Saturday, October 29, 2011


NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and runs for the full month of November. The goal is to write a 50,000 novel in the month of november.

I'll be joining in this year, and hope to finish this story I've had floating in my head for years. Well the first part anyways. Already got the characters laid out, major plot points laid it, let November 1st arrive....

And now back to C++ and sax :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Saxophone Mouthpiece!

Aaaaand either a) I've been sent a wrong piece else b) it will be going on ebay soon :3 This is a handmade, custom piece that I just got on Tuesday, but I've been having brain crunching days at work, which leaves me too mentally exhausted to do more.

Today though, I spent a fair bit of time with this new piece, and after much comparison with the V5, decided it was not for me. Hopefully I was sent a wrong piece, and I do want to use a custom built piece (yes I am vain). This piece plays very similar to the Vandoren V16, so a meyer styled piece. The low to mid register is absolutely delicious - low Bb to high E play beautifully extremely easily, and this mouthpiece actually fixes my middle D intonation issues! Unbelievable.

Downsides include a wildy sharp palm key notes, and the higher notes feel very thin. This is exactly what I felt with the V16, so it's basically a souped up V16.

I still decided on the V5 for the same reasons as before: The tone is good enough for what I want, all register play with good intonation - middle D can be fixed by adding the palm D key - and the tone feel nice and thick even at the palm keys.

This is the basis of what I need - an instrument that I do not need to fight. Reasonable intonation, and evenness of tone. I do not need to achieve "Saxophonist X's sound" etc etc. I sound like me and I'm bloody pleased with it.

One positive aspect came out of this. Because the new piece has a slightly wider tip opening, I had to put in my Legere Signature #2.25s, else I would wear out my embouchure in minutes.

Recordings show that the low register plays very evenly (and easily), unlike the V5 which I tend to need more puff to get the low notes to speak - and this causes the low notes to sound louder and more pronounced compared to the higher low register notes. On a whim, I switched the #2.25s on the V5, and wow, now the low notes play way easier (still not as easy as the new mouthpiece but) and the palm keys seem to play easier.

Need a bit more practice see if there are any downsides to this switch, but yeah, I was quite surprised how going down a 1/4 strength makes such a large improvement.

EDIT: To be sold ;-)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saxophone Weekend with Andy Scott

 Architecture beside St Lawrence's Church.

Spent the weekend in beautiful Winchester attending a saxophone workshop with Andy Scott organized by Sarah Heard. I think the workshop was really well organized, with neatly timed sessions with short breaks inbetween.

 Buddy's, an American Diner just off the high street.

The group that attended seemed to range from 11 year olds to retirees; some probably have had musical background for decades, and others were just a year or more in.
Part of Winchester Cathedral

The focus seemed to be on ensemble playing as well as improvisation. We were introduced to a medly of tunes with funky beats to a laid back african piece. Some pieces had spaces for solos, and I had a great time doing with my turn at improvisation.

 Evening recital.

We ended the 2nd day, with a performance for friends and family. Playing with an ensemble is really eye opening and good fun.

Am currently pooped as I went back to the office to check on simulations :P

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Safety Straps for sax?

So after yesterday's snafu, it got me thinking. Are there ways to prevent what happened yesterday? And the answer came up - SAFETY STRAPS!

Just a velcro strap that goes through the back of the case that loops around the bell or some part of the stack. Why isn't this standard in saxophone cases?


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Broke my sax :-/

So this morning as I was leaving for my saxophone class I picked up my case and... the sax dropped out >.> Did not zip it up after packing it last night, and I broke the screw that tightens the crook. Thankfully the sax seems to work fine, though I had difficulty playing low notes softly. Teacher checked it out and seemed fine.

Seems like that wasn't the only thing damaged, my Vandoren M/O ligature may be otherwise bent as well >.> Switching over to my cloth ligature proved to be the case as I got back all my low notes. Gah. Hopefully I can get this fixed in time - I've got a two day saxophone course next weekend. Perfect timing, this >.>

Friday, October 07, 2011

Long Live Play? Huh?

"When they tell your story, what will they say?"

