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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently took home a Ted Klum Acoustimer 2 for tenor to try out. The playability of the piece is extraordinary, and the tone is fantastic.

What I'm finding, however, is that I cannot hear the horn that well when I'm playing it. When I stand faced against a wall and play, everything is great (as can be expected). However, playing in typical situations - away from facing a wall - while playing with a play-along recording, or with other musicians - the lack of volume is pretty much intolerable. The sound I hear is akin to that of someone playing in the next room with the door shut. I've been tempted to feel around inside the bell to determine if someone hasn't cunningly sneaked a pair of socks into it while I was lost deep in the groove of my C major scales.

The piece is only slightly less open (6*) than my regular piece (Otto Link STM 7). I've tried lighter reeds and firmer reeds, and 3 different ligatures - the stock 2 screw, a Marc Jean, and a François Louis - all to no marked avail.

Any thoughts on the matter?
 

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I have a Klum Tonamax 6 which is just about the same as the Acoustimer but made of Hard Rubber. I'm amazed by it's sound and volume. I use Alexander DC or NY 2.5 reeds.
My horn is a Selmer Ref 36. Ligature is VD Optimum. I think your problem is affected by room acoustics or the brand of horn you are playing. I know I'll get flack for saying this, but I was told by a very well known teacher that the Selmer sax will project but it might not sound loud to the player. American horns sound big around the player but don't project as good as the Selmers. You could also try a Ploeger sound mirror if you can't hear yourself well. What horn do you play and how does the Klum compare to the mouthpiece you are used to using? Hope it works out for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your thoughts, Swaman.

I play a Yamaha Custom Zii. When I switch back and forth quickly between my usual piece - that's when the disparity is so evident - therefore room acoustics can be ruled out.
 

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Only thing I can think of is that you're getting more feedback from the STM because it's brass, so (despite the composition bite plate) it transmits "sound" a little better through your teeth and skull, than the hard rubber Klum. I think it's more about mass than rigidity - the Klum is rigid enough, but it weighs much less, true?
 

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Id have to say I doubt its material issues. Put a thick patch on both to find out. In general brighter pieces may seem louder but the frequently are not. Lower frequencies carry further...listen to your neighbor's terrible music and you will figure that out quickly. I dont pretend to have every answer but I can tell you for sure (as can pretty much any player) that you cant judge volume and projection very well from behind the horn. Over time you can lean to approximate it but your experience is very different from the audience.
 

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I have way, way too many mouthpieces. I spend way, way too much "practice" time switching between them. I waste way, way to much time listening to the variations between the pieces either up against the wall, recording, going into another room, etc. My takeaway from this is that the sound that you perceive is often quite different than the sound that you produce.

I'm assuming that the digital recorder doesn't lie and that it always accurately reproduces the mp/horn sound. Even this is questionable because my little Zoom recorder is likely biased towards highs/lows/pops/sizzles, etc. Likewise, when playing back on speakers, they would also be biased to some degree. Nonetheless, that's the best "honest" assessment of what the setup sounds like to others.

What it "feels" like to me is often quite different. I think "feel" or "perceive" is probably more accurate than what it "sounds" like to me. Playing has a lot of tactile feedback that the digital recorder removes from consideration. I have a big, fat vintage tenor piece that feels (in the mouth) larger than any bari mp I've come across. The sound that I "feel" is warm and soft, until I record it. There's a zing to it that I would not have guessed. Likewise, I've tried metal pieces that feel (in the mouth) like an irritating vibrating medical device. When recorded, they sound much less grating than I would have guessed.

General volume is similar. I refaced a mouthpiece and gave it to a friend for a trial. She said that it didn't have enough volume for her big band gigs. Turns out that when she went back to her regular piece the other band members noticed that she didn't have the volume of the trial piece. What you perceive and what you produce can be quite different.

I always think of this when somebody says "This mouthpiece makes me sound just like X (insert famous name)." Turns out that it's all in their head.

Mark
 

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^ BINGO!

Its amazing how many people behave like the sax is a quiet instrument. Sure I understand fighting electric guitars, but otherwise...ask your wife or neighbors!

Discounting the pieces designed to for sheer volume, I would suggest that if you take a group of well made mouthpieces and really compare their volume and carrying properties from in front of the horn I suggest you would find them far closer than what is believed. There are likely to be some differences but not nearly as much as most players believe.

A mouthpiece that is brighter sounds louder when close. A mouthpiece that is uneven thru the range will frequently sound louder than one that is not...but thats not necessarily a good thing. We are all in physical world and subject to the laws of physics. When you gain something in one area, you lose it in another. There are only so many eggs in the basket. This is why I focus on making a piece sound as good as I possibly can. It might cost a decibel or two but complexity and depth increase. You really have to pick what is important to you and know that you cant have it all...no mater what you hear in marketing. A balanced approach is important. Just my 2 cents that I think is an important 2 cents.
 

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...I can tell you for sure (as can pretty much any player) that you cant judge volume and projection very well from behind the horn. Over time you can lean to approximate it but your experience is very different from the audience.
This is so true! It's always bugged me to some extent because I want to know what the audience is hearing. For playing live, you can use a monitor to hear yourself. A plastic sound back reflector, clipped to the mic stand will do the trick in a similar fashion to standing in front of a wall. But even with a monitor you won't know how well the sound is projecting. I sometimes ask someone I know in the audience to let me know how the mix is, and MOST importantly, how well they can hear the sax!

Having said all that, some mpcs are louder than others.
 

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I have way, way too many mouthpieces. I spend way, way too much "practice" time switching between them. I waste way, way to much time listening to the variations between the pieces either up against the wall, recording, going into another room, etc. My takeaway from this is that the sound that you perceive is often quite different than the sound that you produce.

I'm assuming that the digital recorder doesn't lie and that it always accurately reproduces the mp/horn sound. Even this is questionable because my little Zoom recorder is likely biased towards highs/lows/pops/sizzles, etc. Likewise, when playing back on speakers, they would also be biased to some degree. Nonetheless, that's the best "honest" assessment of what the setup sounds like to others.
I've been caught up in this all too often. But can anyone explain to me why I can hear a MUCH greater difference between mpcs, and much more subtle tone variations, when playing against a reflecting surface or even just out into the room, than when I record myself on something like a Zoom recorder? My guess is the Zoom recorder, and speakers or headphones for the playback, don't reproduce all the nuances of tone. I hear almost the same tone in a typical home recording regardless of the mpc! It's different in a quality studio recording, where those subtleties come out more.

I'm sure a recording, of almost any reasonable quality, is fine for reviewing how well you articulate and play the music, but in terms of assessing TONE quality, I'm not so sure....
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks guys - I agree with pretty much everything you've all stated. I guess it's a question of how much sound feedback I want. I'm sure you've all had the experience of making a recording and your microphone level isn't up high enough, so you can't hear your horn's dynamics or subtle articulations we'll enough through your headphone monitor; that's what playing the Klum has been like for me.
 

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JL, I think the wall method is more accurate than being behind the horn but compared to the recording consider this: You are not recording reflected sound. Sound waves are behaving much differently AND you are choosing where to place microphones. Im not an audio engineer but I bet sound waves are doing all sorts of crazy things when reflected. It could create different harmonics, overtones, and just a different presentation of sound. We tend to think of sound as absolute until it is let loose in the wild and behaves the way IT wants too.
 

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If you're walking down the street in a residential neighborhood, and you hear a piano or something - saxophone, accordion, I don't care, but an acoustic instrument - even though they probably have most of the windows and doors shut and you're getting a small fraction of the sound - you know whether it's live or a recording. I don't know if it's the fault of the recording or the speakers or what, but recording fidelity in this sense is very low, that's my opinion. But if you're going to be depending on a microphone anyway, in performance, who cares, that's the end of any subtle tone variations.
 

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Thanks guys - I agree with pretty much everything you've all stated. I guess it's a question of how much sound feedback I want. I'm sure you've all had the experience of making a recording and your headphone level isn't up high enough, so you can't hear your dynamics or subtle articulations we'll enough; that's what playing the Klum has been like for me.

Thanks for bringing up the subject. I think its an interesting topic of discussion overall. Its not at all limited to your experience with those two pieces. We all struggle with it either consciously or unconsciously.
 

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Listen to the difference in sound you get when playing against a full length glass door, a typical drywall surface and say a hardwood panel or concrete wall and then hang a carpet on the wall and you will see how much the reflector influences the sound you hear.

Recording far field will give you what the audience hears. Recording nearfield will give you the most complex sound. Midfield will be different again.
 

