We’ve all been there – you’ve been shedding your sax and want to show off to the world. But then you go to record your sax and you are overwhelmed with a slew of information that doesn’t make sense.
The good news is that the saxophone, which was made by clarinetist Adolphe Sax, was built to be heard. At one point, it was supposed to be for marching bands, but it has marched itself to newer avenues.
After reading this article, you will know:
• What equipment to use for recording
• What to consider when recording
• How to record your sax for the best sound
I’ve played professionally in various recording situations, so I’ve seen the different recording outcomes and pitfalls of these recording setups. Everything from, where you are located, to what type of equipment you are using really matters for the best results.
Additionally, I’ve combed through the mines of the internet, finding golden nuggets of information on this topic. My search through these pathways includes, but is not limited to, advice from a veteran producer on this blog and even the different recording techniques needed for each saxophone which you can find here.
So, how to record saxophone at home? Let’s get started.
1. Saxophone Recording Equipment
You must have a digital audio workstation, and by this, I mean the totality of the setup.
It goes without saying, but a DAW is essential to a good recording. I consider the DAW central to this – it is where you will post-produce and fix tiny details to really stand out like a pro.
For a complete setup that will allow you to produce beautiful music, you will need:
- A computer. I really enjoy my Mac and prefer a desktop for this kind of production. Make sure you have a great desk too if you plan to record multitrack as you’ll spend a good amount of time in post-production.
- An Audio Interface. I use the PreSonus Audiobox. It is literally what it sounds like, an audio box that connects directly to your computer with mic plug-ins.
- Recording Software. If you have a Mac you can use the built-in Garageband software. Your Audio Interface may also come with built-in software, and if neither option suits you, you can delve into the world of recording software such as Protools, and Logic which music god Jacob Collier uses.
- A Microphone. I’ll go into this in a bit because this is an essential piece of equipment you need to understand.
- Headphones. Good headphones will make you able to listen to all of the little details. From personal experience, I’ve recorded myself and used the post-production experience as a means to continue improving my personal sound.
2. Your Microphone Needs to Be Suited Specifically for Your Recording Needs and Your Instrument
If you’re looking for a convenient, portable, and close sound, you may consider a lavalier microphone. This type of mic is the clip-on type, so if you’re one of those cats who enjoy being able to move around in his home studio, this type of mic is a great choice. And if you want to know more about the best wireless sax mic check out this post here.
For example, if your room (which we will talk about later) sounds great, you may prefer an omnidirectional microphone that will pick up the sounds going from all directions. Or you may prefer that “background ambience” kind of sound that is suited to a harmony track.
However, if you’re recording a lead part, like a featured solo, you may want a cardioid microphone. This type of mic “listens” and is useful for anything that needs to sound close.
If you are placing your mic overhead, such as when you are using two-mics and want a less direct sound, you may also consider a ribbon microphone. These types of microphones are sensitive, so it’s best to handle these with delicate care.
There’s also the condenser mic which you can use to capture larger frequencies of sounds. These microphones are more sensitive to louder sounds so consider that as well when recording your sax.
3. Placement of the Microphone is Crucial and Reflective of the Music You Play
Some types of music require a darker sound, such as the beautiful classical saxophone. In this type of situation, you should generally place your microphone closer to your saxophone.
For a smoother sound like the ones needed for smooth jazz, you could place the mic at a 90-degree angle pointing the mic at the upper keys of the saxophone. Or, if you want to record an aggressive rock solo, you could point the microphone downwards at a 45-degree angle.
If you’re playing a bright sound with higher frequencies, consider moving the microphone further from the bell. However, if you’re room is not well insulated this can be an issue which brings me to the next tip.
4. For Best Results, You Must Have a Great-Sounding Recording Space.
This will be a very important factor in determining the quality of the final cut.
Personally, I prefer a live sound as opposed to a canned one. You will need a larger open space with natural reverb and sound reflection to really get that live quality.
One great recording that shows this great live quality is FKJ’s YouTube performance of his Ylang Ylang EP. There’s a lot of sound reflection that gives this that personal and intimate performance vibe to help connect with the audience.
You can also soundproof your recording room with wall panels. This will help absorb the sound which will prevent it from echoing.
This process can be expensive and is suited best for DIYers. Beware though, on the low end this can still be costly with a price range of anywhere between $1000-$4000 dollars on up.
However, not everyone has access to an ideal acoustic room which is why we can use reflection filters.
A reflection filter prevents reflecting underwaves that would otherwise hit the back of the microphone by absorbing them. This helps alleviate unacceptable audio quality, and, if used correctly, can be a game-changer for a room that is not acoustically treated.
Check out this post about reflection filters if you’d like to learn a little more. There’s a great video on setting up your reflection filter space in this post as well.
5. Pay Attention to Post-Production Details
Post Production is a lengthy process and can be used to help your recording stand out.
Assuming you have great headphones, which is a very personal choice, you should be listening very closely to your recording for the best results.
As you are listening, you will notice a great range of dynamic ranges. Sometimes, your sax sound will be far louder or far softer than the other elements of your music.
For this element of the post-production or “mixing” process, you will need to know how to use the audio compressor. There are various controls for your audio compressor and you can read more here.
6. It’s OK to Simplify.
You can simplify the process of recording at home, but you may have to sacrifice recording quality.
When I say this, I don’t mean that you will sound like a complete amateur, but you will be limited to many of the finer details of a truly perfect recording. Use your ears to determine if this is for you, then expand your process little by little to get you swimming in the depths of the recording process pool.
One way of simplifying this process is to use your phone as your recording tool. Understanding some of the acoustic concepts that we covered with the various microphones, you can experiment with the placement of your phone’s microphone against the sax.
You can then transfer the audio file into your recording software and spruce it up a bit with the post-production process. There are a diverse set of tools available to you regarding your recording software, so don’t be afraid to use those tools for the best sound.
Remember to always use your ears, trust them!
7. Experiment to Enhance Future Results
The good news is that once you have a setup and a process you are comfortable recording with, you can still widely vary the results you can get. This is especially helpful if you’re an audiophile and really love listening to your personal sound.
Pay attention to how the different concepts of these recording tips change your sound. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
The placement of the microphone, the room, the effects you can use with your recording software, all play an integral part in your finished product.
This is a very scientific process and involves a lot of your time and effort, so don’t be afraid to make it worthwhile. For more casual users, push yourself a little by spending just a little bit more time using the recording software or changing up how you place your microphone.
Often, one small change can really enhance your recording. If your recording doesn’t sound much different, assuming you have good headphones of course, then change it back, keep it as is, or do something else to completely change your recording.
- Types of saxophones →
- Why is saxophone considered a woodwind musical instrument? →
- 15 saxophone albums you should hear →
- The best jazz saxophone players in history →
Once the Finished Product is Out Show Your Friends for Feedback!
So once you’ve done all you can do to show off your sax skills through the recording at home, go post it on your social media, and maybe you’ll even find an online jam buddy! Of course, you can find other musicians to work with, and you can even enhance your musicianship this way. One instrument that sounds great with the sax is the trombone, and you can read about their differences in this article.
In conclusion, the setup for your at-home studio is crucial, the placement of your mic will determine how your sax will sound, and the post-production process is a must for best results.
I hope this article answered how to record saxophone at home and I will be glad to hear your recordings soon!