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modern jazz mastering
Old 20th January 2007
  #1
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ersheff's Avatar
 

modern jazz mastering

Hi, all.
I just did a recording of a friend's jazz recital. Considering the recording was live and therefore was prone to many problems that could be resolved in the studio, I'm very happy with the way it came out. The stereo imaging is good, the detail is good, the balance is OK, and I got the terrible piano to sound tolerable.
I used very little compression in the mix. I think there was just a few db of reduction on the all-purpose horn mic and the drum overheads. Nothing else.
When I put it into Waveburner, I boosted the volume of the ballad just a hair so it would match a little better, and then I put a limiter on the whole thing with just enough gain to make the loudest part of the whole project just tickle it ever so slightly (so as to avoid burning problems and to get the overall volume as high as I could without actually limiting anything).
As usual, I noticed that what I ended up with is much quieter and less powerful at lower volumes than professional releases of the same genre. It would seem obvious that jazz/classical/etc. are not as prone to the loudness disease as other genres, yet there's still something semingly missing from my work.
I'm an admitted amateur and this was by no means an important enough project to warrant hiring a pro ME. Still, I'm curious as to what might usually be done on modern jazz masters in terms of EQ/compression/limiting. Is the goal similar to other genres (more punch/balance/etc.) but to a lesser degree?
Thanks.
Old 20th January 2007
  #2
I know I can get away with squishing things a bit more if I put 2 comps in line...seems to round out the onset and make the compressor/limiter less aparent in the end...

Or maybe change your EQ before hitting the comp, maybe you have a dip in a spot so the whole thing sounds weaker...just a thought, admittedly, I've been wrong many many times.
Old 20th January 2007
  #3
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ersheff's Avatar
 

Thanks for the response.
As far as "sounding weak" goes, it's really only at low volumes. The drum solos dicatate where the peaks are (i.e. quite a bit louder than the rest of it), so the RMS is quite low.
When it's turned up to a comfortable listening level, it doesn't sound like it has any holes. It just sounds very uncompressed, if you get my drift. Everything "pops"- I like it. thumbsup
I think that I probably just need to put some light compression on the whole thing to even things out a bit.
Old 20th January 2007
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mopppish View Post
Thanks for the response.
As far as "sounding weak" goes, it's really only at low volumes. The drum solos dicatate where the peaks are (i.e. quite a bit louder than the rest of it), so the RMS is quite low.
When it's turned up to a comfortable listening level, it doesn't sound like it has any holes. It just sounds very uncompressed, if you get my drift. Everything "pops"- I like it. thumbsup
I think that I probably just need to put some light compression on the whole thing to even things out a bit.
A lot of older jazz records are quite compressed, and while they seem low in levels, compared to modern releases, they are often subjectively pretty loud, with strong dynamics and punchy sound. The bottom end (and the double bass in general) is not too pronounced which often helps the "punchiness"
There is often the misconception that modern records are more compressed. They are certainly more limited due to the often overuse of limiters as the only mean to raise levels, but good solid compression (some of it due to tape as the recording medium) has been around for long time...
Old 20th January 2007
  #5
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ersheff's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
A lot of older jazz records are quite compressed, and while they seem low in levels, compared to modern releases, they are often subjectively pretty loud, with strong dynamics and punchy sound. The bottom end (and the double bass in general) is not too pronounced which often helps the "punchiness"
There is often the misconception that modern records are more compressed. They are certainly more limited due to the often overuse of limiters as the only mean to raise levels, but good solid compression (some of it due to tape as the recording medium) has been around for long time...
I've kind of gotten that impression about older jazz recordings.
In fact, while mixing this current project, I put "A Love Supreme" on for a few minutes of inspiration. I could tell right away that the first sound the sax made was heavily compressed!
I just listened to the project in the living room while eating a grilled cheese (with tomatoes ). I'm very happy with the way every instrument "speaks". I think that tomorrow I'm just going to try applying some subtle multiband compression to add a little girth. It's not a lack of low-end or any frequency in particular. I just need to get everything to gel a bit more while retaining most of the clarity I've already got.
Any suggestions for retaining the clarity while filling out the sound? I'm assuming a slower attack. What else? (Obviously I'll use my ears, too. )
Old 20th January 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mopppish View Post
I've kind of gotten that impression about older jazz recordings.
In fact, while mixing this current project, I put "A Love Supreme" on for a few minutes of inspiration. I could tell right away that the first sound the sax made was heavily compressed!
I just listened to the project in the living room while eating a grilled cheese (with tomatoes ). I'm very happy with the way every instrument "speaks". I think that tomorrow I'm just going to try applying some subtle multiband compression to add a little girth. It's not a lack of low-end or any frequency in particular. I just need to get everything to gel a bit more while retaining most of the clarity I've already got.
Any suggestions for retaining the clarity while filling out the sound? I'm assuming a slower attack. What else? (Obviously I'll use my ears, too. )
I would be careful with multiband compressors as they might affect the overall balance. I would recommend a good single band, with a ration of around 3:1, medium attack & release. Look carrfully at the EQ (pre-compressor) as well, with possibly a high pass filter shelf around 60hz.
Old 20th January 2007
  #7
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I should add that I don't have access to any hardware worth using.
It's plug-ins (included Logic plugs and Waves Mastering bundle) or nothing.
What's the single band Waves comp like?
Old 20th January 2007
  #8
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Parallel compression perhaps?
Old 20th January 2007
  #9
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I better start this post by saying that I know nothing about jazz, but as far as compression goes - if it sounds right to you then I'd say be very carefull with the compression, and definately steer clear of the multiband. I find that compression is one of the fastest ways to destroy the 'reality' of a recording, and it really kills me that everything you hear nowadays has this density to it which destroys any illusion of 'being there'. I was listening to the gold disc reissue of Lou Reed's Transformer last night and it was so great to hear a record where things had their own spaces and weren't interacting the way the elements in modern records interact. It's also what I like about a lot of my dad's old vinyl as well, especially for example the John Williams guitar stuff - it sounds realistic, and that's the basis of any emotional connection to the music. You here the performer, not the engineers.

