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Saxophone through electric guitar amp?

Discussion in 'Saxophones' started by Xerophthalmia, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. Somewhere on youtube I heard someone say that it's possible to use a normal electric guitar amp with a sax. If so, how would the setup be? :)
  2. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    There are a variety of microphones sets that are specifically built for the sax, generally with a microphone that points into the bell and one that hovers over the keywork. There are also some pickups that are designed to be built into a saxophone neck.

    Helen, one of our CEs, plays sax with a variety of effects pedals and such. She'll probably have some more specific advice when she comes by. We've also got a bunch of folks here that have been on recordings, etc. and have more knowledge on the subject.
  3. One can run anything through anything, provided that the correct equipment is properly used in the hookup.

    Sax would need either a mic or contact transducer. This would then need to be matched in impedance to the desired input. Sticking a standard dynamic mic in front of a sax , one would need a mic preamp with loZ imput, hiZ output (or is it the other way round, i forget). Some direct boxes can do the trick also; in order to get optimal gain from the guitar amp. Many contact transducers are made to be matched to guitar amp input, but Ive found their gain is really poor.
    Ive had better sucess running woodwinds through a keyboard amp (or PA) as opposed to guitar amp. Guitar amps are designed to optimize what guitars can do.
    Where s Helens website??? I want to hear some wah-wah sax again!! ah, Traffic!
  4. I have a guitar amp for my electric guitar so for me the easiest/cheapest way would be to use that instead of buying new equipment (other than the microphone). I'm not familiar with the contact transducer, but just to get the basics right. Could I connect it via "line in" and use the amp effects or even use a wah pedal in the setup?

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    You should make sure that you have not (in a fit of guitar exuberance), "overloaded" the guitar amplifier. Speaker defects or other added "noise" that may pass unnoticed when used with a guitar, but might stand out when running a horn through the same arrangement.

    I started out with the Selmer Varitone system way back in the day, but didn't really see much point in it. Much cheaper (and easier) to turn down the volume knobs on the electric crowd...
  6. it's an improper connection to run a lo z (xlr) mic into a hi z (trs) unbalanced 'line-in' input...impedance mismatch can damage equip in all sorts of wonderfully expensive ways.

    about impedance matching http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impedance_matching

    view xlr connector: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Xlr-connectors.jpg

    view trs connector (balanced on top, UNbalanced on bottom): http://matt.west.co.tt/files/speccy2010-faq/trs_pinout.jpg

    A transformer is used to match impedances properly.

    Something LIKE this NORMALLY serves the purpose http://www.fullcompass.com/product/304709.html
    (not a product endorsement)

    Although there are such things as Low impedance, unbalanced mics that you can run thru a git amp with no adverse side effects. { Such as the "Sony FV 220" .....}

    ...But its definitely a 'just for kicks' thing, it will not give enough gain (loudness) before feeding back, and the sound will not be very low quality. like crunching up cereal in a waxed paper bag.
  7. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Running a sax through a guitar amp will not give you the best sound. Sure you can do it, but why would you?

    I know nearly jack (pardon the pun ;-)) about sound gear. I have always trusted our sound guys with cords, jacks, amps, etc. This is what they went to school to learn, and they're really good at it. The advice that I've been given over the years, is to always use XLR cables, and not the 1/4" jacks that guitars use. For an amp, use a keyboard amp. For mics, a Shure 57 or 58 is a cheap, reliable, good microphone that does the job.

    I happen to use a wireless set-up because I like to wander around when we play. I use an Audio-Technica ATW-R10 receiver, and a ATW-T31 transmitter for my saxes. It's an old-timer, but I like it because it's analogue, and not digital. I take care of it, and recently replaced the mic. The volume control on the receiver is giving me trouble ATM, and I have to take it to the shop at the end of the month. But this old-timer has stood the test of time, and once the volume control is 100% OK again, and it's had a once-over, it will work like new again.

    I run my mic into a Boss VE-20 vocal effects pedal, but that's just me. I don't recommend that for anyone else. I use it for a bunch of different things, but primarily to control the reverb and delay sent to our board. (I like to have control over my own sound.) For an amp, I have a Roland KC-350 keyboard amp. I use it as a monitor (I can't wear in-ear monitors), or when I perform with different groups, I might use it as the sole amplifier.

    By now you might start to notice a pattern: My set-up is either vocal or keyboard in basis, and all uses XLR cables, and not the 1/4" jack connections that electric guitars use. It's a matter of impedance, and what will give the truest, and best sound to your saxophone.
  8. get out. Im using the same goshdarn thing on me pipes.

    oooooooooooooooo:emoji_astonished::emoji_astonished::emoji_astonished::???: waaaannt....:D (thx)
  9. Thanks for the advice. Using my electric guitar amp is apparently not a good idea. So getting a keyboard amp with XLR connection and a mic would be a better alternative. Do keyboard amps have effects built in like many electric guitar amps have (reverb, delay...)? Do I need a combo-like amp or is there a more compact solution available for monitoring with headphones only?

