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Last night I recorded my daughter playing some bari sax etudes for a band camp application. I used mid-side with a K2 as the mid and a C414 as the side. Put the mics about 2.5 feet from the sax a little below the bell.

I didn't experiment around too much with mic placement since Alice was working on pieces that she is struggling with, and I didn't want to distract her with a lot of comparative playbacks. (Besides, they say the recording quality doesn't matter. Well, maybe not to them.)

Anyway, the interesting thing is that of all the recordings I've made since I've done acoustic treatments to my studio, this had the biggest difference between the sound of the live instrument, the sound of the recording on my monitors (M-audio BX8) and the sound of the recording on the various consumer stereo systems that I test it on. Basically the sound on the monitors was honkier, with much less richness in the bass and the low mids than the live instrument. The sound on my living room system (flabby old Crutchfield sub/satellite speakers) was a much better reproduction of the sound of the instrument (a nice Keilwerth SX-90).

Here is http://www.math.vt…"]sample[/]="http://www.math.vt…"]sample[/]. (It's the shorter of the two pieces, but the one that Alice has the most trouble with. Have at my recording, but please be nice to Alice. The idea is to have the pieces down by next year for college auditions. ) It's a pretty stripped down mix - only a 4-band eq added with a low mid boost and an upper mid cut. (I had to do this quickly. The CD had to be in the mail this morning. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute.)

Of course, I'm used to consumer systems having pumped up bass, but the translation of the mix has been far less abrupt for vocals, acoustic and electric guitars - even upright bass. For some reason, the bari is highlighting problems with my monitoring process. My room is about 18'x15' and pretty asymmetrical. I have 30 OC703 panels and about 20 linear feet of Auralex Lenards (sp?) distributed as best I can. In general, I've been very pleased with the increase in the quality of my recordings since treating the room. I realize my monitors are low end. I've been planning to upgrade pretty soon, but I've been able to make reasonable mixes so I wasn't in a big hurry.

So is there any consensus on the problem here? Any other ideas about recording bari sax? Thanks for any comments.


Cucco Wed, 01/10/2007 - 17:02

That works better.

The high end of the sax sounds great. The low end is as you say, a tad honky.

My only thought would be to bring the mics up more on the body of the instrument. Remember, the sound comes out of more than just the bell. Staying towards the bell of any sax makes it sound honky as only the lowest notes truly resonate out the bell. Most of the notes exit the body of the instrument through the various sound holes.

I like the idea of MS on the instrument though - certainly not a wide stereo image, but quite realistic nonetheless.

On a side note, I think your daughter's playing was quite nice. I get the pleasure of judging Virginia district XV competitions (actually, this Saturday I'm slated to judge Jr. High districts). I would be delighted to have students play for me that sounded half as comfortable on their instrument as your daughter. Sure, there were some fumbles, but overall, very nice.


BobRogers Wed, 01/10/2007 - 18:33

With the bari, putting the mics below the bell put them about the middle of the body which is about where I'd put it on a tenor or alto. I definitely need to experiment with height. I moved away to avoid key click, but maybe at a sacrifice of tone. I love the sound of that sax and I'd like to be able to capture it.

As far as mid-side, I decided to do it since I didn't know the listening environment - might be just listened to on computer speakers. Alice actually liked it with a lower the level of the side for a smaller field. I really liked the technique and was pleased with the stereo images I could get.

Thanks for your kind words about Alice's playing. She would probably be better off in the short run sending a less challenging piece that she plays perfectly, but she has been concentrating on the Ferling etudes and decided to send this despite the flaws. She was first chair bari last two years in District VI. She's looking forward to State. I'm learning the ins and outs of college music programs - very different from math.

dementedchord Wed, 01/10/2007 - 19:50

nothing to say but perhaps an observation froma low brass player.... suggest she work on breathing... i grew up playing a large bore trombone and know just how much it can take... the whole trick is in the diaphragm... learning to take it deep... then when your "setting up" a long difficult passsage "sniff" where ya can before and will be less likely to run out on the long ones.... she's doing good...

Cucco Thu, 01/11/2007 - 05:22

BobRogers wrote: With the bari, putting the mics below the bell put them about the middle of the body which is about where I'd put it on a tenor or alto.

I was just thinking that this would put it around 2/3rds down the instrument if it were *below* the bell. Perhaps try off-axis and pull it up just a tad still - that might still avoid the honkiness. Hey - at least you didn't shove the mic in the bell like most people do!


anonymous Tue, 01/30/2007 - 09:47


Generally when micing a sax I use a large diaphram dynamic (RE20) about 1' to 2' away above the bell pointed to the middle of the keys. A large diaphram 'soft' condensor like an Audio Technica 4050 can be placed a little farther away still and pickup detail but, with good full body.

What I hear in your recording is a very dry sound which is exsacerbated from the overtones eminating from the bell. This only exaggerates the 'honky' tonality of the instrument. I never mic the bell for that reason, but horn players, even older ones will try and do that for you.

Some soft non discreet reverb will help smooth out the sound and provide body.

BobRogers Tue, 01/30/2007 - 17:16


Thanks for the input. I have not repeated the session yet, as Alice has been very busy with SATs and various forms of social life. Amazing that the girl doesn't want to sit down in the studio with her father and experiment with mic positions on the sax. Of course, it did sound better with a little reverb, but she asked me to pull it out as this was an audition tape.

I've been thinking about a better/different dynamic mic than the 57/58s that I have for various reasons. (In particular, I may be doing some VO stuff soon.) So I will definitely keep that idea in mind.


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