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To be clear, you have recorded yourself and stated the issue of 'volume' doesn't present itself on the other end of the horn i.e. the listener's side. This is maybe an issue of what you hear when you're behind the horn vs. what can be heard by others in the room. To be honest, I think this phenomenon is responsible for the ongoing 'materials matters' debate .... <opens huge can of worms> i.e. what we hear when we are playing, is not exactly what others hear, sort of like when you hear your voice on a recording and don't realize it's you.
Let me know what conclusions your trials lead you to!
 

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I think there are as many truths in this issue as there are opinions. I always marvel at the "strength" of other players next to me in the ensemble and wonder how MY sound is comparing to theirs out in front of the band. I hear my fellow players (ALL acoustic, no amplification) better than I hear myself. The natural tendency is to push harder but I know that is not the answer.

As most of you know, I abhor mic'ing instruments for live performances and I could go on and on citing examples - but I won't. Suffice to say that mic'ing a horn, to MY ears, distorts the tone and UN-balances the ensemble - each instrument has its strengths, weaknesses, and role in the ensemble and to mic one is sure to UN-balance the ensemble's sound.

I know, I know - many of you play in electric ensembles and cannot fathom NOT mic'ing your instrument or any other, for that matter. But from an audience's perspective, I can tell you that what you THINK is working is not. I regularly attend modern big-band concerts (family players, don't you know) and sometimes the OVER-mic'ing is unpleasant. True, one operative word there - OVER-mic-ing - and I suppose much of that problem is with the sound-man, but it happens way too often. After a while, it seems to me that the individual musicians should speak up about it, but they seem to be in a volume-zone and oblivious to it.

I have made some recordings over my playing career and on one occasion, rather than run everyone through a mixing board and "mixing" the various tracks after the sessions, we set up a stand about 15' in front of the band with two stereo recording mics on it. Two other mics were scattered throughout the rhythm section but not focused on any one instrument. The end result was amazing to me - the band sounded like the audience hears it - no UN-balancing by mics and the overall sound was pure. THAT told me all I needed to know about how I was projecting, how I sounded in the ensemble, and it was another lesson in playing dynamics.

I've also been recorded by members of the audience on little hand-held devices. Yuk - most of those devices have directional mics that focus on the loudest sound and the results of that are just awful. Not only is there the constant sense that the recording is switching from instrument to instrument, each instrument focused upon is distorted and buzzy.

The comment that American horns don't project as well as Selmers . . . well, I strongly disagree with that. I'm playing American soprano and alto, and a French clarinet. All project equally well. My Selmer saxophones are back-ups but I'll assure you they project just as well as do my Buescher and Martin. It is the condition of the instrument, the compatibility among the horn, the mouthpiece/reed set-up, and the player that makes for projection, not the brands involved. DAVE
 

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JL, I think the wall method is more accurate than being behind the horn but compared to the recording consider this: You are not recording reflected sound.

We tend to think of sound as absolute until it is let loose in the wild and behaves the way IT wants too.
Excellent point Phil, and I couldn't agree more. I was speaking more generally than just blowing at the wall. I never mic myself when I rehearse with my band and we play in a fairly 'live' space, but with good acoustics overall. I hear myself just fine, even with the drums & electric guitar & bass. In this setting, not playing against a wall, I can hear a very distinct difference when I change to a different mpc, much more than what I hear on a recording. I think that might have more to do with the acoustic sound vs the sound that is carried through a mic and recording media, than to any reflecting surfaces in the room. But I could be wrong about that. One thing for sure, the room itself makes a huge difference in how you sound.

This is really a fascinating topic for me. Sometimes I walk out in the room to check the mix in the band (minus my horn, of course) and I'm often surprised at how much better the sound is out front than on the bandstand. I've also noticed the guitar is much louder out front, even though I'm farther away from the amp. I think a similar thing might happen with the horn, at least in some cases.

And man, do I agree with Dave; if I had the option, I'd never use a mic. On some gigs I can play unmiked, but on others it just isn't an option if I want to be heard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I feel that as saxophone players we have an intimacy with our instrument that musicians of other instruments cannot have. Woodwinds are the only instrument that enters its player's body; as a result, there's an inter-cranial tonal/aural perspective that cannot be experienced beyond the player himself. On one hand, the player cannot ever know absolutely what his audience hears, and, alternately, the audience cannot ever know in any absolute sense what the player hears. I'm tempted to say it's the most existentialist of all instruments - but Existentialism is depressing, so I won't say that.
 

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I usually sound better on a good recording than what I hear live from my horn.
The operant word is "good", which means the mic isn't stuck in the bell but place to get the best response and least noise.
 
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