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Tips for mixing Jazz
Old 10th August 2005
  #1
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Studiocat's Avatar
 

Tips for mixing Jazz

Here's a can of worms:

I'm mixing a jazz album this week, and i'm looking for tips, trends, and suggestions for mixing in this genre. Panning? Compression? Eq? Magazine articles? Links?

Thanks a bunch.

Adam
Old 10th August 2005
  #2
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
What kind of jazz?

If it's traditional then listen to some Rudy Van Gelder recordings and compare your mixes to those. Jazz is all about space, massive compression, limiting and making things sound larger then life with lots of effects isn't the goal. Having it sound natural IS the goal.

If the music is more jazz/fusion in the vein of Tribal Tech, Methany or the like then you'll have more room to experiment with effects and panning.

Now, if it's some kinda Kenny G sleazy listening stuff I'd beat myself to death with a $40 condensor mic and I can't help you. I've never made a record in that genre.
Old 10th August 2005
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Studiocat
Here's a can of worms:

I'm mixing a jazz album this week, and i'm looking for tips, trends, and suggestions for mixing in this genre. Panning? Compression? Eq? Magazine articles? Links?
Panning?
Natural

EQ?
None, other than a shelf here and there. It's all about mic selection and placement.

Compression?
Definitely none... unless you are controlling the bass.


Listen to different engineers and see what you like.
Old 10th August 2005
  #4
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We were doing a 'live in the studio' jazz recording a few months ago. The producer said "It sounds like a Rudy Van Gelder record". I was pretty happy to hear that!

In mixing jazz, I use more highpass filters (and the occasional lowpass) to make space, and subtractive eq for the same reason. I don't do a lot of boosting, but a little here and there to bring certain instruments out in the mix.

If the music has too much dynamic range, you can use compression for that, but Jay is right about not overdoing it. A transformer based console or some plugins can help make things sound bigger, just be careful that things don't start sounding grainy with too much processing.
Old 10th August 2005
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robobo1
Panning?
Natural

EQ?
None, other than a shelf here and there. It's all about mic selection and placement.

Compression?
Definitely none... unless you are controlling the bass.


Listen to different engineers and see what you like.
Right. Do leave plenty of dynamic range for the mastering engineer.

Panning seems to be an issue of contention however. Some jazz records are panned with the drums all the way to one side and the piano on the other side, etc... This can be good, but sometimes it just sounds unbalanced. It depends on the instrumentation/arrangement, etc...

The project I'm mixing right now has drums, guitar, B3, sax, 2 trumpets, and tuba instead of stand-up bass. The drummer plays really loud, so he went in a drumbooth. I'm just panning the drums wide left/right, as this group needs that balance. But if people hate my mixes, I'll change it for sure!

It seems to be best that way, with the guitar and B3 panned opposite filling in the midrange area. I don't know how else to mix this combo. Drums left and B3 right? I'll try that perhaps just to see what it would sound like, but the drums wide with the guitar/B3 in stereo is sounding good to me. The horns fit in there nicely that way and it sounds balanced.
Old 10th August 2005
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdunn
Panning seems to be an issue of contention however. ......... It depends on the instrumentation/arrangement, etc...

Agreed! My instinct is usually that hard left/right panning of drums (usually just an overhead pair with a mic on the bass drum and one on snare for brushes) will be too unnatural. But most of the sessions I have done in the past two months have ended up with hard panning on the drums, because that's what the situation required! It really does depend on the instrumentation and the music.

I try to keep in mind that I'm recording music, not musicians playing instruments. I do whatever I can to preserve the musicians' music.
Old 10th August 2005
  #7
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What they all said. Realism and space is the key. Good jazz is mixed so that when you close your eyes you can enter the jazz club and visualize where the players are and feel like you are in the audience.

Space, harmonics, dynamics, harmonics, dynamic range, harmonics and did I say dynamics? I would try to use no compression at all if possible. Yes none. If you gotta control something use a little automation.

Oh... and send me a copy when it's done! heh

Lawrence
Old 10th August 2005
  #8
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James Guitar's Avatar
 

thanks

i'm responding for the guy who posted the original question (he's my studio partner). yeah we're versed in the van gelder sound (ya can't do any jazz without knowing his sound, IMO).
the record is trad sounding with vocal. guitar-led with some horn section thrown in on a couple tunes. mics used were U87s on overheads, D112 on kick, M149 on vox and some others of that ilk (we're just mixing it and i don't have the mic sheet in front of me).
all of this stuff was very helpful. any other info or experiences that people have had recording this sort of stuff would be greatly appreciated. we hope to give back to the group in the same way that we have learned from it.
being a jazz player myself, i'm keeping the mix dry and natural, to be sure, but there can still be some decent (albeit soft) compression one can use, esp on those overheads. drummer's using a gretsch kit and it tends to boom out (in a good way of course!) here and there. that's just me, tho'
thanks again,
jamie
Old 10th August 2005
  #9
I recorded this for jazz pianist, Kei Akagi last year. He was after a natural club feel, but we ended up using a ton of processing because he doesn't really like the Van Gelder sound. He usually records for Sony at Sony Studios, Tokyo,who go for a pretty slick, polished sound, and I guess that's what he's used to. I always fight with him about it, but the guy knows what he wants.
Attached Files

Jazz Ballad.mp3 (3.54 MB, 8622 views)

Old 10th August 2005
  #10
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Cool, something to download. Oh man, nice recording! I'll try to post a rough mix of what I'm working on soon for some critique.

