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I have a friend that plays in a quintet. The guitar, piano and bass are amplified. They don't play that loud but he does have a problem hearing himself and getting his sound out to the audience. I went to see him and while playing tenor(10M/Dukoff Hollywood) I thought it was fine but then he took out his alto(6M/Guardala) and the sound was much clearer and easily heard. His tenor sound by comparison was dead in the mix. The group doesn't use a mixer and PA system. It's just ever instrument for themselves but it sounded pretty good aside from his tenor sound.

What can he do about the tenor. He has a great sound on that set up but it just doesn't cut thru. Should he get an amp and if so what kind?
 

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this is a very frequent “ problem” and much discussed in many other threads, but you have a different angle to this so I won’t refer you to other similar threads in spirit.


Your friend seems to have no problems to project and hear himself on alto while he does have problems on tenor?

I think this may be attributed, in parts, to the fact that alto has a “ clearer” voice but It may very well be that he doesn’t support his tenor playing with breath support, as much as he does on alto.

There is no need (unless he is playing in the open air) for a saxophonist in a quintet to use a PA, piano and bass can play softer and it normally starts with asking the drummer to play softer.

I play in a quintet too and , normally, there is no need for me to play amplified. We played a gig a week ago in a rather large room and I had my microphone very low (to hear the subtoning), but I could have played unamplified albeit sacrificing a little bit of the soft playing clarity.


In the bygone era of the greats in Jazz only singers had microphones and everybody was heard. The only reason you see microphones in many old pictures is that they were broadcasting on radio, mikes were, at the time more to capture the “ room” than a single instrument.

I have often found that people play far too loud and could play way softer.

For fun get a decibel meter app and see how many decibels at a 3-4 meters he plays, I am sure that he plays plenty more than 90db.
 

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this is a very frequent “ problem” and much discussed in many other threads, but you have a different angle to this so I won’t refer you to other similar threads in spirit.


Your friend seems to have no problems to project and hear himself on alto while he does have problems on tenor?

I think this may be attributed, in parts, to the fact that alto has a “ clearer” voice but It may very well be that he doesn’t support his tenor playing with breath support, as much as he does on alto.

There is no need (unless he is playing in the open air) for a saxophonist in a quintet to use a PA, piano and bass can play softer and it normally starts with asking the drummer to play softer.

I play in a quintet too and , normally, there is no need for me to play amplified. We played a gig a week ago in a rather large room and I had my microphone very low (to hear the subtoning), but I could have played unamplified albeit sacrificing a little bit of the soft playing clarity.


In the bygone era of the greats in Jazz only singers had microphones and everybody was heard. The only reason you see microphones in many old pictures is that they were broadcasting on radio, mikes were, at the time more to capture the “ room” than a single instrument.

I have often found that people play far too loud and could play way softer.

For fun get a decibel meter app and see how many decibels at a 3-4 meters he plays, I am sure that he plays plenty more than 90db.
There is a neurobiological reason for this phenomenon. I'll try to make this as short as possible but bear with me:

Most of the "identifying" hearing focuses on the higher frequencies, partially because higher frequencies allow for better positional hearing based on the phase shift between the left and right ear. In other words, it is not just the delay between left and right but more important is really the phase shift. With age, you lose the higher frequency hearing and as a consequence, the specific pathway that encodes this type of positional hearing/listening starts to degenerate.

The result is the so-called party effect, you are at a party and you hear a lot of noise but you can no longer filter out the one relevant conversation that you want to listen to.

Now, one of the more interesting new findings in hearing research is that musicians or actually people who start playing in bands/orchestras start to regenerate/reestablish the neuronal pathway - allegedly based on the need to identify their own instrument and "significant others" and they put in much more efforts / training than other folks who are mostly in one-to-one conversations and only occasionally go to a party. Or use loss of selective hearing over the ambient noise of the TV as an excuse.

Bottom line is that, especially newbies often drown out the other members of the band and are still unable to hear themselves. This is most pronounced in bass players (from my own observations based on a limited sample) and the higher the frequencies are, the easier it gets to hear yourself.

