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Recording Jazz Trios and Quartet
Old 2nd April 2019
  #1
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Recording Jazz Trios and Quartet

Looking for pointers on how best to approach the following recording gig:

Two jazz trios are performing, the 1st w/ piano and the 2nd w/ saxophone.
The rhythm section is the same for both trios.
The bassist switches from electric to upright at some point(s).
There will be a quartet performance with all the musicians.

Officially I'm hired as the live sound technician through the theatre, so that takes initial priority, but there appears to be substantial time for setting up a recording (albeit depending on the musicians' willingness to extend soundcheck) considering:

a) there's 3 hours from my arrival until downbeat,
b) the 'reinforcement' setup is quite minimal,
c) I've done shows for this association before and I know roughly what to expect

Here's the tech info:

Stage Plot


Rider


Schedule

Here's the theatre equipment at my disposal:
1 x Audio-Technica PRO-35
2 x Audio-Technica PRO-37
2 x Sennheiser P6K (hyper + omni caps... ME62?)
3 x Crown PCC-160
5 x SM57s
1 xSennheiser MD521

and my own equipment:
2 x Royer R-10 (ribbons, but not the real, balanced kind)
1 x TLM 103
1 x Advanced Audio CM12 (Apex 460 mod) multi-pattern LDC
Macbook + Audient ID14 + ASP800 via ADAT (10 inputs total)

In previous shows, none of which were recorded, the jazz trios/quartets requested a significant amount of reinforcement, spot mics, etc. This time it appears they want to test the acoustic option first, and then decide if a sax mic (or more) is needed. I will trust their assessment. At this particular 340-seat theatre, the stage is loud and reflective, the piano is very loud / strong treble, bass amps from center-stage carry like no other... so I'm all for the acoustic option should they prefer that. Ultimately, it's a drinking audience that may require the extra dBs of excitement, so the head honcho will make that call during soundcheck.

If they're going acoustic in general, they probably don't want the appearance of any spot mics, but I'm hoping they're okay with spots even if just for the recording. There's also the chance they want their usual spot mics on everything but just haven't specified it in the rider, in which case the spots go to the house board before my recorder.

**********

Okay! Onto the recording. Here's my opinion so far but I'm wide open to suggestions:

OPTION 1 (SPOT MICS ALLOWED)

1/2 Drum OHs: Spaced AB (ME62s)
3 Snare: SM57 close, for clarity if needed
4 Kick: MD521 6-8" away, for a little clarity/punch if needed
5 Bass: PCC-160 on top of the cab
6 Sax: DPA 4099
7/8 Piano: PRO-37s in DIN formation, about 18" out from the hammers
9/10: For the 'main pair' I thought about these 3 options:
a) Blumlein, downstage centre, 2.5m high, w/ 1 or 2m forward space for trial/error
b) Faulkner, because it might help put the speakers/reinforcement in the nulls, plus it has a wider SRA so I'd maybe have more room for forward placement trial/error. It might also mitigate the 2 loudest sources of kit and piano, giving more forward gain to the sax and bass.
c) Mid-Side, maybe a more "tried and true" option considering the far superior S/N ratio of the 103 vs the R-10s, but it leaves the CM12 sides pointing at the prosceniums/walls/reinforcement.

OPTION 2 (NO SPOTS)

1/2/3/4: Faulkner Phased Array: PRO-37 NOS + P6K Omnis at 67cm
5/6 (backup): Blumlein

OPTION 3
1/2/3/4: Phased Array: 103/CM12 Mid-Side + P6K Omnis at 45cm
5/6 (backup): Blumlein

OPTION 4
1/2/3/4: Phased Array: R-10 Faulkner + P6K Omnis at 67cm
5/6 (backup): 103/CM12 Mid-Side

Am I on the right track with this? I know there's some unusual choices in my setups and I guess I need some pros to walk me back from the ledge.

On bass, I worry about the changes from electric to upright, both in terms of
a) maintaining appropriate balance in the ensemble and
b) the on-the-ball muting/unmuting required during these unexpected change-overs.
The boundary mic kind of solves that issue, let's the player control the sound and arguably solves the "DIs suck" challenge, but the sound quality will max out at the known limit of a theatre boundary mic. I've done it before in that situation with electric/upright changes and it worked well enough that I've opted for that instead of a PRO-35 which might introduce motion-related phase issues.

Piano: I don't really know what I'm doing yet, and I mean that in the broadest sense. It's the most prominent player of the group and I hope I can do justice to the performance.

Drums: my typical 4-mic setup involves the Pro-37s for OH, but I don't really trust omnis or ribbons on piano considering potential for leakage from all other instruments.

Sax: if they opt to use the DPA 4099 they brought, I happily go with that. *Puts away the SM57*

I've done a fair amount of reading about this on GS and listened to the artists' prior recordings. It appears that the jazz music in question might naturally require spot mics, regardless of any efforts made honing a main pair or phased array, so I'd especially love any comments as it relates to spot mic options, but please do share any other comments you may have.

Thanks in advance
Old 2nd April 2019
  #2
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Just set up as you normally would for a live sound reinforcement gig (that's got to be done anyway, right?) and then put a really good stereo pair - your favourite flavour...or maybe even rent a really good pair - out front on a tall stand or hanging from a convenient light batten. Chances are,if you place the main pair correctly, that will be all you use. But you will have the SR spots for emphasis if desired. KISS principle.
Old 2nd April 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
Just set up as you normally would for a live sound reinforcement gig (that's got to be done anyway, right?) and then put a really good stereo pair - your favourite flavour...or maybe even rent a really good pair - out front on a tall stand or hanging from a convenient light batten. Chances are,if you place the main pair correctly, that will be all you use. But you will have the SR spots for emphasis if desired. KISS principle.
True with one caveat:

Depends on the bass. If you can get a good, isolated bass sound (not just DI) then this works. If the bass in the main pair is weak, muddy, too much ambient reverb, etc., and the bass spot mic is all drum bleed, then this will disappoint.

So spend some with the bass. Try a figure 8 with the drums in the null. If you can't get isolation, then try to make the bleed sound natural. Get the bass and drum bleed to sound good with no EQ in that bass mic. Think of it as the bass mic + mono drum overhead in one.

Yeah you can always use DI, but it doesn't sound nearly as good as the bass if you mic the instrument right.
Old 2nd April 2019
  #4
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this is not a problem related to bass only (although bass does have its own set of issues): any instrument being too soft/too loud by comparison will trow off the balance in the 'main' mics... - so: use close mics as you'd normally do for a live gig, put up a main pair and maybe use and additional pair of ambient mics but do not rely on the 'mains', certainly not for live mixing but possibly neither for the recording...



p.s. if you're not allowed to use close mics, then turn down the gig/cancel the recording!
Old 2nd April 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
this is not a problem related to bass only (although bass does have its own set of issues): any instrument being too soft/too loud by comparison will trow off the balance in the 'main' mics... - so: use close mics as you'd normally do for a live gig, put up a main pair and maybe use and additional pair of ambient mics but do not rely on the 'mains', certainly not for live mixing but possibly neither for the recording...



p.s. if you're not allowed to use close mics, then turn down the gig/cancel the recording!
All true, I was just thinking it's usually most difficult to get isolation on the bass, compared to the other instruments, especially given the set up.
Old 3rd April 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leddy View Post
All true, I was just thinking it's usually most difficult to get isolation on the bass, compared to the other instruments, especially given the set up.
I would have agreed with you in general terms in an orchestral context, where a double bass (non-amplified, naturally) requires a spot mic. However I recently found that a hypercardioid dynamic mic, usually intended for kick drum and bass cabinet duties, can do a very good job of keeping the rest of the orchestra out of the double bass.

This is the mic used...Avantone Pro

I might be able to post a sample in a day or two...
Old 3rd April 2019
  #7
Got some experience with this, from the perspective of a player (upright bass) as well as an engineer.

Below would be my rough set-up for this gig. I hope it doesn't sound like a "lecture", just a description is my intent.

Your stage setup actually looks pretty good--a good staring point for sure.

First and foremost listen to a few great jazz recordings a few days before the gig if you aren't that familiar with the style. Listen very close to the piano and bass and get that in your head. Check out anything from Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown on bass.

It's great that you have a hall/theater to record in. Most typical rock project studios suck for recording jazz (too small, dead, room modes, etc) It will be MUCH easier to get good jazz recording in a hall. Hopefully the HVAC mechanical system and other background noises won't be too obtrusive.

By far the biggest challenge will be getting a good piano sound--repeat--get a good piano sound. Use your best condenser or ribbon mics on the piano, should only need a stereo pair strategically placed (you can look this up but basically one for higher register, one for low, avoid too much boomy sound or too much attack) You may need to orient the piano or lid angle in such a way to minimize drum bleed if this is possible without visual obstruction from the pianist to the drummer. If time/setup permits consider using moving blankets to help isolate cymbal and drum bleed from the piano mics.

The upright bass is next: forget DI on upright use a mic--repeat, use a mic. Set up the bass player so the kick drum bleed is minimized into the bass body. This is very important and often overlooked. One way to do this is to place the bass player slightly behind and to the side of the drummer while maintaining visual contact. If this isn't attended to the bass drum will sympathetically vibrate the bass and you will get nothing but rumble and mud. As far as mic choice, for the bass doesn't have to be great, just clean and not distort on the low end. Since you are recording live I would go with a dynamic cardioid or super cardioid to minimized bleed (I get great results with a Senn 441, rolled off one notch). Generally avoid pointing direct at the f-hole (sound hole). A staring point is aim midway between the fingerboard and bridge centered on the bass. This will pick up a good mix of boom and finger noise which is good. Back the mic away enough to get any proximity effect/boom minimized (you may have to roll off the low end on the mic, no biggie). Also, if at all possible, point the ass-end of the mic (the dead spot in a cardioid pattern) at the drum set.

Bass guitar: DI is fine, listen carefully to the player's tone controls and make suggestions if need be.

The drums are no biggie in larger space--really! Try to set up the drummer as far as possible from the other players without it looking obvious (can set the drums stage rear) and even use a plexi-glass go-bo if available. Here your diagram looks about right. Rock players often use many close microphones on drums because of recording in booths, small rooms, and for a close mic sound style. With jazz this isn't required or desired (there are exceptions). You can use a minimalist setup especially in a hall as you can get the overheads up nice an high over the kit and capture a great cymbal tone. So four mics at most, two overheads, a third for kick drum, and a fourth for high hat/snare. It's probably best favor the high hat cause' it's softer and it's an important sound for jazz.

Saxophone: As long as the horn player stays reasonably on mic--no worries. Try to pick a "warmer" mic, but selection will depend somewhat if the player is brings a tenor, alto, or soprano saxophone (or all the above). Jazz players can be lazy about such things and will likely bring one horn. Some players even bring their own small condensor clip-on mics which can work great, as it will let them move around and make a more exciting performance.

Good luck, sounds like it could be a fun gig . Your halfway there with a decent room and getting prepared.

Last edited by Louie1; 3rd April 2019 at 11:18 AM.. Reason: clarification.
Old 3rd April 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Chances are,if you place the main pair correctly, that will be all you use. But you will have the SR spots for emphasis if desired. KISS principle.
This is reassuring. I will try my best to find the sweet spot, probably with the Blumlein or M/S pair at my disposal. I must say though, I have a kind of morbid curiosity for the fig 8 Faulkner option... just because it might reject the speakers and forward-gain the sax and bass, while 'attenuating' the acoustically-loud piano and drums... Does Faulkner fig-8s ever get used as a conventional jazz trio/quartet main pair?

Quote:
So spend some with the bass. Try a figure 8 with the drums in the null. If you can't get isolation, then try to make the bleed sound natural. Get the bass and drum bleed to sound good with no EQ in that bass mic. Think of it as the bass mic + mono drum overhead in one.
Thanks, I'll definitely adapt my plan to focus on the bass a bit more. A small caveat is that I don't want to incorporate my own microphones (fig8's) into the SR array if possible since that creates additional complications should anything of mine get damaged. I'm not dead-set on this.... but that was my initial plan, to stick with the theatre mics for all the spots. PCC-160 laying on the bass cab, plus a well-placed mic for the upright, and I'll just have to be on-the-ball for the switch-overs and never have both running at once. I like studer58's suggestion of using a kick/bass cab mic to enhance the isolation, since that suits the theatre mics at my disposal: There's a Beta 52, or I can shift the Beta 52 over to the kick drum and use the Senny 521 on bass. In your estimation, is one more suited than the other?

Quote:
First and foremost listen to a few great jazz recordings a few days before the gig if you aren't that familiar with the style. Listen very close to the piano and bass and get that in your head. Check out anything from Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown on bass.
Will definitely have a good headphone listen, thanks for the recommendation.

Quote:
By far the biggest challenge will be getting a good piano sound--repeat--get a good piano sound.
The only pair I have for this usage is the PRO-37s, but there is also the AKG 535s with which I am not quite as familiar, and didn't include in my initial gear list. Is either of these options actually viable? Regardless, I will work hard to audition several placements, and if I have time, some different arrays (DIN, NOS, etc). I mean, there's also the omnis which I've set for the drums, but I worry so much about the band leakage turning the piano mics into room mics and clashing with the main pair.

RE: Drums, there is a 3rd PRO-37 at my disposal which might be better suited to replace the SM57, back off the snare and pick up more hats. Curious what you think of that option.

Gig's in less than 48 hours. I'm grateful for all of your timely responses, it's much appreciated!
Old 4th April 2019
  #9
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by justmusic View Post
This is reassuring. I will try my best to find the sweet spot, probably with the Blumlein or M/S pair at my disposal. I must say though, I have a kind of morbid curiosity for the fig 8 Faulkner option... just because it might reject the speakers and forward-gain the sax and bass, while 'attenuating' the acoustically-loud piano and drums... Does Faulkner fig-8s ever get used as a conventional jazz trio/quartet main pair?
Sorry, I understood that you were going to have a recording 'session' after the PA sound check and before the actual concert. If the PA is on during your 'session', you will probably have to rely more on the spots and less on the main pair (though Faulkner Fig 8s might be worth a try if the PA must be on). Recording acoustic jazz with a PA system going is sort of an oxymoron IMHO.

Last edited by jimjazzdad; 4th April 2019 at 12:25 PM.. Reason: clarity
Old 4th April 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
Sorry, I understood that you were going to have a recording 'session' after the PA sound check and before the actual concert. If the PA is on during your 'session', you will probably have to rely more on the spots and less on the main pair...
absolutely rely on spot! with a pa, one can almost always forget 'main' mic pairs (or arrays)... - i'd rather use the board mix and a pair of ambis at foh or elsewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
Faulkner Fig 8s might be worth a try if the PA must be on.
the often stated 'forward gain' of 4-mic arrays in my experience is a myth (useful though to keep the amount of mic stands reasonable) - and no mic pattern keeps the pa out, not even shotguns: all you can get is some side damping of a few db.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
Recording acoustic jazz with a PA system going is sort of an oxymoron IMHO.
doesn't have to be/depends much on the venue: i'm regularly mixing jazz ensembles in a church and the audience in the rear of the building (still paying big bucks) would not be pleased just to hear a big wash of reverb - i keep the 'main' pa really low but the delay lines are manadatory! i wish though the promotor would choose a different venue for some of these concerts...
Old 4th April 2019
  #11
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
...the often stated 'forward gain' of 4-mic arrays in my experience is a myth (useful though to keep the amount of mic stands reasonable) - and no mic pattern keeps the pa out, not even shotguns: all you can get is some side damping of a few db...
I believe the OP was referring to the earlier 'Faulkner array' - a pair of parallel figure 8s spaced at around 20 cm. There is always a bit of confusion here on GS when Faulkner techniques are discussed. For that matter, there are discrepancies between North American and European usage of: AB, XY, 'pure' Blumlein versus MS (they are actually two of three Blumlein techniques), not to mention 'pseudo ORTF', versus ORTF, DIN & NOS. Describing stereo mic techniques is kind of the Gearslutz tower of Babel
Old 4th April 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
I believe the OP was referring to the earlier 'Faulkner array' - a pair of parallel figure 8s spaced at around 20 cm. There is always a bit of confusion here on GS when Faulkner techniques are discussed. For that matter, there are discrepancies between North American and European usage of: AB, XY, 'pure' Blumlein versus MS (they are actually two of three Blumlein techniques), not to mention 'pseudo ORTF', versus ORTF, DIN & NOS. Describing stereo mic techniques is kind of the Gearslutz tower of Babel
...regarding old vs new world's view on things: i just got to work on a very large production here in a venue: after a couple of hours, it became clear (once again) that stage left and stage right can mean very different things - got nothing to do with the project manager's dyslexia!


p.s. a good way to escape any potential issues with stereo mic techniques is to use surround - which has its own sets of issues though :-)
Old 5th April 2019
  #13
RE: Drums, there is a 3rd PRO-37 at my disposal which might be better suited to replace the SM57, back off the snare and pick up more hats. Curious what you think of that option.

My instinct would be to stick with the 57 just because it's rejection is so good. But...I see what you are saying as the Pro-37 would prob. pick up highs of the high-hat better and help it poke through. i would have to experiment. If the drummer uses mostly sticks you might be able to close mic the high hat, point it toward the snare, and let the overheads pick up the snare also...but if the drummer uses brushes a lot then maybe the snare would get lost....that might be tricky.
Old 5th April 2019
  #14
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Alright, gig’s in a few hours! Thanks again for all the comments.

Based on recommendations:

-I’ve decided to bring my old Apex 205 ribbon out of retirement for the bass, hoping to reject the drums a bit more. I’m also bringing along my Grace M101 preamp (ribbon mode!) to sit near the bass because I don’t trust the low-end ribbon to travel 100+ feet of XLR to the house board before gain.

-Will stick the conventional SM57 on snare to make sure I have close detail if there is brushes.

-Set on the Faulkner fig 8s for main pair to reject the PA... hopefully. My TLM103 took a 3-foot tumble the other day. It still works fine supposedly but it’s a perfect excuse to go with Mr. Faulkner.

Side note RE: the Faulkner array 2-mic vs 4-mic confusion: what about Flankner? Just a thought.?
Old 5th April 2019
  #15
Screw the main pair... Drums and hall mics don't like each other very much. Have something up for a little bit of glue in the mix (like 10%) and automate up at the ends of songs for applause. That's about the full extent of how I'd use room mics for a jazz date.

Put your best mics to work on stage. I would do the Royer or 103 on sax (depends on the player's sound). Put as many mics as you possibly can on bass. Getting a decent bass tone next to a drummer will be the hardest thing you have to do all night (so focus on that, not what pair to put out front). Definitely take the DI so you have it in post. In addition, I would do the Royer and the 521.

Keep it simple on drums... Spaced pair of overheads, Kick and Snare.

Don't neglect the piano. Drum bleed into the piano mics can be a killer. Sometimes to remedy that I like to actually do away with the lid completely. That helps to tame the seashell like effect that the lid has on the other sounds on stage. You'll probably be relying solely on the mics for the live sound anyway, so that lid really isn't doing you any favors. Sometimes as a lifeline, a well placed 57 in one of the sound holes can actually provide a decent sound that can be mixed in to fatten up the piano a little bit. Or use that line to feed monitors (since the bleed in it will be minimal).
Old 6th April 2019
  #16
[QUOTE=justmusic;13908658]Alright, gig’s in a few hours! Thanks again for all the comments.

Let us know how it comes out!
Old 6th April 2019
  #17
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Just got home, gig went well. A few surprises and unexpected time crunches, main one being that the piano tuner had to make a return trip on the pianist’s complaint, so there was palpable frustration amongst the band/management throughout the setup until it was sorted out.

The whole first half (piano trio) I managed to avoid any PA. Wanted to do some mixing tonight but I left my Macbook charger at the theatre, so I’ll do some more thorough analysis/mixing in the days to come when I have the juice, so to speak. I will keep all your helpful comments at the forefront of my mind when I go back in the weeds!

Nonetheless I did a 2-minute mix of the opening number: mostly Faulkner pair, fair amount of piano spots, hint of Bass DI, overheads and snare. No kick. Did a few impulsive pans and phase-flips, no time-alignment yet. It’s attached below.... I think? Doing this from a phone, and I’m a GS noob.

First impressions:
-Piano spots are decently spill-free... cool! I used a 22cm / 90deg setup.
-Bass DI sound is quite poor, but it’s ‘okay’ in the mains.
-Faulkner surprised me. Not so much the localization (a bit washy...) but the drum tone is better and more true to the event on the mains than the spots. Could just be that it’s the better mics, not theatre-fare.

At the break, I had a couple folks mention they’d like more piano, and I kind of knew it too but I wanted to keep Act 1 “pure”. The 2nd half of the show (sax trio, full quartet) includes PA to accommodate this and the fact the drinks were kicking in. Mixing that should be interesting because the PA really got up there for the finale and encore.

I’ll share more in the coming days. Feel free to weigh in on the first track in the meantime, cheers!
Attached Files

song1.mp3 (12.36 MB, 1234 views)

Old 7th April 2019
  #18
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Attached a newer mix below.

-main pair much lower. The first mix can be thrown in a fire pit.
-incorporated kick mic
-time-aligned all spots to the main pair
-panned spots more accurately according to main pair
-HPF on piano
-HPF on DI bass
-HPF on kick

It's a long piece with a wide dynamic range. My hope is that if I get this static mix in a good place, the rest of the show will mix itself.

I didn't heed the above warnings about really focusing in and/or multi-micing the bass to have options and not rely on DI. Once they were setup and playing during soundcheck, I changed my plan of using a ribbon. I figured the bass amp was loud and would be prominent in the main pair, and that placing a mic would create phase issues. That was likely a miscalculation. Anyhow, The DI tone deficiency is slightly mitigated/masked by the time-alignment but I still wish I'd just used a ribbon!

