Microphone Choices

The Author playing Baritone Sax – The Motown Review

Which microphone choice?

Let’s look at a few options.

It really depends upon what we are doing. There are lots of microphones on offer so we have many choices. Here we will discuss just four of the microphones that I use and these fall into two types. Condensor and Dynamic.

For stage -Shure SM58, Shure SM57, AKG D5 or Pro35cw.

For Recording – Audio Technica AT2035 and Shure SM58, Shure SM57, AKG D5 read on for reasons I would choose these.

Condensor microphones

Photo taken with Focos

Condenser microphones are capable of picking up higher frequencies. They do require power to work though – often called phantom power. Phantom power is typical around 48V or less and is supplied through the xlr cable from the desk or transmitter, check that your desk has phantom power without which the mic will not work. They are not as rugged as dynamic mics and can be more affected by excessive humidity and condensation.

In a cold environment the players breath will condensate inside brass instruments and may drip onto the condenser capsule, this can cause dropouts crackles pops and a host of other problems.

Audio Tecnica AT2035

The Audio Technica AT2035 has a great sound for a relatively inexpensive mic, it has a switchable 80Hz high pass filter to remove rumble and a switchable 10db pad if your instrument is too “hot”. I use it primarily for recording saxophone but it is versatile enough to record vox and acoustic guitar.

It is a condenser mic and must have phantom power. It is great for vocals and capture the upper frequencies of your voice with clarity. Its sensitivity and pickup pattern make it harder to use on stage as it may feed back especially so if monitors are in close proximity to the mic.

Radio microphones

Photo taken with Focos

When playing a saxophone on stage and playing into a microphone on a stand the saxophonist is restricted in their movements. The sax has to stand in the correct position just in front of the mic. This restricts the players movements and limits eye contact with the rest of the band. The beauty of a radio mic is the freedom it affords the player. It clips to the bell of the mic and the transmitter is worn on the hip. The performer is now free to wander any where in range of the receiver.

Audio Technica Pro35w

The quality of the Pro35cw works well enough on stage but would show its limitations if used for recording. It is a condenser mic (condenser mic have capacitors in them which is why they need a small electric current to make them work) so the caution about getting the capsule wet still applies. In this case the phantom power is tiny and supplied by batteries in the transmitter.

Dynamic microphones

Photo taken with Focos

Dynamic microphones are rugged, they do not require additional power and can be seen in use on most stages in the world.

The Shure SM58

The Shure SM58 is an excellent mic and is generally used for vocals. Its design has not changed in years and so is a tried and trusted microphone. It comes with a filter which is there to help stop the pressure wave caused by saying or singing words that start with a “P” or “T” Its supporters range from the likes of U2, Henry Rollins, Patti Smith and Sheryl Crow to name just a few. It can be used for both recording and stage where its ability to reject feedback is welcomed by sound engineers all over the globe. On stage it has a warm solid sound. Ive seen models with significant dents in the windshield still functioning perfectly.

Photo taken with Focos

The Shure SM57

The Shure SM57 is very similar and due to the nature of its “windshield” can get really close to its sound source. It is great for snare drums, brass and wood wind and a favourite for miking up guitar amps too.

The AKG D5

Another Mic that I have used which gives a brighter sound and picks up the upper frequencies of the saxophone is the AKG D5 seen here below. The design of the diaphragm is such that there is an increased sensitivity to the high frequencies and because it is a dynamic mic there is no need for power. It is an ideal microphone for street performances where it can be used with battery powered amplifiers such as the Roland “Street Cube Ex”

Photo taken with Focos

Shock Mounts

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Recording requires use of a shock mount to help isolate the mic from low rumble which can travel up the mic stand to the microphone.

Cajon Project

Photo taken with Focos

This is the second of three Cajons that we are making, read on and watch the video to see how its done, feel free to suggest anything that you think I have missed.

Please send any links to your project if you decide to use these plans. There is no protection to prevent you forwarding the xls sheet to other people but please don’t as it doesn’t help me at all. Also please subscribe for notifications about this and future projects.

I have seen Cajons at open mic and folk gigs and thought, “I should be able to make one of those at a fraction of the cost” so I did, in fact I made three! I also thought it would be great to share that with my participants. So we set too, my son and I and filmed the process to be able to put together a short journal of how we approached the project.

I also created a small spreadsheet that will work out the sizes for the panels from just a few simple dimensions that the DIY person loads into it.

If you wish to donate please feel free to do so using the link supplied below, this helps to support the maintenance of this website and supports the creation of new and exciting content that I really hope you find useful.

Also thanks to those of you who already support me! You know who you are and I am most grateful!

“Keep banging it out!”

Donation to support my work in the community?

As you all know, I love to teach, encourage and help people on their musical journey. If you would like to say thank you please consider making a donation to support my work and the upkeep of this site. I have set it at the price of a coffee, if you would like to add multiples, you can do so in the link.


Kindrogan Forest, bag pipes and ukuleles…

Never in my lifetime has going on holiday depended on the decisions of two parliamentary ministers before, but reading between the lines from Boris and Nicola – it’s a yes! The holiday is on!

