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Mic position

TimboSax

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I've had a few chats recently about the effect of mic positioning on the sounds of a recording, which got me thinking about it a bit more and so I had a bit of a play with different positions yesterday. I've recorded the same short piece 6 times, with a different mic position on each. Some of the differences are quite large, some are subtle but hopefully you can hear them (headphones might help). All recordings are presented dry (i.e. no reverb or eq processing), and recorded with the sax about 12-18 inches away from the mic. The mic is an Audio Technica AT-3035

1. Mic positioned in front of the sax, vertically positioned so that it's sitting halfway up the height of the sax, about level with the LH palm keys, pointing upwards at the mouthpiece: recording1
2. Same mic height, now pointing at the bell: recording2
3. Same mic height, now pointing straight ahead at the middle of the sax: recording3
4. Same mic height, again pointing straight ahead at the middle of the sax, but now positioned 90 degrees off to the side of the sax. Imagine it as the same as recording 3, but with the sax now turned away 90 degrees: recording4
5. Same mic height, again pointing straight ahead at the middle of the sax, but now actually behind the sax. Imagine it as the same as recording 3, but no I've got my back to it: recording5
6. Desk height (so somewhat below the bell, level with the bottom of the bow, pointing straight ahead at the bow (to simulate a handheld recorder placed on a desk): recording6

To me, recording 3 sounds the best balanced, followed by recording 4.

Recordings 1 & 2 sound brighter, with a bit too much bite for me, not enough body.

Recording 5 sounds as if I'm playing down a well (not surprising as I'm facing away from the mic, so the only sounds reaching the mic are reflections - echoes - off the walls of the room, furniture etc).

The biggest surprise to me was the similarly poor quality of having the mic lower than the sax in recording 6, as it might be if playing standing up while having the recorder sitting on a desk.

Not sure if this could translate to anyone else's set-up, there are probably loads of other variables I've missed, but I found it interesting. Might try two microphones next :)
 

Nick Wyver

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You missed off the one I would normally use - like 3 but at 45 degrees. Also you may want to try using some high notes in your samples. I find they can be particularly responsive to mic position. 2 mics is definitely worth trying.
 

Jamesmac

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Same for me Timbo. No.4 sounding best, but the more up front sound of No.3 could work better for some numbers. Especially with added reverb.
 

thesaxman71

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strange cos i find 1 then 2 sound best, nice, crisp and clear and 3,4, especially 5 and 6 are very stuffy in comparison. 1 has the clearest sound but to add the body you want of 4 try add a bit bottom end or low mid then you will get the clarity and the body.
 

U CAN CALL ME AL

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I've currently move to a larger room and am experimenting with mic positions myself.

Positions 1 & 3 sounded best to my ear. I agree with Nick about angling the mic 45 degrees.

Picking up the raw sound of a sax in a Home studio situation is not easy.

Being unhappy about software applied reverb I have borrowed a guitar pedal and recorded with the mic full on to my amp speaker. Infinitely more variable where and when you want it while playing. Interesting!
 

TimboSax

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You missed off the one I would normally use - like 3 but at 45 degrees. Also you may want to try using some high notes in your samples. I find they can be particularly responsive to mic position. 2 mics is definitely worth trying.

So, this would be halfway between 3 (which had the mic straight ahead) and 4 (which had it at 90 degrees)? I'll give it a go.

strange cos i find 1 then 2 sound best, nice, crisp and clear and 3,4, especially 5 and 6 are very stuffy in comparison. 1 has the clearest sound but to add the body you want of 4 try add a bit bottom end or low mid then you will get the clarity and the body.

Yep, I haven't messed around with eq or anything yet, just trying to get the best dry sound I can so far.
 

Jamesmac

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I remember reading somewhere that if you need to use EQ then there is something wrong with the mic placement, or need to use the correct mic.
I think there is a lot of truth in that, at least it's my finding. I don't use any EQ and just use the position ie. a Sax to mic where I find the sweet point. Ie. where the sound is more alive. What else is there for home rec.
 

Jamesmac

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PS. For me using EQ is always a trade off, you lose something to gain something else.
Fine if you want to go that route, which is manipulation. I would be interested in other s thoughts. But it makes sense to find the best dry sound initially no matter what route you take.
Sorry Timbo don't want to hi-jack the thread, just have some input concerning this complex or simple subject.:)
 

thesaxman71

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yup, flat EQ all the way, i always record this way, and Timbo is good enough to figure best position using a flat EQ,
i still think 1 sounds this crispest and cleanest.
 

