low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

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low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Vlaaing Peerd »

I'm mixing recordings of a friend's band, but in one of the tunes I'm really struggling with getting the guitar to fit in the mix.

It's a jazzy tune, where he is playing a semi-acoustic jazz guitar lead with a lot of octaves, similar to the sound of Wes Montgomery/George Benson style of playing. The rest of the tunes are more funky and I have no trouble mixing those.

When playing solo I really got the sound right, but compared to pop/rock guitar there is really quite a lot of low end. If I remove it, it simply doesn't sound like a jazz guitar anymore but the track is begging for that sound.

In the mix it's competing with the electric bass and the lower notes of a Rhodes piano, where I either need to drown out those, or just cannot have that fat wooly jazz sound on the guitar.

So I listened to old jazz records, but there I notice the (upright) bass is much lower in levels than a modern recording and pianos generally more brittle and thin, which obviously provides the space for a fat guitar.

In my case I do need the bass to stand out more than that and I can't settle for a thin-sounding Rhodes either.

Likely I'm not the first person to run into this and I'm wondering if others have experience in fitting in a jazz guitar without compromising that typical low end sound.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

Sounds like the arrangement really needs reworking to accommodate the instrumentation more effectively, and then a new recording done.

That, or greater compromise in the tonality of keys, bass and guitar.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by MOF »

You could subtly duck the piano and bass when the guitar is playing the low notes, using frequency selective compressors.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Drew Stephenson »

If the arrangement and recording can't be redone, then I think I'd probably start with some automated EQ on all the competing instruments, be really clear about what instrument is leading at each point and drop the competing frequencies from the others at that point. Yes you'll get a bit of tonal compromise, but you'll be preserving the character of the most important instrument at that point. When the focus shifts, shift your cuts.
If you've got a piece with a bit of back and forth then a bit of dynamic eq / mutli-band compression side-chained to the other source should also give you a bit of space without being too obvious.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Peevy »

How about trying the Wavesfactory Trackspacer plugin? It automatically ducks frequencies in real time. You send the guitar track to the input of Trackspacer which is placed as an insert plugin on the bass track (and/or Rhodes track) It’s very straightforward to use and effective for this type of mixing issue.

https://www.wavesfactory.com/audio-plugins/trackspacer/
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Vlaaing Peerd »

Thanks, the comments are much appreciated.
Hugh Robjohns wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 2:06 pm Sounds like the arrangement really needs reworking to accommodate the instrumentation more effectively, and then a new recording done.

That, or greater compromise in the tonality of keys, bass and guitar.

oh the struggles, if I would change the tonality of the Rhodes, it would sound fundamentally different than that same Rhodes on the other tracks. They should overall stay the same sound-wise.

I could ask the keyboard player to rearrange and avoid some lower end playing. The weird thing is that when played live, I hear no problem at all. It really starts to become an issue when it's mixed, so I should be able to mix it with exactly the same arrangement...I think.

It's also not entirely clear why the bass and guitar is competing. They are almost at all times at least one octave apart and the bass is already really muffed and low end.

MOF wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 2:29 pm You could subtly duck the piano and bass when the guitar is playing the low notes, using frequency selective compressors.

I avoided side chaining and frequency ducking, with that typical vintage sound, I tried to stay away from techniques that were not applied in those days. But yea, I should have a go at it by now.

I think I will apply all 3 suggestions as subtle as possible in order not to compromise too much compared to how it sounds live.

If anyone has experience with mixing fat jazz guitars, I'd love to hear some advice as there must be some general guidelines for it. It is very different from other styles where the guitars usually have more mid and high end.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by RichardT »

Jazz guitar in real life does have a lot more bass than on most recordings. It really can get in the way of bass and piano. Its quite a heavy sound, particularly if the player is using thick chords. I would be quite ruthless in cutting lower frequencies from the guitar, and leave the Rhodes sound alone. In my experience that sounds fine.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Vlaaing Peerd »

blinddrew wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 3:06 pm I'd probably start with some automated EQ on all the competing instruments, ...*knip* ... should also give you a bit of space without being too obvious.

That is a very good advice, thanks. In general I didn't have much editing to do on these tracks, the musicians play very well and had their sounds setup nicely. But I will have a go at it, it makes a lot of sense.

Peevy wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 3:27 pm How about trying the Wavesfactory Trackspacer plugin?

This might actually be the most work saving effects plugin I've ever seen. As the situation is more like Blinddrew describes, different moments where an instrument needs to be upfront, for this one I'll go the manual route, but this VST is definitely on the way to my toolbox.

RichardT wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 3:46 pm Jazz guitar in real life does have a lot more bass than on most recordings.

Yes it's noticeably much more than in other styles, but if I cut it rigorously it sounds nowhere near to how it sounds live and loses that jazz tone.

