Quick Tip: EQing Saxophone


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Nothing sounds quite like the saxophone, and proper EQ can be the difference between a screaming pop alto solo and what appears to be middle school jazz band. In this tutorial, we'll examine the EQ range of the alto saxophone to deal with typical issues like muddiness, boxiness, and to add clarity and presence. Though this tut uses Alto saxophone, what we discuss here is directly applicable to all members of the saxophone family.

Step 1

I've recorded a last chorus, Earth Wind and Fire style pop alto solo in my home studio with a blue microphone running into an apogee duet recording into Logic (any DAW will do). For those of you without a live player handy, an audio loop will do just fine, or as a last resort turn to a software instrument (though I wouldn't recommend it, I haven't heard any that can realistically capture a sax solo).

Here's the dry sound of the saxophone with no EQ or processing.

I feel that the sound is a little muddy, boxy, and there's a little too much of a nasal quality to it (typical with my blue baby bottle).

Step 3

The Alto Saxophone has a very similar range to the male voice, so the first thing I'll do is use a high pass filter to cut off any frequencies below 100 Hz (I ended up going all the way to 166 Hz), eliminating any noise from my fridge or trucks outside. To combat the boxiness from my room, I cut at 500 Hz, and also cut some low mids from 290 which will clean up the muddiness.

For the nasal sound, I cut at 1.2 kHz , and for some added presence I boosted slightly at 5 kHz, though I typically don't like to boost a lot of freuqencies unless it's a high quality EQ. Finally, to clean off any hiss in the high end, I used a low pass filter at 17 kHz. (A quick thanks to Björgvin Benediktsson for his excellent tutorial "6 Different Frequencies and How to Spot Them".)

Solo after EQ

Step 4

Here's the final sound in context after EQ'ing, along with some compression and reverb. Now go get your late night sax on!

Solo after EQ