How to Record a Saxophone

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When considering how to record brass and reed instruments – and when recording saxophone in particular – the player and the tone he’s able to get from the instrument are vitally important. If you’re recording a professional with a lot of studio experience who knows how to get certain tones out of the instrument, you’re going to have a very different approach than if you’re in a home studio recording someone who’s new to the instrument and playing stacked notes.

In a recording situation, if you have the quality mics and pre-amps to do it, you should probably put more than one mic on the sax. With sax players, there’s typically a lot of movement and activity going on. A more professional player who is used to working in a studio setting might be able to stay still and work the mic, but in general, sax players tend to move around. So a good approach to get consistent dynamics and a full tone is to use multiple mics to balance the sound as the player moves around.

The most common approach is to start with a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) mic about 10-15″ in front of the bell. If that sounds a little too harsh, or you want a softer tone, pull it out a little farther. Don’t point the mic directly into the bell, as you might get some wind noise or odd reflectivity back into the mic. Positioning the mic at different angles, start at about 45 degrees, can help remove the unwanted artifacts.

If your LDC mic has switchable pickup patterns, set it to a cardioid pattern to begin. You wouldn’t want a hyper-cardioid pattern due to the aforementioned movement and activity. Set it somewhere between cardioid and omni if your mic has a variable pattern selector. In some cases, if the room sounds great, you might even want to put the mic in omni. You’re going to get a less focused sound in omni, you’ll get more of the room sound, which may be what you’re after. The tighter the pickup pattern, the more directional the mic’s going to be, and the more focused the sound.

A great approach for a second mic is to put a ribbon microphone above the player, a good 3-4 feet above the instrument. A ribbon mic has a way of taking the harshness out of brass and reed instruments.

If you’re in a studio situation where you only have one mic, move the mic around the room. Put headphones on and be in the room with the sax. Move the mic around the sax until you find the sweet spot where you’re getting the tone you’re looking for.

In some cases, you’re not looking for that perfect tone. You already have your mix, you’re recording a sax solo, and you need it to rip through the mix, so you already know what instruments you need this to sit on top of. Move the mic around the horn to find that sound you need to get the right presence from the sax. In some instances you’re stacking tracks to get harmonies and a full horn section type of sound, and in those cases you don’t want something squeaky and midrange present. If you want something softer, move further away from the bell.

There are situations where you’re going to want a real natural sound. Like in jazz, you’re going to want a little more room noise from that ribbon mic overhead, so you get a little of the key noise. In a really poppy record, you just want to hear that screaming sax, so you might focus more on your primary mic in the front and less on the room mic.

If the sax is a big part of the song, you can play with the mic placement and put one over to the side and get a wider sound. Talk to the sax player and get tips from him. Find out how he’s liked his sax mic’d in the past.

If you’re in a room that’s small or doesn’t have great acoustic control, you’ll probably get a lot of resonant frequencies from a sax. Certain notes you hit are going to scream in the room. Using some type of baffle around the mic is highly recommended, to keep the energy concentrated and dampened around the mic. An sE Electronics Reflexion Filter will work great for cutting sax or vocals in a small studio. For anything that’s loud and in a very small room, it focuses the energy right into the mic and removes a lot of the reflections and resonant frequencies.

Another tool to aid in recording sax is to use an audio compressor. Sax tends to be very dynamic, so the same approach you might use on vocals also works great for smoothing out the dynamics of sax.

All in all, these techniques are just suggestions on how to approach recording a sax. Don’t get too tied up in the technical aspects. Use your ears, and if you like what you hear, go with it.

Bookings: 02088839641

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Supporting London arts

We are utterly delighted to be supporter of this absolute must see showcase of the homeware and fashion at 1 Poultry EC2R! Runs until 8th of November
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Maja Djordjic, Creative Director of The Bespoke Boutique says,“It is very exciting that we have embarked on this curious and creative journey. Bringing what we do best to the table and developing designs was interesting and enjoyable. It has resulted in a collection that is distinctively stylish and refined.”

Read more:  Showcase of the homeware and fashion at 1 Poultry EC2R

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Muswell Hill deserves Christmas Tree

We are proud to be co-founders of charitable organisation Friends of St James Square Ltd caring about all things Muswell Hill. This Festive Season we need your help!