Well, up to the attic and put all this advice to good use. Many thanks so far and I'll come back here to tell how far I got.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Martin Walker »

Vlaaing Peerd wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 5:03 pm
blinddrew wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 3:06 pm I'd probably start with some automated EQ on all the competing instruments, ...*knip* ... should also give you a bit of space without being too obvious.

That is a very good advice, thanks. In general I didn't have much editing to do on these tracks, the musicians play very well and had their sounds setup nicely. But I will have a go at it, it makes a lot of sense.

I agree with Drew, and suspect this is one of those situations where some automated EQ should do the job nicely - if it becomes obvious just dial back the amount of EQ adjustment until it isn't, and you should hopefully still hear an improvement in overall mix clarity.

Good luck!

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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by The Elf »

Ultimately I'd be looking at dynamic EQ, but I agree with Hugh - if you're having to fight to make everything fit that fundamentally calls into question the arrangement.

Nothing is sacred when it comes to the mix - if the lows of the Rhodes needs to be manipulated to benefit the whole I'd do it without hesitation. There's only room for one person stage-front-centre at any point in time.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by ManFromGlass »

But in a big band situation didn’t guitar players avoid lower voicings when the band was playing so they cut through better and only use lower voicings when they soloed? This isn’t that situation but maybe the same principles could apply?
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by RichardT »

ManFromGlass wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 5:57 pm But in a big band situation didn’t guitar players avoid lower voicings when the band was playing so they cut through better and only use lower voicings when they soloed? This isn’t that situation but maybe the same principles could apply?

I wish they did. Some big band guitar players are not so sensitive to the needs of the ensemble! Grant Green, however, used to play with an almost acoustic sound where the string noise was a big part of his sound and it had very little body. That worked well. That's why I advocate radically chopping the lower frequencies from the guitar sound.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Vlaaing Peerd »

Thanks for all the comments. It's mostly been a job of choosing where to compromise yesterday. Cut a bit off from the Rhodes without making it noticeably skinnier than on the other tracks, bass a little more subby (strange how scooping out the 300hz range often works so well with bass).

Guitar EQ-ed to the level where it almost tilts over to losing the required sound.

By cutting a bit more on the guitar when other parts should have more focus I manage to somewhat preserve the tick jazz octave sound. While there is more separation, there is less gel between the Rhodes and bass now though.

I've gotten closer but not entirely satisfied.

The Elf wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 5:52 pm if you're having to fight to make everything fit that fundamentally calls into question the arrangement.

Well, tonally the instruments are not much in each other's way apart from a few notes that cross during the solo. I just seem to need an awful amount of low frequency on the guitar to keep that typical sound.

I was also not to keen to ask them to re-arrange, it's their repertoire and I just offered to record it. Besides that, when they play it live, it works out. So I feel that I'm making my mixing problem theirs rather than something is really wrong with their song.

I did however call the keyboard player about it today and was open to come over this weekend. Until then I'll fiddle around with it, so that hopefully rearranging the piano eventually won't be needed.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by awjoe »

Vlaaing Peerd wrote: Tue Sep 21, 2021 5:26 pm Besides that, when they play it live, it works out.

A question for my betters about this. This is the bit I don't get. Why, if it works out live, does it not work when recorded? What is it about recording that produces masking when the live situation doesn't produce masking?
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Vlaaing Peerd »

RichardT wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 7:22 pm
ManFromGlass wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 5:57 pm
I wish they did. Some big band guitar players are not so sensitive to the needs of the ensemble! Grant Green, however, used to play with an almost acoustic sound where the string noise was a big part of his sound and it had very little body.

Yes, but Grant Green's sound was particularly bright and not the tone we are looking for here. I really want to preserve that and is also the sound the guitarist wants.

It's also not a big ensemble but a quintet, drums, bass, piano, guitar and a female singer. So I'm not sure why this quite commonly used guitar sound is giving me so much problems.

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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by Vlaaing Peerd »

awjoe wrote: Tue Sep 21, 2021 5:51 pm What is it about recording that produces masking when the live situation doesn't produce masking?

That is a valid question here and for which I must owe you a reply until I have done some more listening. I'll get back about this one.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by MOF »

Why, if it works out live, does it not work when recorded? What is it about recording that produces masking when the live situation doesn't produce masking?

Some context needed here, is it the acoustic sound you hear with them in the same room or over a PA or a live mix straight to stereo?
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by RichardT »

I sympathise! I play in a big band as a keys player and I’ve noticed that piano and traditional jazz guitar sounds often collide massively and create muddiness. If the two players are playing in the same register you’re almost certain to have problems with your mix.
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by awjoe »

Do you notice the muddiness of the collision when you're playing live?
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Re: low end on jazzy guitar won't fit in the mix

Post by RichardT »

awjoe wrote: Tue Sep 21, 2021 7:25 pm Do you notice the muddiness of the collision when you're playing live?

Yes, very much!
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