Getting a saxophone to sound distinctive and beautiful in the recording studio is considered to be something of an art form that can take many years to perfect. If you are looking to start recording your own playing with a home studio set-up, or have already begun and are finding it difficult – you will undoubtedly find this post to be useful as we have put together some great hints and tips for getting the best out of your saxophone and home set-up.
Getting a Darker Sound
The general rule is that the closer you place your saxophone to the mic, the more low frequencies will be picked up. This will give you a much darker sound. If you are looking to get a reasonable amount of low frequency into the sound your recording therefore, try experimenting with the mic inside the bell of the horn. Be aware though that this will produce quite a coarse sound that you may need to compensate for by tweaking some of the low frequencies using EQ at the mixing stage. This is not the most common way to place a mic for recording saxophone, but it could make for an interesting addition to a track.
For A Smoother Sound
Normally, when recording saxophone the best place to position it is at about 6 inches away from the horn’s bell. However, if you point the mic downwards at a 45 degree angle, it will give you a more aggressive and bigger sound. To get a smoother sound, point the mic directly towards the upper key holes at an angle of 90 degrees.
When you place a microphone close to the bell, you will notice that the lower notes are louder than the higher notes, making the volume uneven. To remedy this, you can move the mic to one side of the horn.
Hitting Those Higher Frequencies
If you are looking to bring more of the higher frequencies from the saxophone’s sound for your recording, the easiest way to do this is to move back a little from the mic. The brighter sound may come at a cost however, if the room you are recording in is not particularly well-insulated; as you will pick up much of the room noises too. Unless you want deliberate interference, this is something you have to keep in mind.
Working With The Dark and The Bright
Perhaps you want to achieve a less direct and darker sound, you should experiment with placing the mic below the horn. Whereas if you are looking to capture more of those beautiful bright frequencies and are trying to figure out how far back to stand from the instrument to stand, there is a general rule of thumb you can follow. Stand the mic the same distance away from the front of the sax as the actual length of the saxophone itself.
Take Care With Music Stands
Although it might sound silly, you need to be careful when dealing with music stands, especially the metal ones. They make look harmless and have a practical role to fulfil, but they can all cause very prominent reverb effects on the recording of your saxophone if you place it directly behind the microphone. Instead, to avoid your newly reverberated sound reverberating back at you and into your recording, you need to stand the mic stand to an angle and enough to the side of the microphone that you avoid picking up unnecessary and undesirable sounds
In the end, as is with most things related to music it all comes down to personal taste and preference. Experimentation is the key, because we guarantee you if you asked 10 different engineers the best way to mic a saxophone, you’d get 10 different answers. However, we hope that our suggestions will come in handy and help to give you some foundational ideas to branch off from when trying to find the right sounds for your tracks. At the very least, they should help by giving you quick solutions to many of the common issues you can come across when recording saxophone in your own home studio. Enough chatter, on with laying down that new classic.