    I found a youtube video with a sax wah-effect which sounded really cool. Do you make that sound with a vocal effects pedal or is it in any way possible to connect a guitar wah-pedal?
  10. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Most sax players use DigiTech vocal effects pedals of some stripe or another, but the sound guy I trust the most, suggested the Boss. It was brand new on the market at the time, and he went through all the various settings with me when I went to try it out. It truly did everything I needed, and way more to boot. Also, Boss really builds among the best pedals in the world. The customizations I can do on the settings are remarkable. Now I haven't experimented that much with a DigiTech, so I don't know what they can or can't do. I just know for me, the Boss does what I need. I don't know of any other sax players though, who use it.

    Some do. Some don't. Shop around, and see what they sound like. Some that I found had reverb, and a mini equalizer, but sounded like crap compared to the Roland. In the end, it really comes down to you get what you pay for. That being said, it also comes down to what you're using it for. If all you're doing is playing at home in your studio, then do you really need an expensive amp with all the bells and whistles, with mega watts, and a killer sound? Probably not, unless you've got lots of money to spend, and nothing else more pressing to spend it on.

    I'm not the best one to ask. Talk to the guys at your local brick and mortar store. They're a great source of info. They know their products, and which work best for what applications.

    The Boss pedal doesn't have a wah effect--mainly because it has a typical click on/off switch in its 2 pedals. I don't know what DigiTech has on its various vocal effects pedals. Yes, it is quite possible to connect a guitar wah pedal (I've done it). But remember, the more "things" (wireless unit, pedals, etc.) you have between the source of the sound (your horn) and the end product (amplified sound), the greater the risk of feedback, and other subtle sound changes like "thinning" of the sound. Again, not a big deal if you're playing in your studio, but if you're in a recording session, it can be very problematic.

    Effects pedals and amplification is a huge subject among rock and some blues saxophone players. Some guys have nearly as many pedals as guitar players. There are quite a few players that use special effects units as well. I've never gotten that crazy about it.
    I do use a ton of effects, but I'm an "old school" player--jeez I feel like a dinosaur when I write this :geezer1:--I learned all these effects either from my instructors, or by myself. My effects are created mostly in my throat--in my vocal chords & my larynx--and through various tongue positions, also with a variety of fingering techniques. (I think that covers most of them.)

    The Boss vocal effects is a way for me to control the amount of reverb and delay that goes to the board. In this way I can directly control the sax sound the audience hears, since the sax comes through the mains in the PA, and I have no control over the board's settings. (That's the sound guy's area.) I just ask that the sax has 0 reverb and 0 delay on the board, and I'm good to go. As far as effects with the Boss goes, I use it mainly for the chorus , and sometimes the -8va settings. I have played around with the looping, but have never used it in a solo during a performance.
  11. Like others said, you can connect your sax to a guitar amp, but usually it doesn't sound so good. It's possible that some guitar amps would sound fine with saxophones, I just haven't tried any (including excellent guitar amps). IME best is a good PA system. Second best is a not so good PA system. Then a keyboard or any other type of amp. I never use an amp because if I'm amplified there's always PA.

    As far as effects, you can use almost any pedal as long as you have a way to connect it. I mostly use a pickup and a guitar multieffect pedal.

  12. Exactly. Since I'll mainly play at home with headphones I don't need a big amp. If possible I would monitor with headphones directly into the DigiTech Vocal 300 (or other device), but I guess it doesn't work like that..?

    Can you explain the setup? Did you use a XLR-1/4 transformer?

    I'm not familiar with a PA system. For my needs I guess I don't need expensive equipment.
  13. PA is what you have in (most?) amplified concerts. A mixing desk, speakers, etc. Almost no one has something like this at home, but the halls/clubs where I play amplified usually have it. Occasionally I play amplified where there's an "improvised" PA system, which just means someone brings a mixer and a couple of speakers if the place doesn't have it (but I rarely play amplified in places like these anyway so this is rare). Though the quality doesn't necessarily depend on size of the system, etc.

    What I meant was that when I play in concerts I don't need to bring an amp, since the PA is already there. For practicing at home, I have monitors connected to my computer and I just connect my instruments to the sound card.

    I never have to bring my own amplification, but if I did, I'd rather get one or two good speakers (as opposed to a guitar or keyboard amp) and maybe a tiny mixer (assuming in a situation like this there is no sound person).

    BTW the pedal I use most is the Line 6 M9. I like it because it's a bit more "crazy" than other multieffect pedals.
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