The musicians always want more reverb in my experience, and once I put some on there, it does sound better.

I'm mixing in Logic right now (stemmed out to Mytek DACs/Phoenix Nicerizer 16), and the Space Designer convolution reverb is pretty cool I must say. Since the drummer was recorded in a drum booth, I put a little Drum Room verb on the kit. (I don't usually put much on the front kick mic though. That get's too boomy).

I also put a little bit of drums into a Wood Studio reverb, along with the horns, and B3. Then I put a Horn Section verb on the sax and trumpets. That one has a longer decay time. I'm not even tweaking presets yet.

None of the verbs are running hot, but when you add them up, the mix has more dimension. My Lexicon M300 is not even plugged in. Now I want the Waves IR reverb, and some IR (impulse response) collections, etc...

I'm not talking Kenny G reverb here tutt
Old 10th August 2005
  #11
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jjblair's Avatar
I love the way those Rudy Van Gelder records were done in the '50s and '60s. Each instrument was panned dry to one side, and then its reverb is panned to the other side: like drums and piano left and sax and upright right, with the corresponding verb pans. Even Kind of Blue (not done by RVG) uses this approach.

However, find out what the client wants. They might want something more contemporary, so it always pays to have them give you a CD of material they like before you start. I do this before I start recording with people, usually. I find out what sounds they are going for before I take them in a direction that's not up their alley. When I was working on one of the Rod standards record, I got a really great sound on the bass with a ribbon mic that was very classic sounding, and the producer hated it and never got over it. He wanted more of a Kenny G jazz sound, I guess.

Good luck.
Old 10th August 2005
  #12
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James Guitar's Avatar
 

yeah, good point. always ask the client. you're making the record for them, not for you. as it turns out i've known this guy for a long long time and we like the same thing and he trusts my ears (fool! hahaha) so i know where to go with it. can't agree more about the mic placement and it's primary importance in these typs of situations.
regarding panning, we're tending to spread the drums across (it's just OH, kick and snare) and panning the guitar left and the piano right, with the vocal up the centre and the horns on a stereo spread.
-J
Old 10th August 2005
  #13
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Yep, that sounds about how I'd pan that too. thumbsup Depending on the client's wishes of course.

Hey jj - Do you know what kind of verb was used on the RVG stuff?
Old 11th August 2005
  #14
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themaidsroom's Avatar
 

here's something i did with some kids last month

"stardust"

no eq
no compression
a little plate

be well

- jack
Attached Files

stardust mp3.mp3 (5.38 MB, 7929 views)

Old 11th August 2005
  #15
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jjblair's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdunn
Hey jj - Do you know what kind of verb was used on the RVG stuff?
I'm guessing an EMT140? That was really the only choice besides a chamber, and I don't recall those records sounding like a chamber.

BTW, I love Stardust! One of my favs. Hoagie Carmichael is the shizzle.

While we are show and telling jazz, this is one of my favs that I did. I arranged it, too.

Iron Man
Old 11th August 2005
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by jjblair
While we are show and telling jazz, this is one of my favs that I did. I arranged it, too.
That's Wonderful! A great time warp retrospective flashes from when I sat learning that song on my electric guitar in my parent's living room back in the 1970s to ultrasophisticated old age illusions in present. Thanks for sharing!! Was it tracked in the same room, or isolated?
Old 11th August 2005
  #17
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jjblair's Avatar
Isolated. My room is too small and live to have been able to gobo everything effectively.
Old 11th August 2005
  #18
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Here's something I was incredibly lucky to be a part of. Done about 3 months ago. This is the mix straight off the board, a minute or so into the tune (and a bass intro). Ends after about 7.5MB, 'cause that's all the bb would take.

(JJ, I dig the organ!)
Attached Files

tuneforgearslutz.mp3 (7.51 MB, 7977 views)

Old 11th August 2005
  #19
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdunn
The project I'm mixing right now has drums, guitar, B3, sax, 2 trumpets, and tuba instead of stand-up bass. The drummer plays really loud, so he went in a drumbooth. I'm just panning the drums wide left/right, as this group needs that balance. But if people hate my mixes, I'll change it for sure!

