Whether you already have some singing experience or are completely new and just starting singing lessons, there are a few tips and tricks that will help your vocals sound great. Like instruments, microphones have different capabilities and functions so it is always best to get to know your equipment. Besides the technical aspects here are some pointers on proper mic technique when singing.
Have the Right Gear
Your output during recording or performing will reflect the quality of the input, the better your gear is, the more likely you will succeed in a great take. Regardless of any other tips and techniques, if you have shoddy gear it will be hard to produce any decent vocals. Make sure your microphone, cables, audio interfaces, monitors, and other gear are the best you can buy.
Also make sure to learn how to use that gear, start slow with audio interfaces and mics, keep the volumes and gain down all the way on both. Be careful with monitor placement as being too close with high gain can cause them to fizzle! If you are investing in quality gear it is important to know how to use it. Even if you are an amazing singer it is still important to have good equipment and proper mic technique.
Study Your Particular Mic
Not all microphones are created equal, they each have settings, tricks, and nuances. Whatever model you own or plan to purchase requires research like reading the instructions and watching videos of other users. It is important to find the sweet spot of exactly where your mouth should be. Some mics add color to the mid-frequency range, other mics lead to a natural high-end which would be prefect if you sing with a lot of falsetto, etc. The louder your vocals the further back you should move to avoid errant sounds and hard syllables.
If you are performing and working with a completely new mic, well that is what a sound check is for! Get to know that microphone as fast as possible and run through the lowest and highest notes you are singing, that way the soundboard operator knows what they are dealing with. In fact, ask a sound person about the microphone if you have never used that model. Not all audio engineers can sing, but they sure know how to get the most out of the equipment.
If You Must Hold The Mic, Do It Right
If possible it is best to keep the microphone stationary, especially when recording, but if you’re on stage you may be holding it. A stand is preferable as that doesn’t move the wire around leading to scratchy sounds or even worse feedback from being too close to the PA. If you must hold it make sure you only grip the handle and do not touch the actual mic area. A roughly 45-degree angle is nice and we don’t want it directly in front of the mouth, but still aimed at it.
In fact when singing hard syllables like p’s, t’s, and b’s it is also helpful to move your mouth away very slightly so that extra puff of air doesn’t hit the mic. Even if you sing hard punk screamo metal, you need to keep unwanted sounds out of the signal. Avoid kissing or eating the mic, and keep your mouth back at a reasonable distance. All the extra moving and handling of the mic may look cool, but it really doesn’t add any value to the musical performance or recording.
Practice the Mic as an Instrument
There is no one size fits all microphone technique, they have different builds and each person has their own way of singing and breathing. Get yourself a decent mic and practice using it at home, use a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation to record your singing. Afterwards check the recording, the sound wave shouldn’t be too small or have any spikes. When you find a problem in the recording, go back, and adjust your spacing or how you sing. You’ll see the mic responding differently based on what you are singing; even techniques like vibrato will have different results than singing with a straight tone.
This is why it’s important to watch videos of users with the same microphone that you have, it will give you an idea of what positions and settings work best. Some things like not cupping or kissing the mic are obvious, but you will find some mics work best a couple inches back, while others may need more space. Sing songs in completely different genres that way you are practicing across a wide variety of intervals and volume levels.
Hardware or Software Can Help
If you are performing there may only be some monitors, a mixing board, and your microphone. Of course these are all the basics to put on a show, but these days we have hardware and software that can help with our vocals. Some mixers and devices can help with room EQ, reverb, and other effects to thicken and improve your vocals. And of course pitch correcting software is very popular for recording.
However, these will only exacerbate bad mic technique so make sure you are still holding and singing into the device properly. But there is nothing wrong with using modern technology to help your performance or studio recording, even the greatest singers take advantage of gear to make them sound better. Whether you want to enhance your voice or add an effect it is normal to alter the signal after it has left the mic.
Know Your Limits
If you are unsure about a particular microphone and how to best use it, just ask the sound person or someone with the audio knowledge. Don’t feel bad for not knowing every piece of gear, especially if you are still learning the basics of how to sing. Your job is to sing, so unless you are doing home production that signal is not your problem. If you avoid holding the mic wrong, touching it with your mouth, and moving around too much, there shouldn’t really be any worries about the mic.
That is the ultimate mic technique, just sing normal and let it do its job of picking up your vocals. While you want enough space, you also need to pretend like it really isn’t there. A singer doesn’t purposely sing into or at the mic, they just need to give their best performance and let the technology do the rest. Yes it looks fun to run around the stage, cup the mic, and be super intimate, but that doesn’t provide the best vocals and will just make the sound person angry!
There are a few different factors that help you with proper mic technique when singing, and most involve distance and volume. Each mic will have its sweet spot for high and low vocals, and it is up to you to find it through practice and soundchecks. Whether you will be on stage or in a studio, how you handle and use the microphone can make the difference between a great or terrible performance. Even if you are only just starting to take vocal lessons, study your mic and treat it carefully that way you can sing with no worries!