No matter what level you are at with your saxophone playing, I’m willing to bet one thing – if you are not doing it already you could improve your playing quite dramatically by making recordings of yourself and listening back to them.
Self recordings allow you to take a step back and become your own coach. When you listen to your own recordings you have a level of objectivity that doesn’t exist when you are busy playing because when you are playing you have so much else to think about before analysing your technique.
The most simple way to start analyzing your technique is to use a microphone to make recordings of yourself. If you have a smartphone you can do this using an app on your phone, but if you want recordings that sound a little better the next step up is to purchase a usb microphone and make recordings on your computer.
USB microphones are a relatively recent invention that came about when microphone manufacturers started to build microphone preamps and digital audio converters into the bodies of the mics. For the hobby recorder this means that you no longer need a home studio with cables everywhere, you simply need a usb mic and some software.
My recommendation for recording software or DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software is Reaper for Windows and Mac. I can’t speak highly enough of this program. It’s free to try out for as long as you like, but if you do find yourself using it frequently, please purchase an affordable license to support the developer.
Choosing A USB Mic For Saxophone
While most of the major microphone manufacturers now make usb mics, there are still not that many on the market compared to regular microphones.
Quality USB microphones start at around $50 and go up to about $400. The more expensive mics have more features that you may or may not need depending on what you hope to achieve.
In a recording studio, an engineer would spend a bit of time matching the correct microphone to the particular player and instrument, since more than just about any other acoustic instrument, the sax has a very wide range of tonal possibilities.
As a home recorder, the first thing you need to think about is the room that you will be recording in. What size is it and how does it sound? If you are recording in a very small room, then the reflections in your room probably don’t sound very good. In this case you will want to choose a dynamic microphone and position the microphone closer to the sax, about six inches away from the bell to minimize the sound of your room in your recordings.
If on the other hand you have a nice large sounding room to record in, you can position the mic further away to get more of the room sound in your recording. In this case you should consider condenser microphones as they capture much more detail in the recording.
The next thing to look for in your usb mic is does it have a headphone socket on it? This is important because you can plug headphones into the socket and listen to your recording live without any delay. You can then move the position of your sax relative to the microphone to experiment and find a nicer sound for your recordings.
For more information about USB Microphones and a handy chart to compare features checkout my site www.usbmicrophone.info [sorry, since the publication of this article, this link has become inactive].
With a copy of Reaper and a USB Microphone you have everything you need to start making self recordings. Listen to yourself playing, analyse your strengths and weaknesses and then focus on eliminating your weaknesses, and you will start to see rapid benefits in your saxophone playing.