Microphone Technique for Singers: How to Sing Better With a Mic
Mic technique is often overlooked as one of the skills you need to become a successful singer and performer. However, the way you use the microphone can affect your performance in many ways. In this article, Julie Miles of Vocal Ovation covers some of the most essential microphone techniques for singers:
You need to get comfortable singing into a microphone and controlling your technique. Putting your mouth on the microphone can affect your voice with the proximity effect. More dynamic singers will also need to control pulling away when they are louder.
Many singers struggle to control their mic technique so it is best to start practising this as soon as possible. We’ll cover everything that you need to know to help improve microphone technique for singers.
How to sing into a microphone
The first thing you need to establish is where you’re going to put your mouth. The distance between your face and the microphone can have a drastic effect on the sound. Some singers like to eat the mic and put it right up into their face while others like to control their technique and pull away from it.
It is important to understand microphones and your vocal dynamics to find out how far you should put the microphone away from your mouth. If you are a dynamic vocalist then your technique needs to practice pulling away. If you are consistently quiet then you need to get closer but technique needs to manage the proximity effect.
What is the proximity effect?
This is an effect that applies to all directional microphones. A directional microphone simply means that it is focused to pick up the sound on a certain side. These microphones will get more bassy as you get closer to them.
This can result in your voice sounding fuller but it can also have negatives. If your voice is already bass heavy then these frequencies could suffocate the rest of your voice, making it sound muddy and without any clarity.
You need to control your technique to understand when it is appropriate to utilise the proximity effect. For instance, if there are fewer instruments playing then use the proximity effect to fill out the sound a bit more. If there is a lot going on with the music then the proximity effect could mask your voice and even other instruments.
#1 Get comfortable with the microphone
Many singers when first starting out are very nervous when given a microphone for the first time & it often comes across in their performance.
Feeling tense and holding a mic awkwardly can affect your vocals more than you would imagine. Get to know the feeling of controlling a mic as early as possible by practising!
If you don’t own a microphone then use a prop; although it may seem a bit lame using a bottle or hairbrush will definitely get you used to that feeling and soon that mic will be just like an extension of your arm & more importantly, your voice!
#2 Sing into the mic
Make sure you are directly singing into the microphone. It’s one of the simplest mic techniques but it’s so SO important. Singing into a microphone allows all of your vocals to be fully projected.
Most microphones for singers have a radius around them that will detect noise. Great mic technique is about the importance of hitting this radius with every note you sing.
Sing with the microphone too far away from your mouth and you won’t allow the tones, dynamics & power of your vocal to be fully captured. Even as a great singer, your lack of control could put you at a disadvantage to others who have mastered their mic technique.
Ideally, you should keep the mic 1-2 centimetres from your mouth at all times except for the high or more powerful notes. If you turn and move around the stage always maintain the same distance and if you use it as part of your performance during instrumental breaks always make sure you bring it back to your mouth.
If you don’t, the projection of your vocal will be inconsistent and you’ll lose key elements in the performance of your song.
#3 Sing as you would usually
This may sound really obvious however there are many occasions when a singer has practised their song without amplification, absolutely nailed every note and brought it to life with beautiful dynamics, overall it’s sounding just right!
They then pick up a microphone and all of a sudden start singing with completely different power and volume and the whole thing just doesn’t sound or feel like how they practised it anymore.
This is especially vital for that all important sound check as the sound engineer will set your levels based on the vocal volume he or she hears.
If that changes dramatically or is inconsistent, in either the sound check or the actual performance, they’ll simply have a guess when to put your vocal level up and down.
Whether you manage to get away with it or not, it will by no means result in you sounding the best you could have.
#4 Avoid microphone feedback
Feedback is that awful sound the singer’s microphone gives out and causes everyone to wince a little. One of the most common ways for a singer’s microphone to affect performance is with feedback from the speakers or monitors. Take time to check where they’re situated on the stage & simply avoid getting too close.
#5 Eliminate vocal distortion
Distortion occurs for a couple of reasons, one of them being a singer holding the microphone too close or too far from their mouth. The distance from your mouth to the microphone is essential as it can make your vocals sound muffled and distant.
The other reason a singer might notice distortion is when the volume is too high on their microphone, keep the volume low enough to allow you to project.
Pro microphone techniques for singers:
#6Control your dynamics
A very common problem singer’s face during a performance is not getting the balance right between the backing track and the microphone. You want the backing track to be loud enough that you can hear it but also so you can hear yourself.
This can vary a lot depending on the quality & production of the track. If you don’t have a sound engineer, the best way to solve this is by trying out various settings until you’re happy.
Ideally, have a 3rd party present standing near the back of the room where you’ll be performing to ensure the microphone is loud enough for you to be heard but not be overpowering.
#7Pull away on high notes
To further avoid microphone feedback and distortion, pull the microphone away from your mouth on the high notes – how far you pull away really depends on the volume and power you sing them with.
Far too often, this is ill-timed by singers and they pull the mic away too quickly thus losing the projection where it’s needed most for impact. Timing is crucial and observing other seasoned singers can assist you to get this right.
Additional mic control tricks for singers
Having strong microphone technique can really help a singer enhance their performance. Breath control when holding a note is crucial.
If you are running low on a breath by the end of that all-important sustained note, a sudden dip in power is going to be very noticeable to your audience.
Try pulling the microphone away from you then bring it back as the note ends, it sounds as if you held it consistently and the audience will be left remembering the power you still had to the very last second – impressive!
We hope you enjoyed these microphone tips and techniques for singers. If you did, please share!
Mic Technique Related questions
We also wanted to answer some of the more common questions that are asked by singers relating to microphone technique. You can see those questions below with some short answers from our team.
How far should you hold a microphone away from your mouth?
Earlier we mentioned that the ideal distance should be 1 to 2 centimetres from your mouth. To put that into perspective, when holding the microphone, the distance should be from the top of your little finger to your thumb.
Why do singers put their mouth on the microphone?
Some of the most popular singers in the world place their mouth onto the microphone. You tend to find that this is something that energetic performers do as it can be hard for them to keep a steady distance between their mouth and microphone when jumping around on stage.
Does a microphone affect your voice?
Yes, it does. Just like connecting an amp up to an electric guitar, a microphone can affect the recording quality and sound of your voice. The microphone quality will also play a factor; a cheap mic could make your voice sound middle, boomy, or crispy. An expensive mic tends to have a flatter frequency response and will give your voice a far better and accurate representation.
Why do singers pull the mic away?
Some singers will put the microphone away from their mouth when they are just about to hit a high note. They do this because it can help to prevent the signal from breaking up, as sound pressure will decrease the further away the source is – meaning less distortion.
In which position should a microphone be held?
Handheld microphones should be held just below your mouth, or to the side of your mouth. A great microphone technique for singers is to not hold the mic directly in front of your mouth