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To mic or not: Bass Sax feature piece

Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
Guyz, I have been starting to work with my Eppelsheim bass sax to low A for a solo piece this Fall. It’s Ward Baxter’s ‘You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”. Here's Jay's recording: http://www.jayeaston.com/galleries/Jay_in_Action/action_p_Grinch.html


With any other sax (soprillo through bari sax) I can cut through the crowd like butta; there’s plenty of volume and usually I’m being asked to bring it down. But with the bass, I don’t think I can out play the Woodinville Community Band.

Right now I can play the bari sax louder than the bass sax! I have four custom Zinner's from closed to very open and use synthetic 2.5 contrabass clarinet reeds. The solo hits notes from the top of the range down to low A. Maybe I just need more time on the instrument.


So I'm thinking, should I mic the instrument? If so, I could concentrate on sound and not be blowing my brains out. Also, what wireless mic would you recommend? But then I think, I really don't like mics if I can get away with it. Ah, the agony. Fortunately Helen will be here in August and can work with me too.
 
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Dave Dolson

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
That was neat.

Was HIS horn mic'd? I couldn't see from the photo. It sure SOUNDED resonant and full. I'm guessing it wasn't.

I attended a show at the Hollywood Bowl yesterday evening. One of the bands (BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY; the other group was MANHATTAN TRANSFER with their regular rhythm section AND a large big-band backing them) had everything amped up so loud that it sounded very muddy to me. The bari sax was buried in the mix for the most part.

I know what I've said about mic'ing instruments but this HUGE outdoor venue obviously needed it. Even a well-played strong trumpet sounded weak in this place.

I suppose one can claim that it isn't the individual instrument's clarity that is important as much as the totality of the ensemble's sound and power. Powerful they were - with no clarity for the most part.

Gandalfe, if what you intend to play is what Jay Easton played in the clip, I'd opt for no amplification. It sounded wonderful as it was done. DAVE
 

Merlin

Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Guyz, I have been starting to work with my Eppelsheim bass sax to low A for a solo piece this Fall. It’s Ward Baxter’s ‘You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”. Here's Jay's recording: http://www.jayeaston.com/galleries/Jay_in_Action/action_p_Grinch.html


With any other sax (soprillo through bari sax) I can cut through the crowd like butta; there’s plenty of volume and usually I’m being asked to bring it down. But with the bass, I don't think I can out play the Woodinville Community Band.

Right now I can play the bari sax louder than the bass sax! I have four custom Zinner's from closed to very open and use synthetic 2.5 contrabass clarinet reeds. The solo hits notes from the top of the range down to low A. Maybe I just need more time on the instrument.


So I'm thinking, should I mic the instrument? If so, I could concentrate on sound and not be blowing my brains out. Also, what wireless mic would you recommend? But then I think, I really don't like mics if I can get away with it. Ah, the agony. Fortunately Helen will be here in August and can work with me too.

My advice is to try cane instead of Legeres if you need to get more cut and bark.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Try to find the Legere bass sax reeds. The contrabass clarinet reeds are a bit "dead" on a bass sax mouthpiece. The new bass sax reeds respond much better on a sax mouthpiece, but they are softer. That is, a bass sax #2.5 plays about like a contrabass clarinet 1.5 or 2.

Good cane is still the loudest, but the search gets expensive.

I have always found baritone sax to be louder than bass sax.
 

Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
Well since Guy Legere is on facebook, maybe that will help in the search for the new bass sax Legere reeds. Cane, that might be interesting to find. It's good to hear that it isn't only me that thinks the bari sax is easily louder than the bass sax.

I'll ask Jay what he uses for a reed and whether he was miked for that recording. To my ears I was pretty sure he was mic'd as I know he is for the many theater pit orchestras he does. So he has a great ear for playing mic'd instruments and it would be hard to tell if he was mic'd because of that. Me, I'm still working the long tones so that I can get used to the feel of the sound and the very loose embouchure. I luv a new project.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
When we mike saxes, we always go for a dynamic mike pointed "down" at the bell (except, of course, for the soprano), since it picks up both the sound from the bell and the sound coming from the upper hand area of the horn. With a bass, I don't know that I'd feel all that good about that route. Some portions of the horn are a LONG way from that location.

I've known clarinet nuts who have insisted on three microphones when playing clarinet - one at the top, one at mid horn and one at the bell. Studio perhaps yes, but for live performance it's best to keep it as simple as possible.

And, I agree about projection with the bass over the baritone. It's almost as you start to reach some human limit when you get above baritone. Some of this might be due to the lack of "edgy" mouthpieces for the big horn, however. Has anyone seen a Berg Larsen for the bass?
 

Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
You know, Ed is a mouthpiece guy. Maybe we can get him to do a killer bass sax piece? :cool:

There's another guy in town who is supposed to be master craftsman with mouthpieces, I forget his name right now. So much to do so little time.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I've used my wireless set up for my bass on occasion for big venues with my jazz band. (I'm a bit brain dead at the moment, I just got back in from a festival show, and my wireless set up is with the band gear, and isn't with me, but I think I have an AKG, either that or Audio Technica.) The result haven't been stellar. They've been OK, but nothing grand. The horn is a bit too big, so the nuances aren't picked up as well by a clip on as they would be on a smaller horn.

I'll bring down the 2 custom pieces that Ed did for bass that I have. I suspect that you'll find the tip openings a bit too small, but if you put man's reed on :emoji_smile:, rather than that wimp of a reed strength that I use, you might like it. Or better yet, we'll just go to Home Depot, and get you a 2X4. ;-)

BTW, I'm with Randy, my bari is definitly always way louder then my bass. And my Medusa, could tear a strip off the side of a metal hull boat. It is way louder than my Selmer VI, and my VI roars compared to most, because I've had it customized.
 

Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
I found this interesting poll done by Paul Coats in 2006 on the Bass Coop:

POLL QUESTION: What is your preferred Bass Sax amplification option for live playing situations?

CHOICES AND RESULTS
- Standard Cardioid Microphone "SM57 or equivalent" at bell position., 3 votes,
60.00%
- Super Cardioid Microphone "Beta SM57/ SM58 or Equivalent" at bell position., 0
votes, 0.00%
- Clip on Bell Microphone Wired to PA or Snake, 0 votes, 0.00%
- Clip on Bell Microphone Wireless condensor, 1 votes, 20.00%
- Overhead Condensor Microphone "pencil type", 0 votes, 0.00%
- Large diaphragm Condensor Microphone mounted in front ., 0 votes, 0.00%
- other?, 1 votes, 20.00%

INDIVIDUAL VOTES
- Standard Cardioid Microphone "SM57 or equivalent" at bell position.
- saxlaw
- saxtek
- honker
- Super Cardioid Microphone "Beta SM57/ SM58 or Equivalent" at bell position.
- Clip on Bell Microphone Wired to PA or Snake
- Clip on Bell Microphone Wireless condensor
- igbydog
- Overhead Condensor Microphone "pencil type"
- Large diaphragm Condensor Microphone mounted in front .
- other?
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator

A paper cup with a taut string...

When I started in with my own group about six years ago, I tried very hard to find a decent guide for live sound with wind instruments. I looked at about six or seven different books and bought the best two of them. Between them, there were about a hundred words on miking horns, and most of those were generalities and platitudes, not specifics. (The books were useful for other reasons, mostly pertaining to vocalist issues.)

Most sound people learn this stuff in an apprenticeship situation. from other (older) sound guys. But, even the oldest of sound people is unlikely to run across the bass sax miking quandary more than once in a lifetime. So, you're reduced to fumbling in the dark and trying out the end result on a one time basis. Since experience is the best teacher (literally), the most likely information would come from a bass sax player. However, I'd wager that most of the uses of the bass saxophone occur in situations where miking the instrument is not necessary.
 
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Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I don't think it's necessary to spend a ton of money on a microphone, especially for live performance. The Shure SM57 is a terrific microphone for bass sax. Shop around. They don't cost an arm and a leg. The SM 58 is virtually the same microphone, with a ball shaped screen.

Shure SM 57s and 58s must be cranked up a little louder than other mics at the mixing board, but they have great bass response, and if you drop one of them, it still works.

On my Myspace page, "Body and Soul" played on my Eppelsheim bass sax, was recorded using a Shure SM57.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I will second the durability of the Shure dynamic products. I've had five of them dumped over by clumsy footed trombone players over the years, and other than the odd dented screen now and again, they have come through it without a problem. They are also good general purpose equipment, something that can be used wherever and whenever you need it.

Condenser microphones are all well and good for studio conditions, but there's just too much that can go wrong on a stage of klutzy musicians, especially ones who don't own the equipment they're using.
 

Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
I finally slapped a Rico bass sax reed on. What a difference between cane and synthetic! Now I can make the bass sax bark or purr. I'm pretty sure I won't need a mic and just for the record, Jay didn't use one on the recording below.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
When searching for cane bass sax reeds, don't be discouraged by the occasional dud, even at current bass sax reed prices. With care they last a while when you get a good one. It might also be time to try the Ridenour reed system. It's the easiest reed adjustment system to use, and 'tho the hardware included is simple and crude, it's everything you need and you'll save enough on bad reeds to pay for everything in a year - maybe in a month or two at bass sax rates.

I can't afford the time I once spent on adjusting reeds. This system is fast.
 
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