Also RE: Faulkner... I mentioned earlier about localization issues, washy image, etc. I should clarify that's not so much the array itself, as the way it's deployed in this situation. There is plenty of Faulkner recordings where localization is definitely not an issue.

Next up I'll probably have a go at mixing the sax portion of the show where the PA gets involved.
Attached Files

song1B.mp3 (12.35 MB, 1081 views)

Old 12th April 2019
  #19
Hey glad the gig went well! Got to get up early tomorrow, but I listened to a little of mix Song1B., but can write a few comments.

First Impressions/comments:

-Nice job, have captured good sounds, good players and good tune so that is a great start and the mix has a lot of potential, I wouldn't sweat it too much. Maybe some of the more experienced mixers can chime in.

-The first obvious thing is the overall level is pretty low.

-I like the "right hand" piano sound, I wouldn't mess with it but this is a matter of taste. You captured a good natural piano tone--not harsh but not dull. Great work. Of course this is a matter of taste and for some reason, some listeners like a brighter piano tone. If this was my mix, I would use this sound as the nucleus of the mix as it is the melody and solo and it sounds really good.

-As far as balance, the left hand piano of the piece during the head is quite contrapuntal in the beginning, so in that portion the left hand should come up in the mix a bit more to complement the right hand. (Listen to any of Herbie stuff where he plays very contrapuntal with the left hand and you will see what I mean). This player has definitely taken a page from the Herbie "school" of modern jazz piano.

-I don't care for the bass balance in the ensemble--can't explain why. On the other hand the bass solo sounds great!

-The drum set tones sound good....but: this drummer is VERY dynamic, I have a feeling you will have to do quite a bit of gain/fader riding to get the drum balance right throughout the tune. The piano is pretty consistent, that would be my datum. So in the melody portion there is not enough overall drumset, in the piano solo, the drums (especially toms and snare---too much). You want some punch, but it is too rock sounding, need more ride and hi-hat.

To sum up: good recording and the things I hear in the mix are more or less balance issues coupled with maybe getting more stylistically consistent mix-wise with released jazz recordings. Definitely reference some Herbie Hancock Trio (acoustic) stuff.

Hope that helps!
Old 14th April 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louie1 View Post
Hey glad the gig went well! Got to get up early tomorrow, but I listened to a little of mix Song1B., but can write a few comments.
Cheers! These have helped considerably, and they led me to several little realizations as well.

You convinced me to just enjoy the lack of treble on the piano. It's darker than the artists's recent releases but he did tell me before the show (in broken english) "I like the piano to sound warm, you know?"

Had never really thought of the 2 piano mics as a way to turn up just one hand or the other. Your suggestion worked out well and it gave me a better idea what to listen for and how to place mics to begin with. My initial piano array had the hole in the middle... (I presume it's a combination of being too close and having mics too spaced) like the player had gogo-gadget arms. Fortunately, panning inward didn't kill it too much as I attempted to mirror the main pair image. Also turned up the left hand mic by about 2dB.

I kept the piano essentially natural after that and automated the drums / mains around it as best I could. On drums, the omni overheads are a bit high up and catch a lot of floor "splat" from snare/toms when hit with any force beyond light brushes. I found out it's not just the main pair catching that extra room, it's partly the overheads. Trying to get the close ride/hat sound without the splats has been a challenge! Next time I should start a little closer/lower and mind the angle of the mics, avoiding the straight-vertical approach on that stage in particular.

Many observers noted the volume of the drummer, and that was un-amplified live sound only! One of the realizations I had from your comments is to accept automation as a requirement in some situations. There was no magic static-mix or series of compression settings that would get me 'there'. Which is fine, automation is actually pretty quick and painless once you get into it, it just seems the most daunting before you start.

Thanks again for the detailed comments, each one was super helpful.
Attached Files

Song1D.mp3 (12.35 MB, 897 views)

Old 16th April 2019
  #21
Just gave the latest mix a listen. The piano sounds balanced now. The piano is ready for mastering IMO and I couldn't hear any seams in the automation. I would ask your mastering engineer what they think about any additional "enhancement", sparkle, etc for the final master.

The drums are much clearer now and the tones are really good. The ride and hi-hat sound nice, snare sounds killer! But....just like you said, too much bass drum and toms poking out. I noticed something that might be helpful though. After the bass solo, the band returns to the head for the second time. The drum mix sounds about right that second time (during the head). I can't say exactly why but this might be a good reference point for balancing.

Just a suggestion to try something if you haven't already. Maybe just try a piano and bass mix with all drum mics turned down and get the piano and bass perfectly balanced. Then add drum OH mics until the cymbals and hi-hat sound right. Then add hi-hat/snare just to the point where you hear the crack from the snare. Consider not adding bass drum mic. Maybe give that a try.

Bass EQ: During the first part of the head, the bass and RH piano play the melody in unison, the bass sounds too heavy during that part. And during the rest of the tune, maybe just high-pass a little off the low end of the bass while preserving the "growl" of the instrument. I'm thinking the bass is a bit too tubby. You will know if you go too far and you certainly don't want it thin. Ask your mastering engineer what they think.

You have a solid live recording so the mix is the fun part (hopefully
Old 16th April 2019
  #22
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
I am hearing a nice mix with just a bit tubbiness in the bass lower register. A tiny bit of LF eq cut might go a long way and eliminate some tedious automation as well. I think bass is often poorly sorted because most of us don't have the monitoring set up to be able to deal with it accurately. I know I have been surprised when I have taken jazz and classical mixes to a mastering studio by just how wrong I got the bass level "when in doubt, make it less" - my $0.02
Old 18th April 2019
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louie1 View Post
Bass EQ: During the first part of the head, the bass and RH piano play the melody in unison, the bass sounds too heavy during that part. And during the rest of the tune, maybe just high-pass a little off the low end of the bass while preserving the "growl" of the instrument.
Awesome comments, thank you both Louie and Jim. I automated the bass down for the first part of the head and also put a -1dB low shelf on the bass DI from about 120hz for the whole song.

I applied a bit more HPF to a few tracks: bass DI, main pair, bass-amp side of the overheads, bass amp side of the piano mics and the kick mic which also had amp leakage. I tried to keep it subtle, hoping it didn't change the tone of anything that was 'working'. Found a lot of redundant 30hz-50hz in those mics, dead weight with no tone.

To deal with the over-prominent toms and kick, I turned down the kick mic a smidgeon, and I put a -1dB low shelf on the overheads starting around 800hz, trying to keep the cymbal and snare tones intact.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
"when in doubt, make it less"
Great quote, I'll remember that! And good call on the monitoring. I don't use a sub, and the room is far from optimal. As soon as I did a slightly over-loud headphone listen, I could really hear the bass going for a swim.

Cheers!
Attached Files

Song1E.mp3 (12.35 MB, 702 views)

Old 21st April 2019
  #24
Glad to help. I think this community needs more musicians and engineers helping each other out and less arguing over nonsense so I'm firmly in the camp of trying to help out where I feel I have something to offer.

The bass and piano blend is much better. The drums sound really nice, but still overall too much drum set first time around. I know it can be a fine line between too loud and can't hear enough detail. But you don't want it to sound like the drummers record (unless he is paying you--only kidding). Personally I would turn the whole drum set level down relative to piano and bass at least first time around for the head and during the first piano solo. Remember in this style generally the piano is the star of the show (even though the musicians may or may not admit to it). The drummer get his chance to shine at the end of the tune during the vamp. The more I listen I'm hearing a page taken from Keith Jarret Trio. I would give one of the live tunes a listen, it would be worth your time. The best way to describe it is a piano solo with complex/ingenious accompaniment. Also listen to the overall level in the beginning, and then skip to the vamp/drum solo at the end of the tune. The overall level is quite a bit louder--too much difference in my opinion. You know it should be louder because the band got louder and it is a dynamic band...but through speakers the difference is probably more pronounced than what your ears would notice in a live concert. Just something else to be aware of.
Old 26th April 2019
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louie1 View Post
The more I listen I'm hearing a page taken from Keith Jarret Trio. I would give one of the live tunes a listen, it would be worth your time.
Thanks for that reference, it led me to this youtube video of the Keith Jarrett Trio:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBnwDTAoAC8&t=2181s

Quite a helpful reference actually because their stage layout is so similar, and there's several microphone conventions in common as well, confirming for me that my overheads were too high, among other things. Spanky shells, blurry bells.

I've added the latest mix, with a couple main changes:
lowering drums until ~5:00,
raising the mix until ~7:00

The KJT listen also compelled me to cut a bit more lows, use less bass DI, less kick, and turn up the piano.

