The short answer is that singing close to a mic allows better sound source isolation and frequency response. It also minimizes the possibility of audio feedback.
Good singers learn proper mic holding techniques as they perfect their singing abilities. These techniques can vastly improve their vocal performance. When singing to a live audience, it is advisable to hold your microphone at least 1- 3 inches from your mouth.
The Dynamics Behind Good Mic Handling
Singers use dynamic microphones at most live performances. This type of microphone has a dynamic capsule that acts as a transducer (a device that converts audio into electric signals). The diaphragm of a dynamic mic is connected to a copper coil that oscillates through the microphone. This method of converting sound into electricity isn’t the best, as far as reproducing sound goes. Hence, dynamic mics require a lot of energy to move the metal plate attached to the diaphragm.
Dynamic microphones use a cardioid pickup pattern. They pick up sound poorly from the rear but with high gain from the sides and front. Live sound engineers prefer these mics because they only want to hear one isolated source of sound per microphone.
Science tells us that every time we double a distance, we lose 6 decibels of sound energy. Therefore, singers lose decibels when they sing further from the mic, forcing the sound engineer to increase the microphone’s electronic sensitivity. As a result, they bring the noise floor closer to the source of the audio, which increases the risk of audio feedback.
No one wants feedback. We want smooth flowing music even in a loud environment. Singers should hold their mics close to their mouth to isolate external sounds, amplify low notes, and avoid distortion.
Tips for Good Microphone Handling
- Sing into the microphone
Ensure you sing directly into the mic. This technique is simple, yet important. It allows you to fully project your vocals.
Microphones have a radius around them. As you sing, you need to hit this radius with every note. If you don’t, you’ll have an inconsistent vocal projection and lose essential elements of your performance.
- Avoid acoustic feedback
Also known as feedback, acoustic feedback is the annoying, screeching sound a microphone makes when it picks up sound signals from speakers. Take time to check where monitors and speakers are placed to avoid getting too close to them whilst holding a microphone.
- Control your dynamics
Sometimes singers fail to get the balance between their mics and backing track right. You need to ensure that your backing track is loud but only loud enough that you can hear yourself. To achieve this balance, you can use the help of a sound engineer or tweak the settings until you’re comfortable with the results.
Also, you can have someone else stand near the back of the space you’ll be singing in to make sure you’re mic is audible but not overpowering.
- Get comfortable with the mic
As a singer, feeling nervous can show in your performance. It can affect how you hold your microphone as well as your vocals. It’s advisable to practice singing while holding a mic, or a prop, to know the feeling of controlling a microphone during a live performance.
- Sing normally
Sometimes singers practice singing without amplification. They hit every note and feel ready for their live performance. However, on the day of the performance, they pick up the mic and begin singing with a completely different volume and power. They end up sounding different from how they did during practice.
It’s important to conduct soundchecks with your sound engineer to ensure you get all the levels right. If you sound different during a soundcheck, you have time to adjust your vocal levels for the actual performance.
- Pull Away
Singers are often advised to pull the mic away from their mouth when hitting high notes to avoid distortion and audio feedback. How far should you pull away? The distance depends on the power and volume of your voice.
Timing is also important when pulling a mic away on high notes. Don’t pull your microphone away too quickly as you can lose projection.
- Get rid of vocal distortion
Holding a mic too far or too close to your mouth can cause distortion. You need to keep the right distance from your mouth to your mic to avoid sounding distant or muffled. Also, having the volume too high can cause distortion. Ensure the volume on your mic is low enough to allow you to project your voice.
- Use a good microphone
A microphone’s quality plays a significant role in how singers sound during live performances. A high-quality dynamic microphone tends to have a flatter frequency response than its bad quality counterparts. It can make your voice sound better and reproduce your vocals more accurately. Be sure to use a mic with a polar pattern that suits your recording environment as well as your voice. My recommendation for a good dynamic microphone would be the Pyle Pro.
Pyle Pro is an inexpensive microphone that offers you great sound at a low price. I like it because it minimizes background noise while keeping my instruments and vocals at a clear frequency.
This microphone utilizes the cardioid pick-up pattern to reject off-axis sounds that are likely to cause audio distortion. It is built with a robust design that improves its durability. Additionally, it offers great resistance to moisture.
Its other features include a pop filter and a windscreen. These add-ons enable the Pyle Pro microphone to keep your audio input crisp and clear.
The only thing I dislike about this mic is the cable it comes with. That cable doesn’t suit a professional setting. You may have to consider getting a more decent XLR cable to go with it.
Singers hold microphones close to their mouth for different reasons. Most importantly, they do it because they need to maintain clear audio while avoiding audio distortion and feedback. I hope this article has helped you understand this technique and many other mic handling techniques you can use to make the most out of your microphone.