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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #1
Had a bit of an epiphany last night. Setting up and sound-checking, what I could hear of my sound out front was very shrill. Actually, over the last few gigs I've heard the same thing but for some reason ignored it. This time, since we run sound from the stage on small jobs and the drummer controls it, I asked him to 'take some top off'. He complied but I could still hear it. In case you're thinking 'But is that what you really sound like?', it isn't. I do get a lot of projection and 'zing' but my tone has a huge dark core that was not being reproduced by the PA. I use a harmonizer and it does have basic tone controls so I adjusted those, adding bottom and taking off treble. This worked. I was particularly concerned about the baritone since we're doing 'Digging On James Brown' now and that low A needs to be deep (ala Krupka). So, I dialed it in on tenor and it was great all night long on alto, tenor and bari. Just knowing how good it sounded out front seemed to put me into a different zone and I was sailing all night. Everybody in the band commented on the solos and I got a lot of audience response. I play with several groups and sometimes have a big PA with sound man so I'll have to use those tone controls in different ways in different environments.
You don't have to have any device on stage but you do have to be persistent in getting the sound man to fix you. They don't know what you want to sound like so its up to you do get it like you want it.
I have done this for many years with many sound men but was taking too much for granted with this particular sound situation. On one large outside gig the sound man asked me if I had any tone controls on stage and if I could take some top off. This guy is excellent and does most of our outdoor stuff - one of the top sound men I have worked with and always has a great attitude - believe it or not.
 

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Since I mostly always use a stand mic (most of the time with a sound back shield ) , my biggest problem thru the years is that I never know what is coming out in front through the mains, especially in larger venues or outside concerts. I know that if I used wireless, I would probably be better off with respect to this , but I just don't like to use wireless. I have learned how to communicate to whoever sets the sound to take some top or highs out so I don't sound like a kazoo (this has already happened to me in the past) In a smaller venue, if I am standing near or in front of one of the mains , I can usually judge what is coming out in the room better.
With all of that being said, do you have any tips for hearing your sound out front when on a stand mic ? I know I don't always trust monitors either.
 

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I always walk the crowd area before and during a concert just to see what I sound like. Like you say I can sound great on some sound systems and like a kazoo at other events. Same wireless, same mackie head and speakers. I never take it for granted anymore. And I'll check on solos to see if they turned me down and forgot to bring me back up > K
 

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Common folly. The house will sound very muddy from the stage, when adjusted properly for the crowd. Some folks can't stand it, and as a result treat their audience to an icepick in every ear. Be glad you discovered it. One solution is to add monitors, just to add back the treble missing on stage.
 

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I always walk the crowd area before and during a concert just to see what I sound like. Like you say I can sound great on some sound systems and like a kazoo at other events. Same wireless, same mackie head and speakers. I never take it for granted anymore. And I'll check on solos to see if they turned me down and forgot to bring me back up > K
I agree - that is probably the best way, but not possible if using the stage - set up stand mic. If you walk out in front and hear yourself, how do you solve the problem of getting back on stage (lets say in an outdoor concert) and then relying on stage monitors and then the band pumps up the volume. You give signals to the sound man to give more monitor for the sax , but it doesn't always work out that way unfortunately. I know there are probably a thousand threads on this, but I have been frustrated for years with this stuff.
 

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Common folly. The house will sound very muddy from the stage, when adjusted properly for the crowd. Some folks can't stand it, and as a result treat their audience to an icepick in every ear. Be glad you discovered it. One solution is to add monitors, just to add back the treble missing on stage.
I agree also, the stage sound is always much different and what I hate is that some people shoot videos from the stage sound and the band is pumped up but the sax tone DOES NOT always represent your sound , 9 out of 10 times it is buried in the mix of drums , bass and mainly guitars, if you are playing with a louder band. If you are playing with a more acoustic type band , it is not as much of a problem.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #7
Okay, I use a stand mic because in my main group I'm standing behind a tall 'front' in a 3-piece horn section - I ain't going nowhere! Now, I also use a 'Vocalist Live III' harmonizer on some tunes to add to the horn sound or when I'm playing as the only horn, to sound like several saxes doing my riffs. I take it off on solos of course. Because of this, I need a good monitor so I have a small Mackie powered monitor that sits on another mic stand. I'm sending a wet signal to the board so what I hear is what the audience hears. When doing set-up sound check, I turn the monitor off so I can hear the front as well as myself in the other players' monitors. In this circumstance I find it easy to tell if my sound is too bright or dark out front, particularly in clubs like last night - when I played at sound check it was just all treble (the 'ice-pick' metaphor is perfect!) - if I walked in and heard that I would turn around and go right back out. The sound man took all the high end out and it was still bad so I fixed it with the tone controls on the harmonizer which normally just sit at 12:00, halfway. I'm going to leave them like I had them last night and make changes as needed depending on the circumstances of each job.
My next one is a different outfit and it will be a very low-volume job where I won't use much PA - maybe only my monitor. The one after that will be a more normal gig with still another group, low to moderate volume in a small outdoor venue. My focus on both jobs will be to get my front sound as close to my natural tone as possible, then add a little reverb.

