How to record a tenor sax

Hi - one of my friends said he might want to blow a solo for me … Any good references on recording techniques? (50s Rockabilly kind of thing, I don’t think the solo will wind up being understated!).


You’ll need to use the pad on your mic(s) if available… Those horns can punch through steel… Not sure of exact positioning, I’ll leave that advising to someone like HornForHire, however, I recall back in the day, a friend used our studio for practice sessions on a tenor sax, when we were dark, I had to leave the building. Many many dB… ouch!

I hear you loud and clear! :laughing:

Youtube is your friend, and this guy seems to be on the right path for the tone he’s searching for:

Thanks, guys. Nice vid!

Here’s something else I found too … supports the idea that aiming straight down the bell is probably not the best direction for the mic …

And also:

I use a RØDE NT1-A condensor mic, about 30 to 50 cm from the bell of the sax, through a Focusrite preamp into an E-MU 1212M soundcard.

For a 50’s Rockabilly sound I’d use a slapback delay and a plate reverb.

You can take that to the bank Alexis :sunglasses:

Bingo! 'Nuff said. :sunglasses:

Hi Horn for Hire!

Thanks for that advice!

I have read that things often sound better off axis a little bit (paraphrasing here, “maybe 20-30 degrees to the left of the player, pointed at the left hand rather than straight down the bell”), to get more of the lower harmonics emanating from the body, not just the higher ones emanating from the bell.

Is your mic position directly in front of/pointing straight at the bell, or are you off axis a bit? Do you think there’s anything to that bit above?

Thanks! :slight_smile:

If you have access to a decent condenser with a flat response curve (e.g. C414), I’d set that a few feet further back from the NT1a to pick up some ambiance. But you need something with that flat response (i.e. no presence boost) since instruments made of brass will be sharp in the upper mids.

Yes. Only a part of the sound comes from the bell, most of the sound comes from the (open) keys and since most keys are near the left hand that makes sence.
I have my mic pointed slightly upward because my left hand is above the bell.

Good luck! :slight_smile:


Interesting thread… Cheers for that last tip Wim re: going off axis, not thought of that one and yeah it makes sense for sure… will try that next time i track a sax.
Has anyone ever tracked a soprano sax? i’ve been using the method described, other than off axis toward the keys, with either a TLM 102 or Telefunken AR51, i’ve only tracked it a couple of times and was really pushed for time so wasn’t totally happy with the results… anyone got any tips?

Recording a soprano sax is more difficult. The best way is to use two mics, one near the bell and one near the left hand, but then you have to watch for phasing issues.
I’ve recorded my soprano with one mic, about 50 cm away, pointed to the position between both hands.
The results were satisfying.


Cheers Wim, MUCH appreciated!

One more thing if i may?

If i use the TFunk, which is a valve mic, would you recommend another LDC like the TLM102 or an SDC such as an KM184? OR would you reckon the 102/184 combination would be better?
Of course trial and error is always the best method but you clearly have MUCH more experience with this than myself.

Ditto on this, I used to place a mic in front of the player, at a small angle, not very near and pointing more towards the keys.

Thanks HornforHire and Berns!

Difficult question… trial and error is probably the best method.

Here are some more tips:

Lots of info on that forum, there are more threads about recording (soprano) saxophones.

Hey Wim!

Thanks man… yeah that was what i figured but thought i would ask…

will bookmark that and digest through the week…

This entire thread is win.

Not got around to tracking the Sop part i mentioned earlier but tracked a nice alto part instead… tried quite a few positions and mics bearing in mind what was said about focusing on the keys and to the left of the instrument… settled on my TFunk AR51 in hyper cardioid mode about two and a half feet away and slightly to the left angled toward the keys… (quite shocking how it can change from almost clarinet like to a growly sax by the player taking one step to the right! great stuff! Apart from some room reflections, most of which i’ve gotten rid of with eq, we’re pretty happy with the result… thanks again! :smiley:

Nice! Thanks for the update.
I’m glad I could help! :smiley: