This week we talk about Microphones, Mutes and Maintenance!
In this session we talked mike technique, maintenance, and mutes! We also touched on mouthpieces, and sax models….phew!
Plus, all the news from Sax School (have you tried our Moving On mini course yet?) and did you get the answer to our Lethal Weapon quiz?
Here’s the link to our latest YouTube lesson on transcribing – including a transcription of Cannonball Adderley’s solo from” The Old Country”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icyOYhumrHg&feature=youtu.be
Have you ever listened to a recording of your sax and thought it sounded like you were playing in bucket? We had a great question about this problem this week.
Nigel explained that it’s all to do with where you place your mike. Don’t put the mike too far down the bell (this is where the bucket sound comes from!) On a saxophone, the sound comes from the whole instrument, not just from the bell. So place your mike about 30 cm from your instrument to get the best sound.
More on this issue in our first session – see the link below, about 14 minutes in.
Condenser versus Dynamic Mics – what’s the difference?
Nigel gave a simple explanation of the complex world of microphone technology!
- Dynamic mics (such as the Shure SM58) don’t need a separate power source. They are great for high volume situations such as a live gig.
- Condenser mics use a different technology and need a power supply such as a battery. They a great for lower volume settings and produce a richer sound and a bigger dynamic range.
If you’re only going to be recording in your studio, then a condenser mic will probably be the best choice. But if you want a multi-purpose mike, you might want to get a dynamic model such as the Shure SM58.
When you are starting out, it’s often best to keep your set-up simple so you can concentrate on practising your sax!
Here’s a blog post about Nigel’s recording setup: https://www.mcgillmusic.com/articles/my-recording-setup
Mutes – Do they really work? Are they worth the investment for the noise reduction you get?
There are lots of ways of getting around the problem of practicing without disturbing the neighbours, without investing in a mute. Nigel gave his top tips.
- Learning to play really quietly is really great for developing your embouchure and your tone.
- Where are you practicing? What kind of furnishings are in there? Soft furnishings absorb sound so it does not carry as far.
- Playing into the wardrobe can also really work – all the clothes in there will deaden the sound!
- Practice outside – head for the park, or the beach, or the countryside. If you choose your time carefully you can play without disturbing anyone and it’s great for your tone.
If you haven’t seen a sax mute before, here’s a fun video from sax.co.uk – check it out!
If you are moving to a metal mouthpiece, it can be difficult to know what size to go for. A good starting point is to try a mouthpiece with the same opening size as your existing mouthpiece. Check out Nigel’s interview with Theo Wanne for more information on choosing a mouthpiece.
Maintenance – Should I get my sax checked by a technician every year or wait for a problem?
Nigel recommended you get your sax checked regularly if you have a good repairer nearby. You may find a problem you were having with a particular note is down to mechanical issue that’s easily fixed. Your local music shop is a good starting point for finding a repairer, or look online.
Here is a link to Nigel’s videos with sax repair expert Steve Crow on solving a few common maintenance problems.
Choosing a Sax – what is the difference between a student model and a pro model?
It’s a tricky business choosing a sax. Nigel shared his thoughts on the difference between them. As you move from a beginner level to a pro level horn it’s a bit like moving from an economy car to a luxury car.
- The materials are higher quality
- More time and care is spent in putting together and setting up the instrument
- A higher quality horn may be easier to play because it is better adjusted
- A higher quality horn may last you longer.
There are lots of great intermediate level horns from the major brands. Many pro players choose to use an intermediate horn and have in maintained regularly. Second hand instruments can also be a great option if you have them properly checked by a repairer.