Anyway sorry if that came out as a rant, I know level is important and all, but I just get depressed that all my favourite artists are putting out work that has no intimacy because it's been squashed.

Cheers
Matthew
Old 21st January 2007
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
Parallel compression perhaps?
Exactly.

Hi, for what it's worth (been a long time lurker, having worked alongside Australia's largest jazz label for over 11 years - it's great to have another option for talking and learning the why's in addition to the how's and what's).
Was listening to some amazingly addictive Gene Krupa swing just earlier...

So many older jazz recordings often went via soft tube limiters as part of an AM broadcast chain. I used one at a previous workplace, modified for slower attack on low freqs and its detector side chain 12dB down at 100Hz, the compression amount and ratio controlled by input gain, but found it not really flexible enough for most modern recordings (I discovered it was designed via auditioning already mastered material, not raw mixes). For CD mastering dynamic jazz - and I'd hesitate to prescribe any given settings for material unheard - but a starting point would be a real low ratio (< 1.5:1) and low threshold, slow/med attack. Or, more often, parallel (upwards) compression to subtly lift lows, or with EQ for some low mid 'gel'.

I've never turned to multiband (it's certainly not needed for a "classic" jazz sound much of which stems from tube mic pre's, transformers and tape paths) other than to tame some lows in dance/hip hop (eg, yesterday on just 3 of 18 tracks) or some Disney stuff in which sound fx sometimes risked competing with narration and gentle low band comp allowed the voice mids to breathe and sit on top more, retaining the 'bite' in the attack of fx, too.

But let me reiterate, for some, what has been said elsewhere, as a matter of pro advice: please do not compress for 'level', but for the sound of it. Learn the sound of it and compare objectively without at equal loudness.
Repeat often.
See a professional if symptoms persist. Or for experienced objectivity.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #11
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Doing quite some jazz mixing myself... Usually I mix to make a good balance and I end up with the same "problem" - it sounds too "audiophile" - good at "concert" levels, but not competitive enough at lower ones... But if the mix sounds really good - getting some extra loudness is something you should let the mastering engineer do...

But as a hint: I also started applying some more buss compression on the drums (digital recordings, so there is no tape compression), LA-2A and Neve EQs for saxophones, vocals, Fairchild compr & pultec EQ for double bass, Fairchild & pultec for piano, Neve EQs on overheads, etc. (all UAD-1 ofcourse) and usually the artists don't bother with additional mastering - so I do it myself some week later than the mix. I suggest you apply the best compressor you can - I use Neve 33609 - really just a little to beef things up (usually only 2 - 3 db gain reduction), then I sculpture the sound for more clarity and bass impact with some more analytical and good sounding EQ - Precision EQ, Algorithmix Red or Orange, Refined Audiometrics, etc. And ofcourse - parallel compression - I send the signal to the subgroup with SSL compressor set to trash the signal and EQ with "loudness" setting... You apply this parallel track to taste - when it sound full enough for you... You play with attack and release and with EQ to achieve the right amount of "enhancement".

That's basically it. Subtle use of a good compressor & limiter and parallel compression...

If you have only Waves plug-ins - for parallel compression Waves SSL or Rcomp and Q-clone EQ...on stereo bus just a little L2 for limiting, maybe LinEQ if needed - I never liked L3, I don't know why...

Experiment how you hit the limiter - sometimes you can reduce gain with some EQ plug-in - maybe it is appropriate to cut some lows and the thing will start to breathe... Multiband is too strange for my taste - I rather work with EQ prior to limiter or compressor...

Try Refined Audiometrics PlparEQ - you won't be sorry... For compressors I can only advice you to buy UAD-1 and be shure to include La-2a, Fairchild, Pultec, Precision Limiter & the Neve stuff they did... great!

The quality plug-ins do matter in achieving depth, psychological loudness & impact of the sound - using some real tube and high-end solid state eqs and compressors would be even better ofcourse...
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