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Recording Recording: How to? What gear?


Hi All

I think its time I recorded a bit of what I am doing in order to learn and track my progress a bit.

My plan is to record myself playing along with aebersold recordings and record in garageband.

I am lucky enough to have my own study (room in flat) with a mac and monitor speakers, the acoustics are probably not really great but its just for me.

With the above in mind can anyone recommend or give me some tips as to how to go about it? Any good microphones that would be appropriate for this sort of thing?

I have tried using the inbuilt mic in my laptop but it sounds like it is going through a flanger effect or something.. clearly the levels are all wrong.

Any tips greatly appreciated.


Senior Member
I don't have an answer for you but wanted to thank you for asking this question as its one that I've been planning to ask myself.

I've currently tried recording into my laptop using Windows basic included Sound Recorder and a cheap headphone set (sat on the edge of a table which worked a lot better than I expected so long as I get the horn's bell nearish to the mic. But I'd definitely like better.


Sax Drinker / Beer player
there are probably better recommendations on USB microphones than my solution but here goes:

I once bought a clip on mic, to use on stage with a party/coverband and I use a phantom power supply with mic input and mic output. on the mic output I have a XLR (microphone cable) to mini jack cable (regular mp3/smartphone size plug). the mini jack goes into my soundboard on the pc in the microphone input spot.

I use mixcraft 5 as recording software, but there are probably a few free ones out there too, maybe audacity?

but this was just a cheap (30 euro or so) solution so I didnt have to buy a seperate microphone for home recording...


Deluded Senior Member...
I have recently started recording on to my PC using the inbuilt mic and Audacity software..... It is a bit fiddly starting and stopping the recording with a tenor round your neck and the results are variable...

On that last point I honestly believe that the recording is fine it is just the appalling playing to blame....


I'm using a Zoom H2N. Great bit of kit and meets all my needs. You can connect to computer and record direct to software (I use garageband) or you can use it as a standalone mic and record to SD card if your not near a computer. You can set it to auto detect sound so as soon as you start paying it starts recording, and stops when you stop.


Thanks everyone for your responses.

I had a look in the apple store today at USB mics but after a bit of research and a quick check online I am starting to consider a Shure SM-57. The reason for this is it seems like one of the best options and yet at a similar price to anything else. Minor disclaimer is that I already have an interface so I can use a non-usb mic.

The price of the SM-57 is around the same as a USB mic (Amazon US $99).

That said as I write this the considerations might be how to place it. I am always keen not to have more gear about the place so not too keen on a mic stand.

Other recording issues if anyone has any thoughts:

I want to record with the play along recordings, do I need to listen to the backing in headphones or does garageband some how filter it out? OR.. does it not sound too bad.

Keeping in mind this is just a way to listen to myself for progression, when I play I get a bit carried away!

Anyway, any thoughts and experiences you can share are greatly appreciated.



On computer I have garageband preferences set as input H2n and output set to system. I then import the backing track as an mp3 which creates one track. Then select new track and choose real instrument and then choose sax. With track 2 (the real instrument) highlighted I then hit the master record button at the bottom which then plays track 1 (the backing) and records track 2 (the sax). Everything comes out my speakers. Of course you could connect headphones and listen/monitor that way. You may need to play with mic gain settings and the track settings to suit but i usually play around after recording.

Hope thats of use, Im still new to recording and garageband.
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Thanks Curefan

So does the final track include both the backing track and recording or just track 2, if both, does garageband subtract the backing track from the recording some how or does it just work out okay with the whole mash in together?

I have tried in fact (but not clear on the answer to that above) and did a similar thing so I seem to be going the right way but using the inbuilt mic. It sounded like it was going through a flanger effect. I think the microphone just couldn't handle it, might be as its near the monitor speakers or the sax is just too much. I tried auto/low and high levels.

How far is the mic you use from the speakers? Is this a concern?

Another mic I have read good reviews on is the Behringer C-2.


Both tracks remain separate but when you hit the play button garageband plays both. I do get a hint of the backing when I play just the sax track but i think its due to where i place the mic. Is about 2-3 feet away. Dont think this would be an issue if you wore headphones.

What I usually do is save my initial recording and then play around with it afterwards

The flanging effect could be due to you having some effects turned on.
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FJ: That was terrific! Just what I was looking for.

I'll try again and check the effects, I don't thing I had turned anything on but I can't be sure. I had only selected new track and hit record.

thanks again
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Another good link for those of you interested in microphones: Technicals Terms from Rode.

Also advice below found on another website about setting up to record at home. I haven't checked them all but I did buy the first book and it is really helping.