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No budget cuts will keep a Christmas tree away from Muswell Hill. We are joining together as a community to fund our tree. After all, we’ve been very good boys and girls… honest! AND hopefully, Father Christmas may even put in an appearance at the switching on ceremony but only if you promise to be good! 
Can you help us reach our £3000 target?
Please pledge whatever you can. Account name: Friends of St James Square Ltd,
sort code: 20-58-51; account number 83152871; reference: N10 XmasTree

A Very Merry Muswell, Saturday 9th of December 12-5pm
We are looking to raise money for the installation of a Christmas tree in St James Square, at the centre of our Muswell Hill community, which will be fully lit throughout the festive period. The money will cover the 20ft tree, the cost of installation, and lights and decorations. Please pledge whatever you can. Account name: Friends of St James Square Ltd, sort code: 20-58-51; account number 83152871; reference: N10 XmasTree
Join us for the switching on ceremony at 16:00 on Saturday 9th December 2017, which will also feature an appearance by the Muswell Hill Brass band and local carol singers alongside our Christmas market (starts at noon).

Who is raising money:  Friends Of St James Square 
We are a community group looking to improve the area, engage with local people living in Muswell Hill to encourage involvement and a sense of pride and to make N10 a better place to live.
Please share our pledge to allow everybody the chance to contribute something towards our Christmas tree.
Any surplus money…
will be used to fund projects in our local area to continue enhancing our beautiful Muswell Hill. So if you have any suggestions (a new swing, a bench, a tree planted somewhere or anything really that you feel would enhance and improve Muswell Hill) then drop us an email muswellife@gmail.com with suggestions. It’s YOUR money so all ideas will be voted on by the tree’s sponsors after Christmas.

TOP 7 MASTERING MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

Most recording musicians, engineers and producers are well aware what a difference mastering can make to our mixes. Mastering is an art form in itself, and is best placed in the hands of a specialist. (email us info@bonafidestudio.co.uk or call 02088839641)
But even expert mastering engineers can only accomplish so much, and it’s largely dependent on the raw materials they’re given to work with.

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1. Too Much Bottom
Excessive low-end is probably one of the most common problems in mixes coming from project studios. Usually this is directly related to the mixing environment. The average home studio or project room is lacking in real acoustical treatment is and rife with reflective surfaces and bass traps. The result is an uneven response across the bass spectrum, with some notes being overemphasized and others being practically inaudible. This translates to a poorly balanced low end in your mix. The most egregious mistake is that people’s monitors aren’t placed properly. Speakers need to be as far apart from each other as you are from them. So if your mix position is, say, three feet from either speaker, the speakers should be exactly three feet apart. Moreover, if the speakers are too close or too far from a wall, the apparent bass response will be off.

2. Terrible Treble
On the other end of the spectrum, high-end can also cause its own issues. While not as hard to hear in the project studio environment, those high frequencies can show up differently during the mastering phase. Most mixes will want a bit of ‘polish’ or ‘shine’ in mastering. When this good stuff is applied, sibilance can really creep up. Do yourself a big favor and de-ess your vocals, maybe even your hi-hat just a bit, even if you don’t hear too much of an issue. Your mastering engineer will thank you. The bottom line is to use EQ wisely and sparingly.

3. No Dynamic Range
This is probably one of the most discussed topics in modern music mixing circles. Over the past decade or so, the quest for radio airplay has created a battle for attention that has manifested itself in loudness – the perception being that louder the track, the more it will grab the listener. It’s a mentality that started with TV and radio advertisers (notice how a loud commercial gets your attention) and is a direct result of today’s vastly improved compressor technology, which has enabled us to create “radio mixes” where everything is loud, punchy and in your face. The problem with pumping up the apparent volume on your mix this way is that it works by compressing the dynamic range of your tracks. Dynamic range is defined as the difference between the loudest and softest sounds in your track. Ideally, the tracks you deliver to the mastering house should have peaks of around –3 dB for the loudest material (for example, a snare hit), while the rest of the track should average in the –6 dB to –8 dB area. That would give your peaks somewhere around 3dB to 5dB of dynamic range. The problem with compressing dynamic range (or, equally hazardous, normalizing a track’s relative volume), is that you effectively rob your mastering engineer of the resources to do their job. A good mastering engineer applies meticulous use of multiband compression – bringing up the punch and presence of the bass, adding clarity and sparkle to the high end – all by using different compression algorithms for different spectral bands. Many inexperienced mixers will apply a “mastering compressor” plug-in, using a preset that creates a loud but muddy low-end, a bright and aggressive high-end, and little room for the mastering engineer to add — or de-emphasize — anything.
Sometimes clients desire a ‘loud’ mix, but they have done little or nothing to control the dynamics of their mixes. Layering the limiting (by compressing the vocal, bass, snare, for example) will allow a MUCH more gorgeous detailed, deep shine on the final product! On a related note, try to avoid over-compressing individual tracks for the same reason. Often a mastering engineer will get a track that’s well within dynamic range, but with a vocal track that’s been normalized to the verge of distortion. Again, it leaves little room for mastering to bring out any subtlety or nuance in that vocal.

