As a vocalist, there are many core techniques to learn in order to excel at your craft. From proper breathing and support to tone, range, and pitch, mastering the art of singing takes practice and dedication.
One of the singing tips that is frequently overlooked is microphone technique. All of your hard work can be undone if you’re not comfortable with microphone technique. The moment you sing into a microphone your acoustic voice becomes an electric instrument. Even with the best vocal technique, you will need to practice singing into a microphone in order to really shine. Here’s how to get started…
Step 1: Finding the Right Microphone for Your Voice
Microphones are a lot like the human voice; they are all different and have their own unique personality. If the personality of the microphone doesn’t complement the timbre of your voice, you might tense up or try to adjust your voice to fit the characteristics of the microphone. The best strategy is to experiment and find a microphone that works for you.
In general, for live performances you should be looking for a good dynamic microphone. There are many different manufacturers to look into, such as Shure, AKG, and Neumann. Go to your local music store and ask to try a few. If your voice is higher-pitched, look for a microphone that will reproduce but not emphasize the highs in your voice. Instead, look for something that accentuates the mid-range and lower end of your sound. By the same token, if your voice is lower and more full, a microphone that emphasizes the high end will eliminate muddiness and help you project your voice over other instruments or a loud audience.
Step 2: Learn How to “Play” the Microphone
The best way to approach working with a microphone is to think of it as an extension of your voice. Rather than “projecting” your voice like you would in an acoustic setting, let the microphone do the work and focus on your delivery, pitch, and emotions. Here are some key singing tips to keep in mind when developing your microphone technique:
1. Practice your angles. Every microphone has a “sweet spot” where it is most effective. If you sing into the microphone at the improper angle you may lose important tonal characteristics from your performance. Always sing into the center of the microphone, never the side or top. It takes some practice, but once you understand your microphone, it will pay off in a fuller, richer sound!
2. Hold the microphone properly for best results. Always hold the microphone by the shaft. While it may look cool to hold the microphone by the head, it can muffle your sound, or worse, create ear-shattering feedback from the PA.
3. Proximity effect is your friend! Most microphones used for singing live are subject to something called proximity effect. This means that the distance you sing from the microphone affects the timbre of your voice. Singing closer to the mic, for example, enhances the lower frequencies. This can be a pleasant sound, but if you find your vocals too “boomy,” try moving an inch or two back from the microphone.
4. Experiment with different vocal effects. Working with a microphone allows you to use various effects to enhance your voice. Try singing and adjusting the airflow through your nose, opening your throat to provide more resonance, and working on your glottal attack, enunciation, and vibrato. By working on these different techniques in front of the microphone, you can develop the muscle memory needed for performance. Treat using a microphone like any other vocal technique–practice it often!
As a vocalist, you have to practice many techniques in order to use your instrument well. If you study with a private teacher, he or she will be able to help you, as well. If you are ever planning on performing in front of an audience, practicing with a microphone can make the experience less stressful, more enjoyable, and will go a long way toward your personal and professional growth as an artist!
Photo by Erica Zabowski