First off, immediately get a good beginner recording book (spend $20 before spending hundred$/thousand$) that shows you what you need to get started and how to hook everything up in your studio:
Home Recording for Musicians by Jeff Strong - $16
Home Recording for Musicians for Dummies: Jeff Strong: 9780470385425: Books
PC Recording Studios for Dummies - $16 PC Recording Studios For Dummies (9780764577079): Jeff Strong: Books
(Wish I'd had those when I started; would have saved me lots of money and time and grief)
You can also pick up this book in most any Borders or Barnes&Noble in the Music Books section!

Another good one is: Recording Guitar and Bass by Huw Price
Recording Guitar and Bass: Getting a Great Sound Every Time You Record: Huw Price: 9780879307301: Books
(I got my copy at a place called Half-Price Books for $6!!)

Home Recording for Beginners by Geoffrey Francis Home Recording for Beginners (0082039538815): Geoffrey Francis: Books

When you get a bit into it, I highly recomend The Art of Mixing by David Gibson The Art of Mixing: A Visual Guide to Recording, Engineering, and Production (9781931140454): David Gibson: Books

And you can get a FREE subscription to TapeOp magazine at

Barnes&Noble or Borders are great places to start --- they have recording books and you can go get a snack or coffee and read them for FREE! Don't pass by a good recording book --- this is a VERY technical hobby and you REALLY want to start a reference library!!!

Good Newbie guides that also explains all the basics and have good tips:
The Guide
Computer Music Magazine | MusicRadar
Harmony Central Articles
Tips & Techniques:Tips & Techniques -

21 Ways To Assemble a Recording Rig: How to Configure a Recording Studio Rig

Other recording books:

Still using a built-in soundcard?? Unfortunately, those are made with less than $1 worth of chips for beeps, boops and light gaming (not to mention cheapness for the manufacturer) and NOT quality music production.
#1 Rule of Recording: You MUST replace the built-in soundcard.
Here's a good guide and tested suggestions that WORK: The Best Audio Interfaces for your Home Studio by TweakHeadz Lab
(you'll want to bookmark and read through all of Tweak's Guide while you're there...)

Plenty of software around to record for FREE to start out on:
Sony ACID Xpress 10-track sequencer: Free Downloads: ACID Xpress
Audacity: (multi-track with VST support)
Wavosaur: Wavosaur free audio editor with VST and ASIO support (a stereo audio file editor with VST support)\
Kristal: KRISTAL Audio Engine
Other freebies and shareware:

Another great option is REAPER at REAPER | Audio Production Without Limits (It's $60 but runs for free until you get guilty enough to pay for it...)
I use Reaper and highly reccomend it...

Music Notation and MIDI recording: Melody Assistant ($25) and Harmony Assistant ($80) have the power of $600 notation packages...
Demo you can try on the website.

And you can go out to any Barnes&Noble or Borders and pick up "Computer Music" magazine - they have a full FREE studio suite in every issue's DVD, including sequencers, plugins and tons of audio samples. (November 2006 they gave away a full copy of SamplitudeV8SE worth $150, November 2007-on the racks Dec in the US- they gave away SamplitudeV9SE and July 2009 issue they put out Samplitude10SE. FREE. It pays to watch 'em for giveaways...)
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Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
I really should know better.

Clicked a link to find it offering free accompaniment software.

Downloaded it and spent the next hour removing programs and setting the pc back up how I like it

Be careful what you download.


Shure SM57 works great for live gigs and for recording as long as it's not meant for music production purposes.
By that I mean that the quality of the SM57 is good enough for recording your practice sessions and listening back but it lacks a lot when it comes to capturing the whole body, the whole sound of the sax.

One good thing though is that it (SM57) is designed to be able to handle high volume such as drum hits, brass hits and screaming saxophone :) so you've choosen an affordable mic for your purpose. I'd go with that one!

Play On!

Freelance Musician,Sax Player and Teacher


I think there are loads but Audacity is free and works for all platforms.

In the end I went for a Rode N-2A, AN M-AUDIO fast track pro (already owned it but now made buy Avid) and I use Garageband and its fine for me.

I don't record a lot but its really handy when I need to, most recently to submit recordings for the Coursera improvisation course.

Once again thanks to the contributors!



Well-Known Member
Audacity is good but it`s not strictly a DAW. If you want to progress in learning about Music production you are probably as well biting the bullet and starting off with a recognized DAW. MAC users should probably stick to Garageband and learn the basics on that it`s free anyway. This link provides a list of freebies but seriously you can more or less try them all for free either in demo form DL or Restricted version DL.

Check out this Freebie WOW.

One of the biggies that worries beginners is latency and especially if you don`t have a proper soundcard well the beauty of using a DAW is that it will usually look for an ASIO latency free driver and if you are using Windoze and an onboard Sound then all you have to do is install the ASIO4ALL driver. and you are cooking. I keep repeating but the Acer 1.3 Celeron Laptop I am typing this on is 9 years old and I can use Daws with zero latency thanks to ASIO4 ALL ( Including real time Monitoring ) I can also use the machine as a Real time midi controlled Soft synth with Reason and FLStudio.
Colin The Bear often used to tell us about his efforts with a £ 3 MIC and I`ll admit I`ve done plenty recording with a cheap headset mic plugged into the mic socket thanks to ASIO4 all. You just adjust the slider to different sample rates and the latency disappears.

I know Audacity is great and has many devotees but truthfully it`s ease of use and flexibility when it comes to DSP plugin effects are pretty limited and the reason for this is about hard cash and the Open Source nature of Audacity .

Steinberg ask for a licence fee for the inclusion of ASIO and VST and as a result neither of the two of them is made Simple or even available. This for me anyway is why I don`t recommend Audacity. I`ve heard great recordings done in Audacity and I used it once, but The wealth of freebies out there especially in the Reverb,EQ and Compression dept make it pretty obsolete for serious production. I also enjoy better waveform editing,syncing to Reason, Automated Mixdown and Mastering which are only a small example of things that any DAW will take in it`s stride.

20 years ago machines to do this kind of work cost between £500 and $4000 ( MACS LOL) and then about the same for software and designated DSP based soundcards. Whats happened since then has been a miracle brought about by CPU power increasing and fast cheap memory being commonplace. Thanks to these factors algorithms which simulate DSP functions in software now mean that even a cruddy onboard sound can be used,especially if the user is using a dedicated In/Out audio interface,but please remember that these Hardware and software developers are still there and they have a living to make. So they will continue to offer up So called better more efficient ways of doing the thing and that will never cease.
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Daydream Believer
Has anyone seen this - I ordered it last night. It's fairly intuitive and simple to use and the recording sound is clean on my iPad and iPhone:

Nigel McGill's Sax Tracks

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well.. basic recording tips and setups. I guess most on this topic has already been said, but to recap:
there's several ways to do it.

1 easy: get a standalone recorder like anything in the zoom family, from zoom h1 through zoom h4n works fine, even those with video camera's have superior audio.
This is really easy in setup and doesn't really have to be too costly, with the zoom h1 being only around 100 bucks.
Then put up some music in the background to play to and record it all in one take.

2 intermediate: get a decent usb microphone (or use a standalone setup as one, anything in the zoom series can be just plugged in as a good usb mic) and recording software like garageband or audacity. record it in seperate tracks on these programs. have 1 track for the background music and 1 track for your microphone input. beware! you may get a lag between the two tracks, so you have to allign them in post! so it's not necessarily you being off-tempo, it might be the lag/latency.
when recording in this setup always wear headphones so as not to leak background music into your recording!

3 hard: get a condenser mic (and a pop-filter), mic stand, a good audio interface, like the aforementioned m-audio fast track pro, beware though that the original is not compatible with windows 8 (I ran into this problem. Now i'm still using it on another w7 box xD). also get a good standalone limiter and or compressor. otherwise the condensor mic input will get blown out and distorted when playing with a large dynamic range. (at least, I always encountered this problem while singing in a high dynamic range, too soft and the gain too low and i wouldn't be heard on the recording and too hard and the gain still open from singing softly and the the input would get all distorted)
then process it through a good DAW like cubase vst, adobe soundbooth, fruityloops (=fl-studio) and the like.

instead of a condensor mic and mic stand with popfilter, you could also opt for a clip-on mic for saxophones i'd guess, though i have no experience with them.

a good dynamic mic may also do the trick btw, it's especially good to use instead of a condensor with popfilter and limiter and compressor. the shure sm 57is a decent one. I personally like the sm58 better as it's a little bit more versatile. it's basically the same mic but with a vocalist popfilter ontop. so with it it's a great vocal mic and after taking it off it's a 57 and great for recording (loud) instruments. :)

when recording in this setup always wear headphones so as not to leak background music into your recording!

hope this helps a bit.

as for my credentials: I've been looking into recording for a few years, done a short course and have tried a few things, though mainly use the first approach nowadays since i often record on the fly or during jamsessions. using the zoom h1 as a standalone.

as for processors like a limiter and compressor, i'm not sure if there are special saxophone ones, but I myself would try using vocal processors like those by TC-helicon. but i'm sure there is a lot of specialised equipment for that. :)

and i'm not affiliated to any of the products mentioned above. I just use them and like them. ;)


instead of a condensor mic and mic stand with popfilter, you could also opt for a clip-on mic for saxophones i'd guess, though i have no experience with them.
Great advice, except for one point - for recording, I would advise against a clip-on mic. They are great live, but on a recording you will sound like you have your own percussion section unless your sax is in absolutely perfect shape.

A clip-on mic will pick up every single key click from your sax, as the noise travels through the metal, up the bell, into your mic (speaking from personal experience, using an alto that is not in perfect shape). Playing live, the sound from the rest of the band masks this effect, so it is not an issue.

Definitely stick with a mic on a stand.
Saxholder Pro

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