The saxophone family is large and consists of more than eight different types and sizes. The radiation patterns are very complex and it might require some experimenting with the microphone placement to find the desired sound. The overtones and the many fine details of any saxophone require a microphone that handles high frequencies and has a high-level of accuracy as well – on- and off-axis.
Saxophones radiate sound from the tone holes as well as from the bell. The most natural pickup is achieved if the microphone captures a balanced mixture of these sources.
Attaching the microphone directly on the saxophone gives the player freedom too move around but also limits the number of sound holes covered by one microphone. This is an issue especially on larger saxophones like the baritone or the bass.
The spot slightly to the saxophone player’s right hand side, next to the bell, is a good starting position to mount a microphone. This position represents many of the different sound sources the saxophone offers. We want to capture the different sources as evenly as possible. In this placement, the bell might sound too “midrange” but offers high level audio and good separation onstage. For more information, read the Mounting the microphone
Types of microphones
Omnidirectional (pressure) microphones have the great advantage of picking up sound evenly from all directions (although some “omnidirectional” microphones are slightly directional at the highest frequencies). Using an omnidirectional microphone is appropriate when you want to pick up the full sound of the instrument and you can maneuver it (using a gooseneck) a short distance away from the instrument.
Using an omnidirectional microphone – like the 4006ES Omnidirectional Microphone
or the 4061 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphone
– allows you to pick any one place, close to the instrument. If you use a gooseneck, you can place the mic a short distance from the instrument if you prefer. Using an omnidirectional microphone ensures the sound will not lack low-frequency due to the proximity effect as when using directional microphones. Proximity effect is an increase in bass or low-frequency response when a sound source is close to a directional microphone.
Using a directional microphone like the 4099 Instrument Microphone
or the 4011ES Cardioid Microphone
has the advantage of being able to focus on the sound of the key instrument, isolating it from surrounding sound sources, such as other instruments onstage or the PA system. On the other hand, directional microphones suffer from the proximity effect and therefore require more adjustment to find the preferred position. Moving the microphone close to the instrument will increase the low-end response, which might be desirable.