Home Studio Session Setup for Wind Players
Woodwind & Brasswind Contributing Writer – Greg Vail
Home recording has really changed and somewhat complicated the roll of a saxophone player over the past few years. Today, many recording sessions are contracted to musicians, recording from their home studio. As a sax player, a home recording system has become a necessity to keep working, and an amazing tool for writing and arranging my music for live shows.
Today's recorders are digital and computer based. Multitrack recorders like the Tascam DP-03 or Boss BR-800 are easy to use, all in one systems and integrate well with your computer in a digital format. The only thing you need to include in these systems is a set of headphones and a basic microphone and you are up and running.
The computer has become the centerpiece of most recording systems over the past few years. With the growth of computer based systems like ProTools, Apple Logic and Steinberg Cubase, computer recording has taken over the playing field.
Since so many sessions are ProTools based today, many musicians start off with a basic M Box system, which includes a basic computer interface, recording software and simple plugin software for digital effects and basic production. ProTools runs on either PC or MAC, and with the basic M Box, a computer and a good microphone, anyone can record from home.
Computers used for sound recording are usually the more powerful and expensive computers. There is a lot of power needed to run these large applications, both RAM and software function has minimum requirements that far exceed what a basic word doc might require. Since newer computers often house more powerful processing, a computer upgrade is often an important thing to consider.
As musicians get more into recording, many additional upgrades are available to achieve very professional sounding tracks. A microphone is a very important investment. While you can use just about any mic for recording, there is a big range of microphones available for recording the saxophone and they can range from around a hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
A basic Shure SM58 is a good place to start for the novice sax studio. Better microphones would include mid-priced condenser and ribbon mics. My favorite mic for saxophone is the ribbon mic. The warmth and tone on these sound great on all the saxophones. Some examples of entry-level ribbon mics would be the MXL R144 and the MXL R77. More expensive ribbon mics that sound great on the sax are the Royer R-121 and R-122. Great mics can cost in the thousands but many of the mid-priced microphones do the job just fine.
Ribbon mics are pretty power hungry and sound even better when pushed with a mic pre amp. They do come with a few concerns to remember. A ribbon will be destroyed if Phantom power is turned on, you have to be careful not to blow air at the ribbon which can be damaged, and they must be stored upright so the ribbon does not sag over time.
Condenser microphones are another great option for saxophone recording. Shure, AKG and Audio Technica are the 3 big manufacturers that have many great sounding mics under $400. Any mic will do the job, but better quality mics will capture the true sound of an instrument. Most musicians will end up with a few favorites over time.
This will get you started with your home studio. A solid computer, M Box Pro Tools system interface, descent headphones, and a good mic is all you need. Once you get going though, you will likely start thinking about some inexpensive studio monitors, and upgrades to everything else.
The only additional software I encourage young sax players to consider is a basic Auto Tune program. Antares was the first to make a program that fixed 'out of tune' notes and still has some of the easiest to use products that work great for the sax.
Recording the saxophone has never been easier and you can get started today for a lot less money than ever before.