It seems to be best that way, with the guitar and B3 panned opposite filling in the midrange area. I don't know how else to mix this combo. Drums left and B3 right? I'll try that perhaps just to see what it would sound like, but the drums wide with the guitar/B3 in stereo is sounding good to me. The horns fit in there nicely that way and it sounds balanced.
Sounds like a cool project. I love having the B3/Leslie in stereo so it can spin around a bit. I'd try panning the guitar and the horns apart if the arrangement of the song works that way, maybe have the drums a bit more mono...I dunno...it's hard to say without hearing the material. Either way, I like to keep it simple and use one, maybe two 'verbs to glue everything together and place the instruments in one space.
Old 11th August 2005
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

I just finished a Jazzy record. I got to get a little crazy, and actually distort a vibrophone! OMGod.... can you believe it?!?!? That was only after I told the group that Teo Macero and I hung out a few times and he told me stories about making bitches brew and how he liked to mess with stuff.....

That is true though, I just wanted to keep that spirit of exploration alive!
Old 11th August 2005
  #21
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel Hamilton
I just finished a Jazzy record. I got to get a little crazy, and actually distort a vibrophone! OMGod.... can you believe it?!?!? That was only after I told the group that Teo Macero and I hung out a few times and he told me stories about making bitches brew and how he liked to mess with stuff.....

That is true though, I just wanted to keep that spirit of exploration alive!
Dig it. Though Bitches Brew isn't exactly traditional jazz, it's more out there then Sun-Ra!!! Plenty of room for experimentation with that stuff.
Old 11th August 2005
  #22
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I have three words:

The Bad Plus.

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC
Old 11th August 2005
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjblair
I'm guessing an EMT140? That was really the only choice besides a chamber, and I don't recall those records sounding like a chamber.
Yeah, I was guessing EMT too.
Old 11th August 2005
  #24
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cgarges
I have three words:

The Bad Plus.
Could those albums be anymore compressed?
Old 11th August 2005
  #25
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wallace's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by themaidsroom
here's something i did with some kids last month

"stardust"

no eq
no compression
a little plate

be well

- jack

sounds cool. kind of like a "kind of blue" vibe..
Old 11th August 2005
  #26
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nobtwiddler's Avatar
Hey Adam;
I recently did a record with Ahmad Jamal and his trio.
For this project, I kept everything as natural sounding as I could, obviously featuring his Steinway Grand Piano.
Nothing panned too wide, really sonically and spatially natural.
I used very little reverb and only then on some quiet passages.

I did us a little compression while cutting to the Radar II just to avoid overs at the recorder...
And while mixing I initially didn't use any compression at all, trying to retain all the dynamics of Ahmads performance as well as Idris Muhammad (drums) and James Cammac (bass).
But the label after hearing the mixes was worried that the dynamic range of the recording was toooooo much, so, I ended up having to do a little compression during mastering. They felt that during certain passages, The piano would just explode out of the speakers, and that had them worried a bit.
Although I must say I loved it....But hey...

Other then that is was just a very straight ahead.
Basically getting good sounds and just placing the instruments correctly in the mix, with little added to the sounds.
Paul
www.millbrooksoundstudios.com
Old 11th August 2005
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robobo1
Could those albums be anymore compressed?
Exactly. It's Tchad Blake.

I'm usually a pretty anti-"compression for the sake of compression" type of guy, but I'm so excited that somebody finally made a jazz record that wasn't entirely purist-sounding. Don't get me wrong, I love the stuff that Joe Ferla and James Farber do, as well as the classic stuff that RVG and even Tom Dowd did, but I'm just happy that somebody finally started messing with stuff in the jazz ilk. And I'm glad it was Tchad. I just think he's REALLy good at that sort of thing.

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC
Old 11th August 2005
  #28
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jjblair's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robobo1
(JJ, I dig the organ!)
Funny, my wife says the same thing. heh
Old 11th August 2005
  #29
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Studiocat's Avatar
 

Hey all

Thanks for all the good info.

While I couldn't say that I haven't used compression, could say that I've used it intelligently. Some multiband compression is working really well on the room mic (it was u87 I think), and I have a pair of dbx 160's linked up to compress the guitar body and guitar amp sounds. I'm using an Alan Smart to catch some of the ham-fisted piano parts and add some nice air.
On the vocalist, I use an API 550 to roll off a bit of bottom and add some air and then to an LA2A to level her out. Plus the multiband waves C4 to catch any roughness and sibilance.
A bit of 1176 on the stand up bass. And a touch on the horn buss.
I also put the Alan Smart on the 2 mix - its so awesome, I can't help it. Just a little bit! The needles hardly move and it still makes a world of difference... and of course I leave lots of room for mastering.

Panning so far - I've chosen to keep the drums up the middle, with the overheads panned hard. Bass middle, guitars a little left, piano a little right. And when there are horns, I put them on the right and put the piano up the middle to keep it balanced. I'm finding that keeping the piano pair and drum pair panned wide leaves lots the most room for the singer in the middle.

Thanks everyone for posting!

Adam
Old 12th August 2005
  #30
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Adam (Studiocat), can you give us a taste?
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