Microphone Technique for Singers: How to Sing Better With a Mic
Microphone 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:
Pro microphone techniques for singers:
#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, so get to know the feeling 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 directly into the mic
Make sure you sing right into it. It’s one of the simplest techniques but it’s so SO important. Singing directly into the microphone allows all of your vocals to be fully projected.
Most microphones for singers have a radius around them that will detect noise, it’s important to hit 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, already you could be at a disadvantage to other performers on stage who have mastered their 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 round 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 into the microphone 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 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 a 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 sounds 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.
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#6: Volume control
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 through 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.
#7: Pull 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 microphone 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 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!
Related questions on microphone technique for singers
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 some 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?
Hand held 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