Jazz Mixing With Waves

Following on from the recent Mixing Jazz with Waves webinar, I’d like to share how I recently approached a jazz mix and the various Waves plugins I used to mix the track.

First of all, Wicked Knee are Steven Bernstein on trumpets, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Marcus Rojas on tuba, and Billy Martin from Medeski Martin & Wood on drums and percussion. You can take a listen to the track and then I’ll explain what I did.

As this was a jazz mix, I wanted to stay away from compression and extensive effects and focus on volume automation, equalization and use of the stereo field to shape my sound.

Once I had roughly balanced all the levels in the mix and panned the various tracks the way I liked them, I then listened back to see if there were any problematic or uneven sections and attenuated those further with automation. Why did I focus so much on volume automation at this stage?

  • I was only using gentle compression on the drums and none at all on the individual instrument tracks.
  • With this approach, there is much less work for compressors to do.

With that part of the mixing process complete, I started mixing the drums. When the drums sounded nicely balanced, I moved on to adding the tuba, trombone and trumpet. From there, I worked to create a polished sound with final EQ, buss EFX sends and automation on the individual tracks.

Once finished at a micro level, these tracks fed their relative busses (Music, Drums, Bass, EFX) and finally the stereo buss. As there were not an extensive amount of tracks in the session, I chose to leave everything unmuted and not solo any elements. I think that was a fundamental step in creating an accurate representation of a jazz sound.

The main plugins I used on the mix were the Waves Renaissance Equalizer and Renaissance Compressor.

REQ and RCompressor are part of the Waves Renaissance Maxx Bundle


 
Next, I’ll outline how I used the plugins in the track:


Renaissance Equalizer

Settings do not reflect those used in the track


Kick Drum
I used corrective EQ to cut frequencies before compression with the REQ 4:

  • High-pass filter at 30Hz
  • 8dB cut at around 700Hz
  • 3dB cut at 2kHz
  • 4dB high shelf cut at 10kHz

Post-compression I used the REQ 2 to add a little 50Hz and remove some 80Hz.
 
 
Snare

  • High pass filter at 100Hz.
  • Cut 2-3dB at 950Hz.

I then added in some 5kHz post-compression with the REQ 2.
 
 
Toms

  • 6dB boost at 250Hz
  • 9dB cut at 900Hz
  • 4dB boost at 6kHz


Floor Tom

  • Low shelf at 80Hz
  • 2.5dB boost at 240Hz
  • 8db cut at 650Hz
  • 3.5dB boost at 4.7kHz


Overhead and Side
Ther Overhead and Side mics were high passed at between 1-2kHz respectively and had the required frequencies boosted in the high frequencies using the REQ. I used no compression on either of these mics.


Front
The Front mic was very heavily EQ’d with REQ and there was a high shelf boost added for some top end.


Tuba

  • Low shelf roll off at 34Hz
  • 5dB boost at 90Hz
  • Narrow cut of 4db at 640Hz
  • High shelf roll off of 3db at 4kHz


Trombone

  • Low shelf roll off at 80Hz
  • 6dB boost at 180Hz
  • 5dB cut at 660Hz
  • 5dB high shelf roll off at 6kHz

During the final stages of the mix, I also added a separate REQ 2 to add 3dB at 295Hz and 2.5dB at 6.5kHz.


Trumpet

  • 8dB low shelf roll off at 144Hz
  • High shelf 5dB roll off at 10kHz

Again during the final stages of the mix, I added another REQ 2 and boosted 1.3kHz by 5dB and 11kHz by 3dB.

The delay track was affected in the same way but without the separate EQ boosting additional frequencies.


Renaissance Compressor

Settings do not reflect those used in the track


Kick Drum
4:1 ratio taking off at most 3dB at peak.
 
Snare
2:1 ratio to attenuate an absolute maximum of 2-3dB at peak.
 
Front
I used the CLA 76 Bluey to decrease the influence of the kick on this element.



Buss Effects

 
Snare Reverb

Settings do not reflect those used in the track


Renassance Reverb with a medium room setting. I didn’t send a huge amount of the signal to this buss, just enough for my taste!


Parallel Compression

Settings do not reflect those used in the track


The CLA-76 and Puigtec EQP-1A were used as my chains on 2 separate busses for kick and snare parallel compression.
 

Settings do not reflect those used in the track


Kick settings:

  • CLA 76 Blacky – ratio of 6:1 attenuating 1dB sparingly in places.
  • Puigtec EQP-1A added a small amount of 60hZ.

Snare settings:

  • CLA 76 Blacky – ratio of 4:1 attenuating 3dB.
  • Puigtec EQP-1A adding a small boost at 100Hz.


Music Buss

Settings do not reflect those used in the track


The music buss had an instance of Waves Center on it to help emphasize the low frequencies of the drums and tuba in the center and move some of the low frequencies of the trombone and trumpet to the sides. The high frequencies were also slightly boosted at the sides, which further adds to the “clearing out the middle” effect.

I also used the CLA-76 Bluey compressor to just lightly affect the Music with a 4:1 ratio, slow attack and release. This compressor attenuated 1-2dB at only a few points in the mix.


Drum Buss
On the drum buss, I cut 6dB at 67Hz with the REQ and 7dB at 14.5kHz. I used a narrow Q for both these cuts. The CLA-76 Bluey compressor with a 4:1 ratio was then used to attenuate a maximum of 3dB.


Stereo Buss

Settings do not reflect those used in the track


The L2 Ultramaximizer is my “go to” plugin on the stereo buss. For this track, I set the threshold so that it just touches the mix – taking off at the very most 3dB at the loudest parts of the track.
 
So, that’s it… that’s how approached this particular jazz mix. If you like what you hear, please let me know about it!
 
What way do you approach a mix? Do you have a set formula or workflow, or do things change with every mix?
 
What plugins do you use when mixing jazz?
 
Leave a reply below and add your voice to the conversation!
 

4 comments

  1. Ole Klein says:

    Hi Stephen

    Nice article – thx.

    I use CLA comp, Softube eq and Relab reverb when mixing Jazz and some Flux on the buss.
    Normally I would make the drumkit sound good in the overhead and then mix in kick and snare.

    Could you explain a little further how you do parallel comp on kick and snare?

    Best Regards
    Ole

  2. Thanks Ole,

    My parallel compression chains vary from mix to mix, but on this one I used the CLA-76 and Puigtec EQP-1A.

    I use two separate busses for kick and snare parallel compression. The kick(s) are sent to one buss and snare(s) to another. On each of these busses there are instances of the CLA-76 and Puigtec EQP-1A.

    The precise settings are listed above. The send level depends on the mix and your particular taste.

    I will be releasing more material soon on parallel compression.

    Is there something in particular you wanted to know?

    -Stephen

  3. Graeme says:

    Thanks for sharing the info.
    I took part in that comp also!

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