Microphone Tips for Singers and Musicians

Microphone In Recording Booth

Microphone Tips

Following our Live Sound Tips article, we felt it necessary to share our favorite microphone tips with you. We’ve broken it up into categories to make it easy to get the most out of your microphones.

Different Microphones

Microphone Types

  • Use a microphone with a frequency response that is suited to the frequency range of the sound you are capturing.
  • If you don’t like the way a mic sounds, try another position, another microphone or changing the sound of the instrument itself. Try replacing worn out guitar strings or tuning the drum.
  • If the vocalist is used to singing in a loud environment, a supercardioid dynamic mic can be used in conjunction with studio monitors.  Aim the rear axis of the mic between the speakers. The speakers should be aimed at the null angle of the mic (about 65 degrees on either side of the rear axis).
  • Microphones are like paint brushes, no two of them sound the same and you can never have enough of them.  They also have a higher resale value than most music gear.
  • A ribbon mic is not the most versatile microphone, but they tend to have exceptional mid-range detail.
  • Multi-pattern condensers can change dramatically in their top end response depending on what polar pattern you use. In a vocal booth or well treated room, it’s worth testing different patterns if you’re not happy with the high frequency response.
  • Knowing your microphone impedance output (Ohms) can help you match your mic with a mic pre to get the best signal-to-noise ratio.  The rule of thumb is the input impedance of the preamp should be 10 times the source impedance of the mic. If you have a mic that is 150 ohms, matching it with a mic pre that has 1500 ohms will result in ~5dB less noise.  This will also yield the least amount of colorization.

 

Microphone Placement

  • Experiment with placing the mic at various distances and positions until you find a spot where you hear the desired tonal balance and amount of room acoustics.Microphone Placement
  • For podcasting, keep the mic 6-12” away from the mouth. As you get closer to a directional microphone, an increase in low frequency can cause the voice to sound muddy or with too much bass.  This is what is known as the Proximity Effect.
  • For snares and toms, try miking from the top, two inches away from the edge of the drum and pointing at the center.  The two-inch rule can help keep the mic away from unwanted harmonics from the edge of the head and hoop. Aiming it at the center helps capture the stick sound at its point of impact.
  • A slightly off-axis mic placement may help to avoid plosive sounds from breath blasts or certain consonant sounds such as “p”, “b”, “d”, or “t”.
  • To help record a very sibilant vocalist, try aiming the mic up toward a 45-degree angle.
  • For Cardioid mics, place floor monitors directly in front of the performer (180 degrees from the front of the mic), for Super Cardioid mics, place the monitors slightly off-center (90 degrees from the front of the mic). Once you learn to play with different polar patterns, you’ll discover new microphone tips of your own.
  • When placing a Mic, use your ears. Move it until it sounds good, then stop. Don’t worry about how the placement looks.

 

Singer In BoothMicrophone Techniques

  • Microphone technique is largely a matter of personal taste.  Whatever method sounds right for the particular sound, instrument, musician, and song, is right.
  • When using multiple microphones, follow the 3-to-1 Rule. The distance between microphones should be at least 3 times the distance from each microphone to its intended sound source.
  • Only engage a mic’s -10dB pad when absolutely necessary as it will also alter the signal-to-noise ratio. If necessary, use the -10dB pad on the preamp instead.
  • When using multiple microphones for one application, be aware of potential phase anomalies (e.g. two mics picking up similar signals and cancelling each other out).
  • Holding the mic by placing your hand around the side of the capsule will alter the tone of the mic, not necessarily for the better.
  • When setting the gain and volume for a live mic, don’t say “check 1, 2, 3…” unless that’s how you intend to sing.
  • An option for miking the bottom snare is to have a mic mounted inside the shell, pointed down.  It will avoid phase issues with the top snare mic while avoiding the pickup of potentially unwanted overtones, and harmonics from the drum shell.
  • Keep it simple. Those early records that we covet so much didn’t have 12 different mics on a kit. Don’t use 10 when 4 will do. Sometimes a kick, snare, and two well placed overheads provide a killer drum track.
  • When vocalists sound nasal, angle the mic slightly towards the chest. Conversely, if the Mic sound is too bony, angle it slightly towards the nose of the vocalist. If none of this helps the tone, change the Mic (or the vocalist).

 

Microphone AccessoriesMicrophone

  • Never underestimate the importance of a quality mic preamp.  It can offer a more distinct sound with more gain and less noise than a preamp that is built into an audio interface.
  • To reduce reflected sound from the room, use a product that isolates the voice such as a Reflexion Filter.
  • Always purchase the a shock-mount with any recording mic you buy. Insist on purchasing the one that was designed for your mic. Shock-mounts are integral in isolating a mic from vibrations that can interfere with capturing a clean recording.
  • Make sure to purchase a quality pop filter to cut down on plosives (p’s, b’s) from ruining an otherwise awesome performance.
  • A nice guitar and amp can easily cost over $1,000.  A great drum kit can top $3,000. If you are a singer, try not to spend less than$199 on your main instrument.
  • Don’t skimp on your mic cable. Your sound is only as pure as the weakest link in the chain. In addition, most high-end mic cables carry a lifetime warranty.

 

General Microphone Tips

  • Remember a “better” mic does not necessarily make you sound better. It picks up what is happening better which includes the imperfections and background noise. This is just science though, your ears will make the ultimate choice. A lot of engineers like the colorization that happens with non-matched impedance.
  • Regardless of budget, it’s good to have an idea of a microphone’s frequency response and tonal characteristics. The mic that sounds great on a male rapper may not sound as good for a female opera singer.

 

This concludes our list of microphone tips. We’d love to hear from you. Do you have microphone tips you can share? Please post them in the comments section below.

 

Click Here for our article on live sound tips

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