How to make sax tone brighter with Audacity 2.3.2 Effect?


Can someone please let me know how to make sax record tone brighter if that’s possible with Audacity 2.3.2 Effect?

I tried the “Base and Treble” and used Base=5.0 dB and Treble=3.0 dB. This setting doesn’t make sax tone brighter but make high pitch louder (plus adding some noise). In most cases if sax performance were made by a metal mouthpiece, its tone would be brighter. But this performance was with a hard rubber mouthpiece. Any suggestions would be appreciated, and I would give it a try.

Thanks & regards,

You could try adding a little distortion (Distortion effect). Despite the name, the effect does not have to make a nasty hard crunch sound. Some of the effects can create quite subtle tonal changes. You will need to experiment, and I’d recommend keeping the effect subtle:

There’s also the Equalization effect, which allows much finer control than “Bass and Treble”:
You will probably find the “Graphic” mode easiest to use. Start by just moving one slider up at a time so that you can hear the effect of each frequency band. Difficult to say without hearing what you’ve got so far, but I’d guess that pushing up frequencies around 2 kHz will make it sound brighter.

“Brighter” usually means boosted high frequencies* (boosted treble) and “dull” or “muffled” usually means a lack of high frequencies. So, I’m not sure what you’re after.

You can try just playing-around with the Equalizer effect. (The Graphic EQ mode is easier to randomly-experiment with than the Draw Curves mode.)

You can also try the Limiter effect set to Hard Clip. [u]Clipping[/u] is distortion so it’s something that you generally want to avoid, but guitar players usually like some distortion (or a lot of distortion) so it can be a desirable effect. Normalize or Amplify (with the defaults) first to get a known “starting point”. Then try limiting to -6dB or less (more negative). Make-up gain is optional, but if you use make-up gain it will bring the level up and you can limit again with the same settings for more “effect”. Without make-up gain, the same limiting won’t do anything if you run it a 2nd time.

There is also a Distortion effect with all kinds of options that can give “harshness” or “grit” to the sound. One of the effects is a Harmonic Enhancer which adds new high-frequency harmonics. This effect basically “evolved” from the [u]Aphix Vocal Exciter[/u]. Exciter/Enhancer effects can be helpful if you want to boost the high frequencies but there are no high frequencies for the equalizer to boost. (A Sax should have lots of harmonics & overtones already so I would expect EQ to be adequate.)


  • If you’re not using “technical language” like “boosted high frequencies”, “noise”, “distortion”, “reverb”, “echo”, etc., descriptive words can mean different things to different people. Audiophiles and audio pros use lots of descriptive terms that give an impression and seem to mean something, but it turns-out most of these words are not well defined. [u]Whaddya Mean The Sound Is Fluffy?[/u]

    What’s your “reference”?
    If you are comparing the recording to a live Sax, you need good-large monitors and a powerful amplifier to reproduce the realistic sound of almost any instrument.

The room makes a difference too, both for recording and playback. The Sax (or the recording of the Sax) is going to sound better in a music hall than in your bedroom or living room. Professional recordings are usually done in “dead” (sound absorbing) studios where you don’t get the bad-bedroom reflections or the good music-hall reflections, with artificial reverb usually added later. Or sometimes recordings will be made in a space with nice reverb. I’ve used my (rather large) home stereo speakers for JD gigs, and man, they sure sound better in a large dance hall than in my living room!

Solo instruments are notoriously difficult to record, although a Sax probably isn’t the worst. Quiet instruments like an acoustic guitar, or solo acapella vocals and pianos with their wide dynamic range are particularly difficult. If you are recording a whole band or creating a mix, little imperfections and little details tend to get buried in the mix. You get synergy and the band sounds better than the individual instruments… “Nobody” buys solo recordings… Hits are usually a band and vocals! (Recording & mixing a whole band isn’t really “easier”, but it’s not as difficult to get a “good sound” in the end.)

And if you are the Saxophone player, you are probably “overly-picky” about the sound, especially solo, and there’s not much we can do about that! :wink:

Thank you so much for the details. It looks like a text book when I read it. It’s very helpful to better understand what I can do to improve the sax tone, and even helpful to clarify what I should ask for :smiley:

I play with EQ and Distortion effects for a couple of days. It see EQ can indeed improve the sax tone noticeably especially by pushing up frequencies around 2 KHz. Need more time to play with it to optimize the tone. I’m probably too picky. When the final piece is shared, people unlikely pay attention to tiny details.

Three questions if you don’t mind:

(1) Would it be possible to adjust EQ curve/bars and let it automatically be applied to a track that is playing? Meaning while I move the EQ curve/bars up and down continuously, I can hear the sound change of the playing track accordingly like a real EQ does.

If that’s possible, we could save a lot of time, and find the right adjustment much sooner. Currently I have to adjust the EQ, apply it to track, play the track to verify, then go back to repeat this cycle again and again before I can find a right EQ setting.

(2) What is “Harmonic Enhancer” exactly? It sounds interesting but I cannot find it from EQ or Distortion.

(3) Would it be possible to see the EQ curve/bars setting from a Base & Treble setting (i.e. convert a Base & Treble setting to EQ setting)?

Thanks & regards,

Unfortunately not, though you can use “Preview” rather than applying and undoing. If you want a longer preview, you can set the length of preview in “Edit menu > Preferences > Playback”.

It’s a fancy name for distortion, when the aim of the distortion is to subtly add higher harmonic frequencies rather than making it sound “distorted”.
Try playing with the “Cubic Curve (odd harmonics)” and “Even Harmonics” settings.

(2) What is “Harmonic Enhancer” exactly? It sounds interesting but I cannot find it from EQ or Distortion.

Sorry, I was wrong… It’s a separate download: [u]enhancer.ny[/u].

One more thing - A lot of effects (like boosting certain frequencies with EQ) will increase your levels. You can end-up going over 0dB and [u]clipping[/u] (distorting). That might be OK for you, since a lot of these effects involve intentional distortion. But Audacity can go over 0dB without clipping, so unless you are listening at “full digital volume” and clipping your DAC, you won’t hear it until you export.

The solution is to Amplify or Normalize as the last step before exporting. That will bring your peaks down to “safe levels” if necessary. Otherwise it will bring-up and “maximize” your levels.

Yes, if you install a real-time equalizer plug-in into Audacity, e.g.
which are free.

(NB: Audacity only accepts 32-bit plug-ins even if your computer is 64-bit)

Thanks for all of the information. It helps.


playing around with the Equalizer effect should do the trick for you. It sure did for me

Thanks for your suggestion.