Few words, and they inspire one to be more than they are.

Taken in context of the above commercial though, I feel they fall flat.

For some reason that will take awhile for me to fully externalize (hey I'm an introvert - cut me slack) - the moment they started to cheer for "Michael", who is probably the gamer in question, one word came to my mind.


Great, so we're celebrating the gamer. The person who saved the world over and over again, won WW2, took down hades, destroyed sephiroth, saved the princess blah de blah. Erm.

We did not. We did it in a GAME. What happened, was not real. The only thing real, was you spent time, in a fantasy setting, living your fantasy. There is something happening in real life called.... real life.

Granted, my point of view, i.e. data point of ONE, hardly reflects the masses. Do I game? Sure I do. Not as a form of escapism though, it is purely a form of relaxation to allow my mind to connect the pieces together I've been working on. Not much different from going for a swim or a walk around the park, except that there is a very high chance that I get addicted to games. I know myself, hence the avoidance of owning a console myself (glares at the now-dead ylod PS3)

The point of this post? No point at all, apart from the fact the commercial rubs me the wrong way and I just wanted to emo about it. Seeing the $249 PS3 ad at the end was win. I shut the browser down. Sorry sony, want me to get another PS3? Buck up and give me FF7, in hd. With *all* the damned bugs.

With a bit more thinking, I think what truly irks me, is time. Or, the fact that time is probably the only resource that once used, cannot be recovered. Gaming, eats up time. No doubts about it. Is it a skill that once learned, can enhance our daily lives? I really doubt it. For example, I have completed FF7 like 3 times. The first run was about 17 odd hours; the next two runs I tried to do all the side quests, get the gold chocobo etc (till date, I have not killed the Emerald or Ruby Weapon. Insert sadface.) - easily 50 hours if not more, resetting the game just to get a bloody black chocobo for breeding. Seriously, what was i thinking?! Did I gain some skill in real life from breeding chocobos? (Side note: I still think chocobos are AWESOME and uber cuddly. Not as cuddly as wolves but I digress....)

I'm going to end this post now, as thinking about this just makes me more annoyed. I have stuff to do. In real life.

EDIT: I thought an answer to the question: "They'd say you spent your entire life playing games!" Wow! Compared to say, "He spent his life looking after dementia patients".... I really much prefer to have mine as "he spent his life learning stuff and not doing anything" to that, seriously.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

SM57 VS Heil PR31BW

I mentioned to my teacher about the Heil PR31 I got and he requested an A/B test with the SM57. Here are some results.

First, the SM57 gives a weaker signal, as seen in audacity. Both were recorded at +60dB gain on my Onyx Blackjack, and the Heil comes in just 0.7dB below 0dB.

Top track is the Heil PR31, bottom is the SM57.

I wonder if there is something up with my SM57 as it does seem quite low output. I was mic'ing about 10, perhaps 12 inches away from the sax, aimed at the middle of the upper stack, straight on.

Here are some full clips, Doxy is more jazzy, whilst Endless Night is more for evaluating a slower legato piece.

Heil PR31 vs SM57 by Gallen

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

DIY Ribbon Mic?

Little side project I'm working on, a diy ribbon microphone. The parts required are really bog simple, magnets, aluminum foil and a transformer. The foil is in the micron scale though.... difficult to source. But here's the magnets, N42 neodymium.

For a start I'll be designing the housing for a short ribbon length, about 1 inch, vs the longer lengths commercially available.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Bari Reed - pretty impressive!

So I'd a go with the Bari Plastic reed today and it's actually quite good! First thing I noticed is how easy it is to blow, from bottom Bb to high F#, it seriously was effortless. Even more amazingly, I was able to get middle D in tune, without pushing the mouthpiece all the way into the cork. Hmm.

It is much brighter than the Legere Signature though, and has a very very tiny touch of buzziness to the sound. The most stand out feature though, is the volume. It is LOUD, easily giving me 3dB or more in terms of volume. The setting where the legeres were peaking about 2dB below 0dB at ff, the Bari was already peaking when I was blowing an mf. On the flip side, playing soft was quite challenging. I felt the reed presented a wider dynamic range, and it could take alot of air without choking up. This free blowing characteristic has a downside, some longer passages I usually finish with a bit of reserve on my Legere, I ran out of breath very much faster on the Bari. Mrrr.

