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How to mic a saxophone

Discussion in 'Brass' started by 3dchris, Jul 28, 2003.

  1. 3dchris

    3dchris Active Member

    Dear Frieds,
    I have to record a saxophone player that plays soprano, alt and tenor saxophones. I owe Neumann TLM-103, Rode NTK, AT-4033a mikes and various cheaper condenser and dynamic mikes (shure 57,58, EV 1000 etc.) They would go to avalon 737 and/or Drawmer 1962. Which mikes should I use and how to position them to get best results? Also, shold I put the sax player in a vocal booth or in bigger room (the bigger room has lots of reflections)?

    any help will be greatly appreciated.


  2. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Position the mic 2-3 feet in front of horn aiming down in about a 45 degree angle towards the bell; positioned between the bell and his top hand on the keys. You want to get a good balance between the bell and the keys.
    As far as which mic and space: experiment. Have all three condensers hooked up..listen briefly to each. When you find your mic, listen for a bit in the booth and the room, pick what sounds best there. You can then audition each pre. It shouldn't take too much time and you'll have the best for the moment. Also all that movement will help you zone in on the exact mic spot.

  3. 3dchris

    3dchris Active Member

    Thx RecorderMan. Couple of questions though. This setup would work for alt/tenor sax but would it work for soprano too? Also, I heard some people use 2 mics (one for the neck). Do you think this is necessary and/or would work?

    thx again,

  4. Guest

    I think you've got it backwards. When using the extra mic on the soprano, it's for picking up the bell. The mic technique that R-man is describing is to pick up the whole instrument, since much of the sound comes out of the keyholes, not just the bell. Mic'ing the bell gives you a very honky sound. (Try it for yourself and see). Occasionally that may be a sound you want, but usually more for rock than jazz.

    The extra bell-mic on the soprano is so that you can increase the characteristic nasal reediness that sopranos have, if you so desire. Let's you mix in more or less later, if you record to two seperate tracks. But there is nothing wrong with going with the same single mic technique on soprano - especially if you are going for a natural sound.
  5. FloodStage

    FloodStage Active Member

    Got a ribbon mic?

    If you do, try it, you might like it!
  6. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Yeah...I've seen those posts too. Differrent strokes.
    Al Schmitt and Bones howe would follow what I said (or the other way around...those are two I learned from).

    About the ribbon. Usually a good choice for Trumpet. But sax's and other reeds usually benefit from a large diaphram condenser.

    You really only need one mic.

    Ask the sax player what eh thinks about the sound your getting; they are (understandbly) very familliar with how thier instrument.

    Horn players are a diff. breed. Usually a few steps above rythm sections in thier musical training.

    My advice was tempered to the gear you had (very adequate)
    ...but WHATEVER gets you there is right.
  7. 3dchris

    3dchris Active Member

    I would like to thank all of you for replies. I'm recording this guy today (wish me luck hehe:). I'll do whatever RM recommends.

    thx again,

  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I use a large diaphragm condenser.. like a U 87 about two feet in front of the horn aimed just between the bell and the sound holes / keys..
    Usually, sax players like quite a bit of reverb in the headphones... Kurt
  9. bgavin

    bgavin Guest

    "Position the mic 2-3 feet in front of horn aiming down in about a 45 degree angle towards the bell"

    Is this also good advice for live performance recording? I'm wondering about the mic picking up too much of the band noise.

    My horn player has his alto and tenor bells up within a few inches of the mic.
  10. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    No...this is recording advice. He's (your horn player) doin' what you pretty much have to do with live sound reinforcement.
  11. 3dchris

    3dchris Active Member

    Thank You all very much for replies. I took RM's advice and the sax sounds really really good! I used tlm103(even though I tried them all) to avalon 737 with light compression (3:1). That's it. It sounds like...saxophone! :)

    I'm really happy!...next step...accoustic guitars!
  12. bwalch

    bwalch Guest

    In regard to micing jazz live, I've recorded many live jazz big bands, and found that a pair of large diaphram condensers about 6-8 feet from the sax row, about 4-5 feet up, and about 12 feet seperated works very well. This assumes a standard big band setup with trombones on risers behind the sax's and trumpets standing on risers as well behing the trombones. This gives a good balance to the entire front section.

    Although a single pair of mics generally work, the problem I come across all the time is that the drums (usually on stage right) are usually closely squeezed on stage along with the guitar, bass, and piano. It's always a challange to minimize bleading into the piano mics from the drums. I usually mic the kit (stereo overhead, toms, snare and kick), and close mic the piano in stereo with small diaphram cardioids, alone with the guitar and bass.

    As for micing the sax alone, I agree with the previous writers that positioning the mic down towards the bell at about 45 degrees works best, but positioning it so that the neck is also caught. Too close to the bell, and the sound gets too muffled. Large diaphrams work best on tenor and alto's.
  13. bunny

    bunny Guest

    My best experience micing sax involved an Oktava ML52 ribbon near the bell and an AKG 414 BULS near the keys. It captured the detail and the balls.
  14. bgavin

    bgavin Guest

    Yep. I'm recording a live performance horn player in a too-loud bar band (mine), so bleed is a problem.
  15. Linwood

    Linwood Member

    Ever see the Dave Grusin West Side Story DVD? There's a shot of M. Brecker doing a solo and you can see the mic choices and placement. Frank Fillipetti, Phil Ramon, and Grusin at the board. Personally, I've never had to record a big band or been to a session to witness it. I really enjoyed seeing the different mics and placement on bones, trumpets,saxes, flutes,etc... Plus all great players and music. Check it out.

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