However, and this is not something that happens within a few days/weeks but may take a bit longer, it appears that the loss of "positional hearing" can be reversed through practice, at least according to the latest hearing research findings. (and don't ask me for a quote, I heard the story a few months ago on NPR and it made perfect sense to me and I read up on it but the rest ended up in that gigantic data junkyard of my memory)
 

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I play in both a few small jazz groups and a jam band (think country rock-ish/gratetful dead-ish) and when playing in small venues rarely use an amp and can be heard fine. But in a couple of our smaller venues it can be hard to hear the sax - even though it can be heard fine in the room - just because of the acoustics, not because of the other members playing too loud. In those cases I'll put a mic through the board if we are using a PA and just run a monitor facing me, but not go through the PA, or if no PA run a mic into my QSC10 powered speaker and use it just as a monitor facing me.

That said, I agree with Milandro about breath support and others playing too loud. Also, have him play both the alto and tenor for you in a non-performance setting. If the tenor is still dead, it's probably either him or the set-up, not the band or the venue.
 

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I know that when I play alto, every once in a while, it doesn't seem to matter what the set up is. It feels like a laser beam compared to my tenor. I feel like I've got a pretty big tenor sound too. Alto is just more directional I think. The sound seems to shoot out straight a lot more than the tenor does.
 

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And downstream of tenor, the same thing happens with baritone. There is something he can do that is not terribly expensive - he'll need a Shure Beta 57 mic, cable, mic stand and a small powered monitor. The monitor can sit on the floor in front of him or in another location or even be turned around to boost his room volume. It has its own tone controls and has outputs on the back to send to a PA system. Here's one of the monitors - there are several brands/prices.

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Behringer/EUROLIVE-B205D-Active-PA-Monitor-Speaker.gc
 

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There is a neurobiological reason for this phenomenon. I'll try to make this as short as possible but bear with me:

Most of the "identifying" hearing focuses on the higher frequencies, partially because higher frequencies allow for better positional hearing based on the phase shift between the left and right ear. In other words, it is not just the delay between left and right but more important is really the phase shift. With age, you lose the higher frequency hearing and as a consequence, the specific pathway that encodes this type of positional hearing/listening starts to degenerate.

The result is the so-called party effect, you are at a party and you hear a lot of noise but you can no longer filter out the one relevant conversation that you want to listen to.

Now, one of the more interesting new findings in hearing research is that musicians or actually people who start playing in bands/orchestras start to regenerate/reestablish the neuronal pathway - allegedly based on the need to identify their own instrument and "significant others" and they put in much more efforts / training than other folks who are mostly in one-to-one conversations and only occasionally go to a party. Or use loss of selective hearing over the ambient noise of the TV as an excuse.

Bottom line is that, especially newbies often drown out the other members of the band and are still unable to hear themselves. This is most pronounced in bass players (from my own observations based on a limited sample) and the higher the frequencies are, the easier it gets to hear yourself.

However, and this is not something that happens within a few days/weeks but may take a bit longer, it appears that the loss of "positional hearing" can be reversed through practice, at least according to the latest hearing research findings. (and don't ask me for a quote, I heard the story a few months ago on NPR and it made perfect sense to me and I read up on it but the rest ended up in that gigantic data junkyard of my memory)
true but then how do we explain that in the bygone era things were unamplified?

Double bass un amplified can be heard too.

But again , is like an auction, once the frenzy starts there is a race to going up and up.

I remember that my kid use to shout and I used to tell him that there was no need to do that because the man across the road wasn’t interested in what he had to say. My next door neighbor talks very loud and his friends do too.

When they are in the garden next door I hear everything they say while the conversation is conducted and a meter or two from each other.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I suggested the Mackie and Beringer small powered monitors as well. I think that's the way to go or get a mouthpiece with a smaller chamber and some plasticover reeds. I think he has such a wide open setup he would have to be Dexter Gordon to be heard.
 

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I have often found that people play far too loud and could play way softer.
This is the gist of the problem, AFAIC. When I show up for a gig and everybody is pushing in earplugs while they're setting up their amps, I know I'm in for a hard time no matter what I do.
 