U CAN CALL ME AL

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The sound of a raw, dry sax is almost impossible to capture accurately even in this digital age even with all the advances of equipment, technolgy etc. Manipulation of the sound, EQ, distortion etc. can serve a purpose.

The real sound of a sax can only be appreciated in the actual live hearing. Listen to two of Mulligan late ablums 2009 Dragonfly or Lonesome Boulevard and his horn sounds completely different to the earlier recordings.

What really matters is the mastery of the playing.
 

Jamesmac

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I was talking to mouthpiece maker Ed Pillinger the other day and he mentioned a client who was after a mouthpiece that produced no dross in the tone. He said it was difficult to achieve. Which happens to be a problem rec the sax. What the mic picks up, and what you don't hear in a room or venue. Un miced.
But if you rec in a room takin up the sound bouncing all over the walls, than you can't control the rec.
 

TimboSax

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PS. For me using EQ is always a trade off, you lose something to gain something else.
Fine if you want to go that route, which is manipulation. I would be interested in other s thoughts. But it makes sense to find the best dry sound initially no matter what route you take.
Sorry Timbo don't want to hi-jack the thread, just have some input concerning this complex or simple subject.:)

No hi-jack Jim, it's all related. I agree about the importance of getting a good core sound before doing anything else. I think that my main use of eq is to shape the frequencies of multiple instruments when mixing, so that they're not crowding each other in the frequency space. So for example, I may knock off the low frequencies of a guitar piece to leave space for the bass guitar. It's different for each recording, and depends on the instruments that are present and what they're doing, but it does lead to more clarity in the recording. The odd thing is that when you then take one of the instruments out of the mix, and listen to ti in isolation, it might well sound rubbish by itself, but place it back in the mix and it sounds fine.
 

TimboSax

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The sound of a raw, dry sax is almost impossible to capture accurately even in this digital age even with all the advances of equipment, technolgy etc. Manipulation of the sound, EQ, distortion etc. can serve a purpose.

Agreed, and of course the mic itself imposes a frequency curve on the sound so, as Jim suggests, using different mics will lead to different sounds. I think that, for me, the ideal is to get as good a sound as possible recorded, with flat eq, and then do whatever it takes to make it sit well in the mix.

Interesting that Ian likes 1, to me that has more of 'his' sound to it, a bit more edgy, brighter. Also interesting that he uses multiple mics, so that you can dial in each into the final mix.

What really matters is the mastery of the playing.

Bugger, I was hoping it wouldn't come down to that :oops:
 

Sue

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Love this thread, thanks Tim for opening it. I am rubbish at knowing about this recording malarkey. Learnt a lot about just moving a mic. from you guys I've tried reading other recording forums but they go so far over my head. Kobi gave me some mixing tips but if I'm honest I didn't really understand. Keep the advice coming folk, I might just grasp the basics :)
 

Jamesmac

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No hi-jack Jim, it's all related. I agree about the importance of getting a good core sound before doing anything else. I think that my main use of eq is to shape the frequencies of multiple instruments when mixing, so that they're not crowding each other in the frequency space. So for example, I may knock off the low frequencies of a guitar piece to leave space for the bass guitar. It's different for each recording, and depends on the instruments that are present and what they're doing, but it does lead to more clarity in the recording. The odd thing is that when you then take one of the instruments out of the mix, and listen to ti in isolation, it might well sound rubbish by itself, but place it back in the mix and it sounds fine.

Adjusting the EQ for where the instrument sits in the mix, is something I never considered, thanks for that info Timbo. When I used EQ previously with the Sax, I did it in isolation, and was only thinking of improving the sax sound, but the more I manipulated the EQ, the further I came from the original sound. I just got a louder and a sound with less life.
 

aldevis

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My two cents:
I find microphone frequencies curves often pointless.
The way a microphone behaves on part of the spectrum can only be detected trying it.

The sensitive part for saxophone sound being between 1000Hz and 4000Hz
 

Juju

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There is nothing wrong using EQ. A nice EQ can improve the recording. It is not necessarily the mic, a lot has to do with the signal chain, room etc. If you use a lovely ribbon mic with a poor preamp you'll probably want to boost the top end (but it is not the ribbon mic's fault!). However, with a proper preamp you don't need to do anything. The other day I put a U87 through an Audient and I found the top end way too harsh. However, through a Neve 1073 it sounded nice and smooth. Also, different microphones suit different players. My husband and I sound different and our preferred microphone choice is therefore slightly different. Some engineers recommend that microphone and instrument sound should complement one another, i.e. dark sounding horn - bright sounding mic. The other consideration is the sound aesthetics and how you want the sax to sound in the mix which might require subsequent tweaking...
 

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