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  • Writer's pictureNoah Manheimer

Recording Classical, Jazz & Rock: What's The Difference?

Are all genres the same when it comes to recording and mixing technique? While most recordings in any genre share some common goals such as clarity, fidelity and frequency balance, each genre has its own set of priorities, techniques and preferred equipment.


It's all about precision, clarity, preservation of dynamics. Classical musicians & ensembles have spent considerable time and energy developing the ability to produce optimal tone and dynamics from their instruments. The goal of the recording engineer is to faithfully capture the subtle nuances of the performance, and then to sweeten or enhance the performance in the mix, while staying true to the tone and dynamics of the performance. Microphones and preamps most suited to classical recording will be neutral in character with low noise, wide & flat frequency response and wide dynamic range. Omni microphones are often desirable for their ability to capture an acoustic space. Preamps are in the super clean camp like those made my Grace, GML, and Millienia. In the mix, the priority is realism, fidelity and wide dynamic range.


Recording jazz is similar to classical in that the goal is to capture a performance. The session should be set up in such a way that all the musicians can see and hear each other clearly and are able to communicate and interact. The principle difference is that with jazz, there is less of a preoccupation with getting a 100% acoustically accurate recording. There is more room to expand the sonic palette with more colorful microphones, preamps, etc. It is common to opt for "warm" and "vibey" gear like tube and ribbon microphones and tube or transformer based preamps. Most jazz mixes will retain clarity and dynamic range like a classical mix, but there is room to add larger than life qualities with EQ, tasteful use of subtle distortion effects like tape emulation, and a bit of compression to make instruments pop out of the speakers more.


Do whatever the hell you want!

While certain principals of classical & jazz recording apply, like capturing great performances and high fidelity sounds, there is far more freedom in terms of capturing or creating sounds that go beyond what acoustic instruments can produce on their own. The goal is often to create larger-than-life soundscapes using a wide variety of equipment and techniques including highly colored microphones and preamps, compression, distortion, ambient effects, samples...the list goes on. Rather than recording a performance from beginning to end, parts are often overdubbed or layered on top of each other. In the mix, recreating the sound of a performance in a room is usually not a priority. Instead, the goal is to create a compelling & expressive sonic landscape by whatever means necessary. In modern genres, the studio itself becomes a musical instrument.

Thanks for reading!

Noah Manheimer

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