(Photo: Darin Back)
This blog is part a series of entries from inside the production mind of Audio Production & Engineering Associate Program Chair Kevin Bowe. Kevin will detail the audio production sessions that he and his Production Portfolio class run during the course of the term. Over the past year, Kevin and his class have worked with artists like Hot Date, Alexander Young, Jonah Marais, Batteryboy, Hot Date, Maudlin, Jake Ilika, Communist Daughter, and the Suicide Commandos.
4/25/2016, Mastermix A
Jazz is a different beast than rock in so many ways; it all starts with the completely different role that drums play in this music. For me, every record starts with the drums; I can’t understand anything else until I understand/feel what the drums are all about in the song’s architecture. No matter what style, it always starts with the drums for me. In a lot of jazz music, the drums play a different role than in rock. For example, the backbeat isn’t just on the snare; often the ride cymbal is the main attraction, and the snare and kick just provide accents to that flow. Also, the SOUNDS are drastically different than rock. The kick drum in jazz is often round and pillowy with a long sustain, so its envelope is more similar to the upright bass that is playing alongside it.
So… your microphone technique needs to catch this. Luckily we have the lovely Neumann FET 47, which works perfectly for that kick sound. We also have the sublime Coles ribbon mics to capture a warm, silky top for the cymbals. The drummer on this session had a very small 18″ kick, but it was the perfect sound and made our job easy. His toms were tuned very high which made me worry a bit at the start but THE WAY HE HIT THEM made them sound perfect for the style. He just kind of stroked them, with just enough impact to give a nice attack but not so strong that it made them sound high or brittle. A Neumann TLM 49 got the overall room sound on the drums really nicely – we did compress that with a distressor, but not as heavily as we sometimes do.
Park Evans, the guitaristand leader of this trio, played a semi-hollow body Paul Reed Smith guitar with some effects that gave a very John Scofield vibe to his sound, Scofield is obviously a huge influence here. Note to producers; you’ll have no idea how to deal with this stuff when it comes around. The more music you listen to, the more music you will love. The more music you love, the more music you will be able to figure out how to make. So if you “hate country” or jazz or whatever…. good for you, more work for me. If you’re interested in jazz maybe start with Miles Davis “Kind Of Blue” and go from there. That record is impossible not to fall in love with, truly impossible. Anyway, we used the tried and true combo of a Royer ribbon and a 57 on his amp, and it was all right there.
The upright bass can be a tricky one to record, the cheap ones are often thuddy and really sound bad. This guy was an amazing upright player, one of the best in town- and his bass sounded AMAZING. Like a kick drum, you want to capture the boom AND the click, in this case an RE20 on the body nailed the boom perfectly, especially when we goosed it with some low-end thump from the NEVE mic pre. The lovely sound of his fingers on the strings is the other element, and the B&K (small body condenser) ended up nailing it. We also took a DI from his pickup just because we could. The Summit tube compressors just lightly kissed the bass on the way to tape and that helped even things out a bit; we never hit with more than 2 or 3 db of compression though.
The students had a great time, and so did I. I loved the music so much that I’m secretly hoping they hire me to mix it!
Some other recent blogs by Kevin Bowe include:
Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – Sophia Norwood
Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – Maudlin
Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – Communist Daughter
Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – Eric Hohn