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I hear what you're saying, man! I showed up to practice for the first time with a 'doo-***' group and everybody was putting ear plugs in. I knew I was in deep 'doo-doo'! It was the drummer. I ended up staying with them because I've always wanted to play some '50s and the drummer gradually responded to our persuasion to take it easy. You have to laugh at these guys sometimes, like standing there at sound check with ear plugs in asking for more monitor.:banghead:
 

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true but then how do we explain that in the bygone era things were unamplified?
That's easy, they did not have amplifiers ... (sorry, you asked for that :evil::evil:)

Just kidding ...

Double bass un amplified can be heard too.

But again , is like an auction, once the frenzy starts there is a race to going up and up.

I remember that my kid use to shout and I used to tell him that there was no need to do that because the man across the road wasn’t interested in what he had to say. My next door neighbor talks very loud and his friends do too.

When they are in the garden next door I hear everything they say while the conversation is conducted and a meter or two from each other.
Yes, you can hear double bass, especially if you are trained to hear the bass (and BTW, I love playing double bass, I have a 1920s Pfretschner and it is a sweet instrument).

The rest of your response, I am not sure whether I understand it. If there is no ambient background noise, or, I should say conflicting background noise, it is easy to hear everything regardless of whether you can identify the source. But that's not the case if you are in a crowded room where everybody is talking or, by extension, a stage where everybody around you plays an instrument and you have to find yourself in the melee.

With higher frequency, the resolution increases, take a flute or a soprano and they are easy to find but go with a deeper tone and it makes it much more difficult to pinpoint the source of it. That is one of the reasons why in stereo or surround sound systems, you have several tweeters but only one subwoofer because it doesn't matter where that one is placed since it is impossible to locate the audio source anyway. Now you have to think about it backwards, you are the subwoofer and you are trying to find yourself.

And apologies if I misunderstood you.
 

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true but then how do we explain that in the bygone era things were unamplified?
Instead of mixers, mics and amplifiers, there were conductors.
 

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He is playing a very spread setup on tenor whereas alto, in addition to pitch differences is much more focused. It is all together possible that his upper frequencies are getting lost and eaten by his surroundings.
 

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talking , eating and dining while a band is playing is not new and yet back in the day, all musicians cut through this background noise without problems , you could even hear guitars, before amps they went electric... but I don’t have to convince anyone. Playing loud is a race to nowhere, you play louder, the audience talks louder, then you want to play even louder and at some point the people in the audience are no better off that in a rock concert.

I have walked away from places where volume was too loud.
 

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talking , eating and dining while a band is playing is not new and yet back in the day, all musicians cut through this background noise without problems , you could even hear guitars, before amps they went electric... but I don’t have to convince anyone. Playing loud is a race to nowhere, you play louder, the audience talks louder, then you want to play even louder and at some point the people in the audience are no better off that in a rock concert.

I have walked away from places where volume was too loud.
+1
 

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as for PA systems (which could have been used from players to amplify an instrument) not being there ( when saxophone and other players played unamplified) the oldest systems were already available in 1911, but singers, only, used them for a very long time and not even from the start of this technology because the sound was pretty awful.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_address_system

This is a Sound Magnifying Phonograph from Magnavox



this is one such thing converted to be used with a guitar

 

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It's a real-world problem. Your friend needs to amplify. Something small like Roland's AC60 will do it, or any acoustic guitar amp or keyboard amplifier. I like the AC60 for small gigs - Its got rudimentary FX, EQ, and phantom power. Better to have it than to not. It sets up in minutes, and you can leave it in the trunk if you don't need it.
 

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talking , eating and dining while a band is playing is not new and yet back in the day, all musicians cut through this background noise without problems , you could even hear guitars, before amps they went electric... but I don’t have to convince anyone. Playing loud is a race to nowhere, you play louder, the audience talks louder, then you want to play even louder and at some point the people in the audience are no better off that in a rock concert.

I have walked away from places where volume was too loud.
Very true and usually it doesn't bother me. There are exceptions, like a bartender shaking a drink completely off rhythm that can throw you off very badly but that applied to me more playing classical guitar.
 

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He is playing a very spread setup on tenor whereas alto, in addition to pitch differences is much more focused. It is all together possible that his upper frequencies are getting lost and eaten by his surroundings.
That was one of my points, too, the solution may be to play altissimo only ...
 
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