All in all, in terms of synthetic reeds, I'm still keeping the Legere at number 1, with the Bari a very close second. Here's my personal chart of the reeds I've tried, keep in mind that I'm playing for less than a year, and the following is my experience on a Hanson SA5 on a Vandoren V5 A27

Characteristic/Reed Legere Signature Bari Plastic Fibracell Hahn Synthetic
Body/Core *** ** ** *
Buziness * ***
Brightness * ** * ***
Volume * *** * *
Free Blowing * *** * **
Intonation ** *** ** *** (with reservations)
Ease of Articulation * *** * ***
Price * *** ** **
Looks like a cane reed ***

Intonation: While the Hahn could achieve reasonably good intonation over the range, even the pesky middle d, playing with it felt weird to the mouth and ears... Can't fully explain it.

Buzziness: Playing the Hahn on the V5 reminds me of playing, say, the Legere on a Lebayle Studio mouthpiece - it gives a very contemporary edge to the sound.

Bari Plastic Reed

Bought a new Legere Signature #2.5 and at the same time, got a Bari Plastic Reed. Hmm. First impressions are.... it feels like it's made of the same plastic you'd find on disposable cutlery :D

Can't wait to give it a blow. My teacher used to play on these so, hopefully they are a viable choice. One other reed I'd like to try is Harry Hartman's Fiberreed, however those are quite ouch inducing, so perhaps in a month or two. The Legere Signature has been my favourite so far, off all the reeds I've used, it has the most body and not too bright.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Saxophone Log October 2011 (or Heil PR31 rules)

Finally got down and dirty with the Heil PR31, it is *awesome*.

Signal chain is straightforward, Heil PR 31 -> Onyx Blackjack @55dB gain -> garageband. I only put a bit of plate reverb (a preset on the AU Matrix Reverb on OSX) on the saxophone track in the mix. (As much as I'd like to EQ the sax... er... I have no idea how to use eq :P)

Lovely lovely piece of kit, would definitely recommend it for alto saxophones. I've put in the files on soundcloud as well, and there is a raw version up there as well.

Saxophone Log: October 2011 by Gallen Saxophone Log: October 2011 raw heil pr31 by Gallen

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Heil PR31 BW

So, it's payday and I got myself a new toy..... a Heil PR31 BW dynamic mic. I think the most recommended suggestion to record the Alto Saxophone seems to be the Sennheiser, MD421, MD441, Royer 121 (and sometimes... AKG C12?!) - all of which tend to be... pricey. (case in point, the AKG C12 runs more than £3k)

Nice box :D

The box is very utilitarian - I like it! A simple instruction manual, the mic and its clamp. The instruction manual indicates that this mic has a Super Cardioid polar pattern. Not sure what's with the massive side grills, but the mic's an end fire mic, and it comes with instructions as well as text printed on the mic casing to indicate where it picks up sound from.

The clamp does not come with an adaptor for the smaller threadsize used in the UK, but the PR31 does fit into the SM57's mic mount. Barely.

It is ridiculously small. The Heil PR 31 BW uses a similar element to the PR 30 (that I really would prefer - just for the fact it has a RED grill :D). However, the PR30 is somewhat larger and would not fit properly in the Studio Projects Reflexion Filter. This will... but would there be a point to using the reflexion filter with a dynamic, I wonder.

Since this is a super cardioid - it does pick up an attenuated amount of sound from behind the mic. The reflexion filter _may_ help in this case.

And here it is besides my Shure SM57. As mentioned, ridiculously small, the size of a baby's milk bottle. Initial tests seem to be good, and I'll be doing some recordings over the weekend to give it a more through run down.

Houdini + Arduino + ADXL335

Spent this week re-visiting an old project - getting my arduino interfaced with an ADXL335, then writing the python required to get houdini talking :)

Fun stuff, next, some audio engineering :-)

Project files are in this odforce thread.