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A family holiday in bonnie Scotland and this time of year it is indeed oh so bonnie.

I hear songs every where, do we take the high road or the low road. Flower of Scotland, Highland cathedral to name but a few, unfortunately these tunes are relayed only in my head, as the social distancing makes the presence of a pipe band a highly unlikely scenario. It has been a while since we attended the Highland games and they are everything you would expect, and some things you wouldn’t.

Scotland is a beautiful country and I can see why Scottish friends of mine rave about the beloved “Bonnie Scotland”

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Tossing the caber, highland dancing and of course piper competitions. Prizes consist of mostly whisky, whisky and more whisky.

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My brother living in Scotland says the pipes can sound fantastic especially if they are in the next Glen! I hear where he’s coming from, I once played saxophone with The Lincolnshire Concert Band in Lincoln Cathedral and we played together with The RAF Waddington pipe band. I was on first alto which puts you at the outer end of the saxes, next to me was a piper, right next to me! It was a wee bit loud.

One of the pieces we played together with the pipe band was “Highland cathedral”

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Arranging music for a concert band requires a lot of knowledge regarding the keys for each instrument, Flutes in C, Saxes in Bb, Trumpet in Bb, Saxes in Eb, bassoon in C – bass clef, horn in F, and Eb horn to name but a few and trombones require a paragraph to themselves. The good thing is that this is relatively straightforward once you get used to it.

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Bagpipes are different again, they can be in different keys. The usual key is A however they tune to a different A than the common designated A which is 440Hz this makes arranging for them tricky. I think Finley the lead piper may have acquired the arrangement or done it himself. The result was a success and I particularly enjoyed the chance to play with the pipe band.

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We took our guitars and ukuleles and had a couple of singalongs, the weather was kinder than the 10.5 mile walk over the top of Kindrogan forest. I hope to return again another year when things get back to normal and we can again hear massed pipes skirling through the magnificent highlands..

Gardening, wars and music…

Today is a beautiful summers day and due to spending the last three months working from home the garden has been a godsend.

Photo taken with Focos

The hanging baskets look absolutely amazing considering that when I bought the plants from the garden centre there was a limited selection. It would have been a mistake to not go with the tools I had available to me . I could have lamented the lack of choice but I bought what they had.

Photo taken with Focos

“Pack in as many of them as you can” was the advice from my elderly neighbour. Ron loves his garden and a man in his nineties has a wealth of knowledge. So proud of his war stories, he would have me spellbound by his tales of escaping the enemy in the darkness with limited equipment. “Battle order only!” they were ordered. Belt buckles were to be wrapped in rag to avoid any clinking sounds, other advice was given about where to sleep and where to avoid. The other advice was from my dad also a war veteran, “Once a week give them a feed of phostrogen that’ll give them enough nourishment ’till they next get fed”

But I digress, their gardening knowledge and advice has always been top class. And so. armed with this info I packed in my two types of petunias and some home grown lobelia and watering every day with a weekly feed of phostrogen I now have seven amazing hanging baskets to enjoy daily.

So what has this to do with music you may well ask.

Well the inspiration comes from appreciating someone else’s creativity and wanting to emulate it. Asking for advice and putting it into practise is what happens when we rub shoulders with other musicians, playing or practising every day is similar to watering the baskets. It’s possible to miss a day here and there but leave it too long and it begins to show.

And the weekly feed? I’ll let you work that one out. If you do, please share it with others in an answer below.

And remember You may have a lot of the tools to do the job already but may just need a little pointing in the right direction to get the best out of them.

Stay safe and enjoy your playing.

Keep belting it out! 🙂



Why FretsnReeds

Playing an instrument is a little like driving a car.

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At first every manoeuvre demands full concentration, then gradually we no longer need to think about the mechanics of changing gear or applying brakes etc. After a while we are then able to plan our journeys without having to actively think about gear changes, indicating or applying the hand break, we can carry out a conversation and listen to the radio.

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In the same way changing chords whilst strumming and singing will become a simple action. This can be achieved much quicker with structured sessions tailored to your specific circumstances.

Playing in a section requires dedication and slick control of your instrument, with structured lessons focused on making the advancement to enable you to take the shortest route, FretsnReeds can optimise your learning curve to help you get there as efficiently as possible, whilst having some fun along the way.


Playing the saxophone requires breath control, correct lip position, accurate fingering and lots of practise.

Correct emboucher is Paramount for developing a good tone.

What affects the tone?

  • Choice of reed
  • Mouthpiece (MPC)design
  • Chamber size
  • Open or closed lay
  • Choice of material
  • Ligature type and position
  • Saxophone design
  • You the player

The pursuit of a great tone is always paramount in developing your own sound. That along with developing an armoury of riffs and phrases for those students that prefer playing by ear rather than playing by sight reading music notation. See more information at FretsnReeds.com

Learning to read music can be a massive advantage when learning to master the saxophone. It can open up a huge resource when learning phrases in all genres.