Browsing Tag



Microphone Tips for Vocalists

December 3, 2010

How many singers and/or singing groups actually take time to practice microphone technique?  offers some great tips and advice for performers who want to get the most out of their sound.

Some important points to remember:

  • When close to a speaker, do not point the microphone directly toward it.  Doing so will cause feedback, which is that high-pitched squealing sound you will sometimes hear during a performance.
  • If the volume is too high, you will experience feedback and usually distortion as well.
  • Don’t drown out the vocals!  Set your volume controls so that the backing track is lower than your singing.
  • The most common mistake is holding the microphone too close or too far from your mouth.  The results vary from distorted and/or muffled vocals to distant or no vocal sound at all.
  • For optimal sound, hold the mic no closer than 2 to 3 inches from your mouth during normal singing.  The singer’s natural power and ability to project will determine the proper distance, so test things out and see what sounds best.
  • Gradually move the microphone away as you continue to sing and listen to the effect — at what point does the vocal sound start to fade?  That is your farthest point to remember.  The optimum distance for clarity is between the shortest and farthest points.
  • There are times when you will be using more volume, hitting higher or lower notes or almost whispering.  Practice using different distances and positions to see how using the mic creates different effects.
  • Avoid moving the microphone closer to your mouth when hitting high or more powerful notes and practice moving the microphone around to enhance or lessen certain effects until it becomes second nature.

Make practicing microphone technique a regular part of your rehearsal routine.  For more tips, please visit

Directors' Toolbox

Microphone Placement

September 30, 2010

Microphone placement?  I just put the mics in front of the performers and everything seems fine.  What more do I need to know?  Well, as outlined in the book How Recording Works from the Recording Institute of Detroit, there are a few things you should pay attention to:

1.  Proximity Effect — Defined as an increase in bass frequency output when the mic is placed a foot or less away from the instrument.  When placed 1/4 inch away from an instrument, the low-bass frequencies are picked up about four times louder than they should be.  This will basically sound like you have turned the bass control on a stereo up all the way.  Even if the instrument sounds good, the proximity effect will make a recording sound muddy.  Some microphones have permanent or switchable “bass roll-off” which should be engaged when placing a mic closer than around 8 inches from your sound source.

2.  Phase Cancellation — Two sound waves are “in phase” when the peaks of the two waves occur at the same time.  This results in an audio signal with twice the strength of one.  “Out of phase” occurs when the peak of one wave occurs at the same time as the valley of another.  These signals will cancel each other out when mixed together.  Phase cancellation frequently occurs when multiple microphones, placed in too close of proximity to one another, are in use.  Use the Three to One Rule to help avoid this problem.

3.  Three to One Rule — A second microphone (intended for another voice/instrument) must be placed three times further away than the microphone is from the sound source.  If you are micing two singers and your first mic has been placed 8 inches from the first singer, then the microphone for the second singer must be at least 24 inches away from the first microphone.

Whether working with top-of-the-line equipment or dents and dings, keeping these useful tips in mind can make a world of difference when micing your performers!


Microphone Pick-Up Patterns

August 24, 2010

An important part of choosing the right microphone is considering its directionality, or pick-up pattern.  Have you ever noticed when singing or speaking into the side of a mic, rather than the front, your volume will often decrease?  That is because the front of that microphone has more pick-up capabilities than the side.  Understanding the various pick-up patterns can help you to not only maintain a good volume, but also to avoid picking up unwanted noises that  might be present in the room.  Here are some of the most common microphone pick-up patterns:
pick-up patterns

Cardioid — Named for its heart-shaped pattern, this design is optimal for picking up sound in the front of the microphone.  The sides will usually be at about half strength and only one-tenth strength at the back.  This is actually very useful, as all you need to do to reject unwanted sound is have the back of the microphone facing the source of what you do not want to pick up.  This pattern is used for most vocal or speech situations.

Omnidirectional — Gives the mic the same pick-up strength from all angles.  This can be great if you are trying to capture all of the intricate nuances of sound in a room, but can be very difficult to control and is susceptible to feedback.

Supercardioid — Has slightly less strenth in the front than a cardioid, with some sound pick-up capability at the rear.  Sound rejection on the sides is better than with a cardioid.

Hypercardioid — With an even narrower pick-up pattern than a supercardioid, and a stronger pick-up in the rear, this type is  more likely to be found in a recording studio than on a stage.  As with the omnidirectional pattern, hypercardioids can make it difficult to prevent sound bleeding and feedback.

Some higher-end microphone models allow you the option to select your desired pick-up pattern, which can be quite useful.  Examples of these types of microphones are:  Sure KS44, AKG C414 and the CAD E200.

Now that you’ve learned about microphone types, uses, and pick-up patterns, we’re going to begin to talk about how to apply all of that knowledge toward the art of microphone placement.  Stay tuned!