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Recording Sax - scared!

Discussion in 'Brass' started by multoc, Sep 10, 2007.

  1. multoc

    multoc Active Member

    Jun 18, 2005
    Alright, so here's my small dilema...

    I am going to be recording some sax coming up here pretty soon for a rock song. The player is incredible, in fact he has a doctorate's in music (he is the band director at the local college as well), so I really don't want to screw this one up!

    My question is out of the following microphones I currently own - that I think would suit this application - (though I can be in the position to rent a microphone if need be) which would be the most suitable: SM57, AT 3035, MXL 993, Apex 435.

    My gut tells me just to stick with the 57. I've seen it used live countless times and in person the last time I hung out with John Legend's band they had a horn section on tour and if memory serves my correct with the exception of a tenor sax (which they used a Beta on) all the other instruments used a SM57.

    Also what kind of EQ would make it stand out and sound amazingly sexy in a rock song? Like something out of Saturday Night Live is what I'm going for.

    It's going to either be an Alto Saxophone or a (Kenny G) Soprano Sax for this song.

    Thanks in advance, and in about a month I'll be recording a viola so stay tuned for the question...YIKES!
  2. rfreez

    rfreez Active Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    Chennai, India
    Home Page:
    the one thing i can say from my sax recording experiences is "keep a safe distance". The damn instrument spews sound in all directions... out the bell, and from the body itself.

    in a recent recording, i had a c414 b/uls in omni about 4' from the instrument and a pair of c414 e/b in blumlein config about 10' away. Believe it or not, i could not get a stable center with the blumlein config from 10' away!!... the soundfield was going haywire with different notes. In retrospect, i guess i should have tried m/s blumlein instead, but you get the point. In the mix, i ended up using the omni 414 placed about 4' away and about 4' above the instrument.

    despite what various recording magazines and others have suggested, i firmly believe that the sax is a "one mic instrument", stereo or multiple micing simply does not do it for me.

    for it to sound "amazingly sexy", firstly the song in general, and its arrangement, particularly in terms making room for the sax, should be "amazingly sexy". Then the player and the room where you're recording should be "amazingly sexy"... unfortunately, the sound engineer is totally at the mercy of the musician, composer, arranger and room to produce "amazingly sexy" sounds.

    as for equalization, please do not assume that it is necessary at all. When it is necessary, its usually a necessary evil. Approach eq with caution and use as little of it as possible, if you're going for a "natural" sound. Usually it doesn't hurt to roll off low end rumble (i prefer waves linear phase eq for this, but i'm sure anything will do), the exact frequency you will decide, depending on when the sounds starts to audibly lose its body. If you're not in an environment where you can hear the extreme lows clearly, this is best done with a pair of headphones.

    as for microphone choice, i am sorry i am unable to offer you any direct suggestions, but a starting point could be to study the frequency response of each mic and consider if its particular bias would be an advantage in the situation... for example, we all know that the sm57 rolls of the extreme lows and highs while accentuating the mids/upper mids around 3K... i'd guess the the mxl and other condensers will accentuate all the way to 12Khz or more... start with any mic, and see what you're missing, or what there is too much of and then consider your other options.

    all the very best,
  3. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    If you can get your hands on one, I had GREAT success with a Studio Projects B1!!

    The large diaphragm about 12" -16" away gave me presence and sound from all over. It's now my go to mic for saxophone and I've got lots of other mics (most costing far more) in my cabinet.

    my .02

  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Hey Multoc -

    You're absolutely right to be "scared."

    Just kidding (kind of).

    Actually, recording sax isn't that difficult if you approach it with equal parts of common sense and knowledge. The common sense would be - listen to the sax in the room and see (or hear) where it makes sense to place the mic. The knowledge - the sax produces sound from every part of the instrument, not just the bell (in fact, very little of the sound is produced from the bell).

    Of the mics you have, I would choose the SM57.

    If you're interested in trying a ribbon (Beyer) on this one, contact me offline, I'll work something out with you. My e-mail address below (the button in the profile) is correct.

    Cheers -


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