Even if you’ve practiced well at home, and studied hard in your voice lessons, the moment you get in front of a microphone can change everything!
So, how can you make sure that you’re not only singing with proper vocal technique, but also using your mic well to get the best sounds.
Here are some tips to get better prepared to sing into a microphone and make sure you sound your best whether you’re in a filled auditorium or your own living room.
Tips for Using Microphones:
Singing into Wireless Handheld Microphones
Singing into a microphone at a performance venue is much different than practicing without one at home, so you’ll want to make sure there’s a soundcheck so you can assess what your voice will sound like in the performance space.
Doing a Soundcheck
When you do the soundcheck, be honest about how well you can hear your accompaniment and your own voice! The sound engineers will want to help you sound your best, but they won’t know what you’re hearing unless you tell them.
Testing Different Areas of the Stage
You’ll want to try out anything you plan to do as well, like moving around the stage or taking the microphone off of the stand since it might affect the way you hear monitors or cause feedback. You don’t want to surprise the sound engineers! If your microphone is on a stand, you’ll want to make sure it’s just below your mouth; you don’t want to be straining to reach up to it or your technique will suffer! Don’t be afraid to take the time to make these necessary changes.
Keep the Mic Between 1/2 to 2 Inches from Your Mouth
One huge advantage of singing with microphones is that it lets you play with much more intimate sounds that you couldn’t get away with unamplified. It’s good to keep the microphone between half an inch and two inches away from your mouth, and make sure you’re singing directly into the center, because the sound will suffer if you sing at it from the side. Keep in mind that you can always be turned down, but if you’re too far from the microphone, they can’t turn you up any louder!
Use Your Vocal Technique
When it comes to the actual singing, the best advice is always to sing as if there is no microphone, but unfortunately, this isn’t a foolproof rule. You do want to sing comfortably and with the same good technique you use without amplification. If you’re holding back because you’re worried you’ll be too loud or pushing because you’re afraid you won’t be heard, it will result in vocal tension, and you won’t sound your best.
Work With a Vocal Coach
It would be good to work with a voice coach because they might be able to point out some tendencies you might not be aware of! The one caveat is diction. If you’ve been trained to sing with perfect diction that can let you be heard at the back of a concert hall without a microphone, this might be too much for amplified singing. Microphones without windscreens tend to pop when you hit plosive consonants like B and P. So don’t focus too much on stressing diction, and let the microphone do the work for you! In a best case scenario, there will be a windscreen or pop filter to diffuse the air before it hits the microphone and you won’t have to worry about this.
Recording with Condenser Microphones
Now in the age of live-streamed concerts and Zoom rehearsals, knowing how to record at home with a microphone might be even more important. There are plenty of resources for deciding which microphone best suits your needs and budget, so I’ll just share some tips that will apply to singing with any microphone you might be using at home.
Set Up Your Recording Environment
First, you want to make sure your environment is set up to best help your recording! It might be tempting to set up a recording studio in your empty spare bedroom, but all of those empty walls will negatively affect the acoustics of the space. You’ll get a cleaner sound if there are more fabrics in the room: curtains, carpet, furniture, even bookshelves. That’s why people have such success setting up recordings booths in closets where your clothes help soak up all of the bouncing sound!
If you’re making a set-up from scratch, you’ll want to cover at least the wall behind the vocalist with a blanket or sheet. You’ll also want to get rid of any extra noise: heater, air conditioner, washing machine, dish washer, roommate’s television, etc. Then you’ll be ready to start setting up the microphone.
Choose Your Angle & Set Your Distance
Most condenser microphones (the mostly popular lately has been the Yeti Blue) are designed to be sung at from the side, not the top; so you don’t have to tip it towards the singer. You’ll want to record singing directly at the side for a fuller sound. How close you want the microphone depends a lot on the style of music you plan to sing. If you’re an opera singer, you’ll want the microphone a good distance away, maybe six feet or so, but if you’re recording a more intimate style of singing, you can get away with keeping the microphone closer so it catches the softer nuances in your sound.
Set Your Levels
Condenser microphones also tend to pick up a lot of extra sound, so it works best to start with the “gain” (how much sound the microphone picks up) turned as low as you can get away with and turn it up later if you test it and find out it’s recording too quietly. You can always boost the volume in editing! In this at-home scenario, you’ll have to run your own sound check, recording the highest and lowest or loudest and softest parts of your song and testing changes to volume, gain, and microphone placement.
Use a Pop Blocker
As for how to sing into the microphone, a lot of the same advice from wireless handheld microphone carries over! Because the microphone is farther away, it is less likely to pick up popping from your plosive consonants, but you might still benefit from a windscreen or pop filter if you test the sound and find you’re having trouble. You still want to sing with your true, full voice and try not to worry too much about the microphone. If the sound comes across as too loud or too quiet, you can always change sound settings or the placement of the microphone without changing your technique. All of these same tips can be applied to live singing from home too in an online voice lesson or rehearsal on Skype or Zoom.
Remember to Practice in Your Voice Lessons
If you’re looking to sing well with a microphone, taking some voice lessons to learn the ropes is always a good idea. A voice teacher can give you individual guidance that helps you not only learn how to use a microphone, but unlock the power of your voice.