4. Lack of Panning
It’s important to give your mix some dimensionality by balancing different elements within a nice, wide, stereo field. All too often, people tend to pan everything at or near the center, creating a cluttered-sounding mix that lacks definition. While certain elements should typically be centered (kick, snare, vocal and bass come to mind), panning is a great way to achieve separation between guitar parts, background vocals and other parts of the mix. It’s always good to pan some elements of the mix just a bit off to one side. If you have a blend of guitars, horns, backing vocals, etc., keeping the middle less cluttered allows your ear to hear more distinctly all of that cool production you’ve worked on. You’ll also need less EQ and effects to pick these things out in the mix.
5. Phase Problems
With most DAWs offering unlimited tracks, the temptation to record everything in stereo is strong, and elements like a nicely-recorded stereo acoustic guitar can add depth and character to a track. But be careful to check your mixes in mono to avoid phase cancellation from poorly-placed mics. Only by soloing the stereo tracks will you be able to hear whether certain frequencies “disappear” when the two channels are summed to mono.

It’s not just stereo-miked instruments that can fall victim to phase cancellation. According to Doell, “Often I’ll get a track with ‘hyper-wide’ elements in the mix that achieve that ‘outside the speakers’ effect by making one side out of phase. Just try hitting the mono button and watch that cool keyboard, string pad, background vocal stack, whatever, totally disappear. Even if you never anticipate having any need for mono (AM radio anyone?), when you do this, your balances aren’t what you think!”

This same principle also applies to reverbs. It’s all too common to have that lush hall you placed on the vocal just vanish in mono.

6. Poor Vocal Placement
It’s hard to be objective on placing vocals in a mix, particularly if it’s your song. After all, you know the lyrics, so it’s easy to forget that other people don’t. And in most cases, a track can sound equally “right” whether the vocal is sitting a bit in front or a bit behind the track. Many pros will do two or three alternate mixes of a track, one with the lead vocal a bit up, one with it a bit down, and one in the middle. It’s a luxury of choice that most mastering engineers are happy to have.

7. Misaligned Tracks
This one is a no-brainer. When you send stems (separated groups of tracks, like drums and bass, guitars, backing vocals) to mastering, make sure they all start at the same place. If the lead vocal doesn’t come in until 0:30, that stem should have 30 seconds of silence at the top!

As you might imagine, there are countless other stumbling blocks that can trip up your mix and make life challenging for your mastering engineer – certainly far more than we can list here. As always, the bottom line is to use your ears, listen carefully, and learn the rules before you break them. If all else fails, keep the potential mistakes above in mind, and you’ll be on your way to better results.

— Daniel Keller & Pete Doell

Leave These 5 Things Out of Your Band’s Bio

by Angela Mastrogiacomo on SonicBids1bfsIMG_0430

There are plenty of tips out there on what to include in your band’s bio, but not so many telling you what to avoid. Just as important as including the right information is excluding the wrong info. As a publicist and music blogger, I see a lot of terrible bios, and trust me, a bad bio can halt a great band’s career in its tracks.

This is your chance to tell your story, and your story is what hooks people. Boring bio equals boring band. This isn’t just your chance to hook fans, it’s your business card to industry pros, and it must be polished, professional, and clean. Get on the right track by avoiding including these five things to ensure your bio is the best representation of your band.

1. Past members

You wouldn’t believe how many band bios I read that give me a thorough, detailed glance at the band’s history, including members who are no longer with the band. If Billy left the band in 2015, then I don’t need to know how you met him on Craigslist and he played with you for a year before moving on. While it’s important to give mention to who’s in the band now, there’s simply no reason to mention past members, unless that past member is someone really famous.

2. Your origin story

Similar to the above, I don’t really need to know that you met at a dodgy bar, were introduced by a friend, or any other story of how you all met unless it’s really compelling and adds something to the overall story. The way most bands form, however, is not that interesting.

