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Jazz Music Mixing Tips for Beginners


This is a guest post written by Emerson R. Maningo. If you have a guest post you want to promote please check out the Guest Posting Page.

Most music mixing tutorials you will find on the Internet emphasize the most common genres such as pop, rock, alternative music, hip-hop and metal. Very few resources are dedicated to Jazz music mixing.

Jazz music is not as popular as it once was, but this type of music is still beautiful and requires more advanced skills on the part of the artist, unlike in pop, rock and country music. In music production, mixing jazz is very different from mixing other forms of music.

Listening to the most common jazz music being released particularly the instrumental jazz; below are some of the mixing tips I would recommend to try in your mix:

Jazz Drums:

Kick drum:

  • EQ: Good starting points are 6dB cuts at 150Hz with a Q of 1.0,  cut -9dB at 400Hz with a  Q of 2.5 and a boost  of 3dB at 1000Hz with a Q of 0.8.
  • Compression: It depends on the track. Personally I won’t use compression in order  to bring out the dynamics that are so important in jazz music.
  • Panning: Center. In some jazz music it’s common to have it slightly off-center so that it won’t occupy the same space as the bass guitar.
  • Effects: No effects (no reverb, delay required)

Snares:

  • EQ: Cut -6dB at 2000Hz, boost +3dB at 8000Hz and boost +3dB at 100Hz.
  • Compression: Not necessary, most snares in jazz are very dynamic. It’s common to hear a jazz snare sound soft at the beginning of the track and gradually getting louder until it gets softer in the end. If you compress this, then the dynamics might be lost.

Cymbals and Hi-hats:

Cymbals and hi-hats can be mixed the same as with other musical genres.

Bass guitar:

  • EQ: Low shelf filter, cut off at 100Hz, medium boost at 150Hz with a Q of 1.4 and finally a 6 dB or so boost at 500Hz with a Q of 1.
  • Compression: Again depending on the track, you might not want to use compression. Unlike in pop music, where it’s common to have that steady 8-beat sound (where compression is important to bring out even volume), this is not the case with Jazz.
  • Effects: Jazz bass guitarist uses a variety of effects. The most common effects I’ve noticed are minor wah-wah, flanger, leslie effects and even some little overdrive and reverb. Moderation is the key to successfully use effects on jazz bass guitar. Whereas heavy distortion and overdrive works well in rock music, it won’t sound good in Jazz.

Jazzy Vocals

Jazz vocals are mixed similarly as other genres, but the jazz singing style is very different compared to other music styles.

Jazz Guitars

  • EQ: Follow these EQ settings for a good starting point: Low shelf filter -9dB at 250Hz. Boost +3dB at 400Hz with the Q being around 1.0. Cut -6dB at 800Hz with Q of 1. Cut -6dB at 2 kHz with Q=1.0. Finally Boost +3dB at 5000Hz Q=1.4
  • Compression: For solo guitars, it is not very important. For rhythm guitars, I find it necessary to apply a bit of compression, with the threshold at -20dB, Ratio at 5:1, attack time of 15ms and a release time of 15ms
  • Effects: Like bass, you can use a lot of effects for guitars. This is not a problem in mixing as all the guitar effects are already included in the tracking process (as guitarist are using outboard effects and stomp-boxes). If the guitarist had the sound he wants going in you don’t need to add any effects within your software.

All the suggestions here are for reference only, they are not a strict guide. I recommend that you start with those settings, experiment with them and then gradually adjust until you find the best sound suitable for your jazz music. Good luck!

[For more tips on both recording and mixing, for any genre of music, check out Recording & Mixing Strategies.]

About the Author

Emerson R. Maningo is a recording producer, music publisher and audio mixing/mastering engineer. He writes music production tutorials published in his blog. He is a member of AES (Audio Engineering Society) and loves to write and produce songs as his hobby.


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About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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