Cheers!
Attached Files

Song1G.mp3 (12.35 MB, 516 views)

Old 27th April 2019
  #26
Overall, I think the piano and bass are balanced and sound nice. I cranked it up and hate to say it but the drum kit is still overpowering IMO, but it now it sounds like a drum kit and less like individual mics--much much better.

Other than that, there is something odd about the very first part of the tune volume-wise. It just sounds muted and the tambourine is too much. But then things start sounding right from the bridge onward (after the tambourine goes away.

Nice job, I enjoyed listening to this version.
Old 27th April 2019
  #27
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chrischoir's Avatar
 

not bad, you need to clean up the lowend with a HPF, you need to cut out some 'boxy' low mids also
a high shelf to open things up. It sounds too muffled.
Old 27th April 2019
  #28
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Louie and Chris taking both your comments into account, I made the following tweaks:

(Loud headphone listen)
-Less drums up to the bridge
-Less drums in general
-More piano, and less extreme panning
-HPF and low-mid EQ on bass, mains, snare, kick, overheads, going after boxiness
-High Shelf 1-2dB on mains, piano, drums trying to get rid of the muffled sound
-Narrow EQ cut into the first rack tom that sounds too close.
-More snare (relative to kit) and a small hi-mid boost.

Also revisited the panning. Things moved around a bit after some HPF/EQ but generally the low-end of the mix is more 'centred' I would say.

Cheers
Attached Files

Song1H.mp3 (12.35 MB, 408 views)

Old 27th April 2019
  #29
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
If you don't mind me hijacking the thread for a moment, the tweaks that you have been making bring forward a thought about processing - EQ, dynamics, etc. - and workflow preferences...where does the mixing leave off and when does mastering enter?

If I was mixing this, I would deal with the piano - drum balance and any required fader automation, and then I would probably do most of the EQ on the 2-bus (maybe adding a bit of light or parallel compression, if required). Its just my personal preference but after a certain 'good enough' point in mixing and EQ'ing the individual tracks, I find tweaking the EQ in the stereo bus works better for getting the overall sound colour right. Lots here will have different ideas, no doubt. YMMV

I like version G just fine BTW. Not sure if H is better or just different.
Old 27th April 2019
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justmusic View Post
Louie and Chris taking both your comments into account, I made the following tweaks:

(Loud headphone listen)
-Less drums up to the bridge
-Less drums in general
-More piano, and less extreme panning
-HPF and low-mid EQ on bass, mains, snare, kick, overheads, going after boxiness
-High Shelf 1-2dB on mains, piano, drums trying to get rid of the muffled sound
-Narrow EQ cut into the first rack tom that sounds too close.
-More snare (relative to kit) and a small hi-mid boost.

Also revisited the panning. Things moved around a bit after some HPF/EQ but generally the low-end of the mix is more 'centred' I would say.
A mix that feels right does not necessarily have to sound perfect in my opinion, and sometimes we kill the vibe by trying too hard for perfection. There is a fine line between fine tuning a mix and wrangling it, and we need to be aware of where that line is or we run the risk of ending up with mixes that sound as if they were forced into a straight jacket.

Ideally, the mix should start when you hit the record button, and therefore microphone choice and placement are more important than everything that comes after. For most live recordings (when you're not in a room with excellent acoustics) you can forget about using room mics because even if you try to align them in a DAW they will still introduce phase anomalies. Audience microphones however is a very different thing and can add to the ambience of the live mix.

In this situation I would mic the band for the recording but only use the inputs I need for the live mix of course. And as far as this mix is concerned, I would go back to zero...strip away all of the processing, and try to build the mix by balancing the various elements using only panning and hi-pass filters to get as close to where I want to go before going to EQ or other types of processing.

Every band/performance is different, so mix this performance and forget about what the standard for a four-piece jazz band is supposed to be. The lead instrument is the one that's being played as the lead and the general dynamics of the performance was already set by the musicians...You can tweak it a little, but you can't (and shouldn't try) to make it something else or you will kill the vibe.

These are just my opinions of course and you can take it or leave it, but I believe that what and how the band plays and acoustics will be a big factor in what we do and how we do it. There is almost no default in my world, no formula or default, I rely on past experiences but every gig is a new adventure.

Check this, not because you should try to sound like this, but because it's closer to what you're doing than Keith Jarrett at some big jazz festival with a bunch of high-end gear and a top notch crew to make it happen:


You should also check out the NPR tiny desk concert series, it's real good what they achieve with the limited resources they use. The Musicians are obviously very good, but it takes some serious engineering chops to get this level of result:
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