This also applies to band members. If one of you played in a well-known band, feel free to mention that they’re ex-members of whatever band, but otherwise, you don’t need to list off the 20 other local bands they were in before they got to yours. Your band bio shouldn’t be a mini-bio of what everyone in it has ever done.

3. Too many accolades

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to include significant names you’ve shared the stage with, recorded with, or awards you’ve been given. But if your bio is just a rambling mess of achievements without the balance of a good hook or story, all the achievements in the world won’t save you.

Stick to the highlights and the “wow” moments of your career, and by all means, include them. You’ve earned the bragging rights on those. Just make sure that surrounded by all those accolades is a real, grounded background that pulls me in and makes me care about you and your music.

4. First-person writing

Even if you’re a solo artist, a bio should never be written in the first person. First-person bios are just unsettling and weird to read. Thus, they should always be written in the third person.

Writing it this way also gives you the advantage of showing off a little more and getting comfortable bragging about your story. It can be weird to talk about yourself, and by writing in the third person, you can take an objective, if slightly favorable, look at your career and write it out accordingly.

5. Fluff

Fluff can be classified as any of the following:

  • each band member’s life story
  • talking about how you’re totally unique (instead of just showing it through your story and description of your music)
  • listing 18 different influences that may or may not actually have anything to do with your sound
  • anything else that just feels “eh” in your bio

If you’re not sure if it’s fluff, ask yourself this question: “Is this actually adding value or am I just filling space?” If it’s not adding value, chuck it. Your bio should be full of personality, not bogged down by useless facts. It’s a place to let your brand shine, and to highlight the best of your career. Don’t fall into the trap of adding fluff just to fill up the page. It will always backfire.


Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw Public Relations and Infectious Magazine, as well as an entrepreneurial and artist coach. As a coach she helps her clients find their unique story and build their brand. Muddy Paw works with emerging artists and growing industry talent to bring their music and product to industry tastemakers. Clients have seen placement on Noisey, Idobi, Substream, New Noise, A Music Blog, Yea? and more.

YES, IT’S MIDSUMMER MUSWELL No 3!

AN EXPLOSION OF Community spirit, market, DANCE AND MUSIC is FILLING ST JAMES SQUARE AND ST JAMES CHURCH on 24th of June 1pm-6pm. 

rockbandDeanna Bogdanovic of BonaFideStudio said: “The friends of St James Square are very excited to deliver another Midsummer Muswell for everyone to enjoy. We want people from across the Borough to come and join us as we showcase our rich and diverse Muswell Hill culture, show off our abundance of local talent and introduce you to excellent artists doing wonderful things.”

A brass band march accompanied by a procession of five Local Gems led by our MP Catherine West and an actor Nitrin Ganatra will kick off this year’s summer celebration of all things Muswell. The full programme can be found on https://muswellife.com/

Among the market stalls will be Alexandra WI’s home made produce, Charitable Organisation Wave activities including weaving, drawing, pompom making and card making, while charity LCCP will be selling mocktails. Muswell Hillbilly Brewers  will cater for those in need of something stronger: their brews are grown, brewed and drunk in Muswell Hill! Tootoomoo will feed hungry crew, accompanied by Just Baked by Jo and Nata Cake.

On the outdoor stage, prepare to be astonished by belly dancers Charmageddon, followed by Archie Beach, New Law and Swan Kings. Also Play From Progress, who are working with children in need living as asylum seekers across the UK, come to Muswell Hill fresh from Croydon; and there is of course promising local talent too: Backdrop, The Blunt Man, The Muzztones, Kristian Demetriou, Darcey, Long String Hawkers, Sound of the Suburb, and The Vendettas, tap dancers from NLPAC and super stars in the making from Muswell Hill School of Performing Arts and LAGAD. Opera singer Marisa Di Muro is back by popular demand.

Meanwhile, across the road in St James Church there is mosaic making and other activities for young people and a full bill of staged entertainment including the world premiere of the award-winning Mandarin Musical JUDGE BAO, written and performed (in Chinese!) by pupils of Fortismere school, also angelic ballerinas from Little London Ballet.

Peter Thompson said: “This is our third Midsummer Muswell and every year we improve on the one before. It is a community event, funded by local traders and well wishers. This year promises to be very good: do join us.”

For further information contact Deanna, one of the directors of Friends of St James Square Limited: email: info@bonafidestudio.co.uk

MidSummer Muswell is organized by Friends of St James’s Square is open to anyone who lives in the area and accepts their aims and priorities. Membership for a calendar year is only £25. Email: pt.anythinglegal@gmail.com