Less is More – Mixing Jazz

Been busy working on a little mixing duty recently and thought I’d share a few observations about recording and mixing jazz.

The usuals apply – use the best and most appropriate mics you can; get your gain staging right so your waveforms don’t look like trembly bits of string; aim for as much separation as you can; gently roll off the low end and sweep the EQ to find and notch out the little bits of ugliness. That sort of thing.

Ah, “we’ll fix it in the mix”… well, with modern tech there’s more than ever that can be done, but it’s far better to just get it right in the first place. At the very least, get your levels good and strong – don’t routinely rely on noise removal later (don’t care how good the algorithm, there’s always a hint of whispering android riot in the background).

Here is a very good webinar and Q&A by Dave Darlington. He’s a heavy sound honcho based in NYC who works in all kinds of genres, but this presentation focuses on working with jazz. Some notes of mine follow after the break.

SOME OBSERVATIONS

It’s sponsored by Waves Audio, and Dave is a fan of them, so there’s some inevitable plug plugging. Fair enough – they do produce some very good stuff, including a range of emulators of classic gear.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of extremely useful advice to extract, which can be applied regardless of the software you’re using. Ultimately, the guy’s an earhead, not a gearhead.

It’s not as though he’s saying press this button on the SecretSauce5000 and it’ll suddenly sound good. He’s generally explaining how to use the handful of basic tools well. Of course, if you’re in love with Birdmeupifiers, whizzles and twizzles, that’s entirely up to you.

Jazz musicians do explore the latest sonic techniques and trends, but you’ll probably mostly be working with a band playing acoustically, or at least as “as acoustic” as they can.

This means that jazz production tends to involve a lighter touch, more akin to treatment of classical music than rock. You help the sound by massaging it gently, rather than aggressively bashing it about. EQ and compression tend to be applied with a spoon rather than a bucket.

He also makes a beautifully simple point – your mix is in pretty good shape if you feel you could transcribe each individual part.

Micing techniques are pretty much as you’d expect, but I do like his idea about having both a ribbon and condenser on each horn. Ha. Well, maybe if a rich relative I don’t even know I have suddenly passes away and drops me a bundle…

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Posted in e) Rants & Ramblings, j) Sound & Vision

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We play every month at Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington, South London.

Fri 15 Sept 9pm, £15 (£9 adv)
JLT with Roberto Manzin tenor

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