Using a reflector; I have made and used stand-mounted reflectors for the last 30 years but after getting the little monitor I was able to retire it. The added benefit is that now more of my actual sound gets out to dancers and others within a certain distance. A little-known benefit to using the reflector (if its big enough) is the sound man at smaller venues does not get that actual sound off the bell of the horn so he will turn you up a little more. I've had the idiots tell me at sound check that I was too loud without the mic. I had to remind them that the band was sober and playing quietly for now plus there were not 100 people crowding the dance floor between me and him - but guess what? The idiot never turned the mic back up. I have been fighting these idiots for 60 years. For the most part they are not interested in helping you do the gig and feel good about it - I think they are all pissed that they're not performing on stage.
Finally, a little trick that helps you tell what the front is doing - if the sound man will cooperate, ask him to temporarily put on a couple of echo repeats at high volume. This puts a 'tail' on the sound so you can hear it as soon as you stop playing. In this scenario you would play short single notes at high volume. I use reverb on my system for the same reason - helps me hear what it sounds like. Of course, the same thing goes out front but no tech has yet complained. In fact one guy, very competent with a great attitude, asked me if I minded if he increased reverb on my mic. Every time we play at that club, which furnishes the PA, lights and operator, we get him to record it off the board. It has been good enough to use for 'live CDs'.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I neglected something - I didn't mention using the stage monitors (wedges) that you always find with PA systems because I have never found them to be of any use and they always sound awful. Once I started using the reflectors my stage monitor days were over.
Monitors can sound good if they are placed properly and operated with care. In my experience the best monitors I ever heard were flown up in the ceiling pointing down at your head. Low-volume situations now are seeing bands actually put the PA behind them so they literally hear the front. this is also self-limiting because when somebody turns up too high it will feedback. One trick is to put them in the rear corners of the stage each pointing at the opposite front corner. This helps eliminate feedback and gives excellent coverage for the band. The audience hears as well as if the speakers were out front and the mix is perfect because it is run from the stage and everybody hears exactly what they are doing.
 

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I have probably been in all of those situations, from a total acoustic gig in a small restaurant where you can actually hear your true sound , to large stages and outdoor stages where it is a total crapshoot. The sound back reflector is still one of the least expensive and best investments I ever made. Years ago , I used to use a harmonizer on the horn to get octave riffs etc. It was pretty cool , but a hired sound guy messed that up too and half way through the gig, I unplugged it . The worst sound , as I have heard, is when someone shoots a live video almost from the stage and gets the whole electric band sound pumping and gets your sax sound coming out of those floor wedges . The horn sounds like it is coming through a transistor radio, awful .
 

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I have probably been in all of those situations, from a total acoustic gig in a small restaurant where you can actually hear your true sound , to large stages and outdoor stages where it is a total crapshoot. The sound back reflector is still one of the least expensive and best investments I ever made. Years ago , I used to use a harmonizer on the horn to get octave riffs etc. It was pretty cool , but a hired sound guy messed that up too and half way through the gig, I unplugged it . The worst sound , as I have heard, is when someone shoots a live video almost from the stage and gets the whole electric band sound pumping and gets your sax sound coming out of those floor wedges . The horn sounds like it is coming through a transistor radio, awful .
Yes. Those stage videos record the worst sax sound ever. The guitars sound great and I sound flatter than a pancake. Just terrible, really cringe-worthy.
 

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Several common problems are highlighted in this thread. Starting with poor on-stage sound, I agree the solution is either the inexpensive, plastic sound back monitor (mounted on the mic stand) or a GOOD monitor speaker. The advantage of the latter is you get at least some idea of your sound through the P.A. Several years back I finally broke down and invested it an excellent JBL monitor and it was one of the best investments I ever made.

The other issue regarding too much of the high end in the P.A. and your actual sound out front is more difficult because there's just no easy way to know what it sounds like out front. One thing to keep in mind if you're using a house mic (usually something like a Shure 57, but many others as well) is to roll back the highs on the P.A. mixer to some extent. If there's a sound person, tell them to do that. A better solution is the use an RE20 mic, which is considerably 'warmer' for a sax than most mics.

As a partial solution to both the above issues, I also like having the mains back behind the band in the rear corners (where they won't feed back) as 1saxman points out, but that's not always (or even usually) possible.

Best of all is playing in a smaller venue with a band that doesn't crank everything up to '10' so you can play your sax without a mic. Unfortunately, only on about 10% of my gigs is that possible.
 
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