If your string section is sounding thin then adding chorus can thicken it up.

But too much can push the strings at the back or make the mix muddy. So use subtle amount of chorus. Flanger can also work well with strings and make them sound larger, just make sure it doesn’t cause a wobbly sound effect.

Add one modulation in your string mix, it might be the missing link in your mix. That’s how easy it is to get a good string section mix, hope you found the tutorial useful. Leave a comment below to let me know what you think and subscribe to the blog to stay updated with my daily tutorials.

5 thoughts on “Tips For Mixing String Instruments”

  1. Dear Guglethru.

    I’m so sorry to be such a beginner as to have to ask this, but you say ‘use one modulation…’ in your excellent strings mixing tutorial above.

    In this instance, what is a modulation? Is it the name of a particular plug-in or, if not, what is it?

    Yours respectfully


    • Hey Chris,

      Modulation is a really broad subject. But to put it in simple terms, modulation plugins are the flanger, chorus, doubler, auto-pan and phaser. These are good tools to add vibrato and mostly used on guitars and electric pianos.

  2. I truly appreciate that you were able to provide tips for mixing string instruments. I have a friend who is an aspiring musician and he would surely learn a lot from these. You specifically mentioned that low strings won’t be mixed the same as high strings, which I wasn’t aware of until I came across this post. I would definitely bookmark this page for reference and will let my friend know about it. Thanks.

  3. Thank you so much! Was mixing a string section for my girlfriend and this worked incredibly good. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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