self discovery & expression

Mic Technique for Singers 101

Use your mic to support your unique voice & style -says Jeannie Deva

Vocal technique will help you to be a better singer.

However, problems with stage sound and equipment can make it seem as though you have no technique and that your voice is not as good as it really is.

If you’re savvy about each of the important elements that go into performance – including the equipment you use – you’ll feel more confident and sound better.

The better you sound the more inspired you’ll feel which will in turn elevate your performance.

Bruno Mars performing as the MTV VMA’s 2010

So, today, I want to talk about how the right mic technique for live performance will support your voice and unique style.

Mic Technique Makes a Difference

The microphone should be thought of as part of your instrument. A key to good microphone technique lies in distance and direction.

The best direction for your mic is straight in front of your mouth or slightly below and angled up towards your mouth.

Generally, keeping a microphone between one-half to one inch away from your mouth will help to capture the full tone of your voice. As you sing considerably louder, move the mic away slightly or move your head a little to the right or left. As you reduce your dynamics, move back to your usual closer position.

Beware: if you move away from the mic too far, your voice will drop out of the mix or lose quality.

Also, if you hold the mic too far from your mouth or sing into its side or across the top, the mic won’t capture your voice well.

This is not just a mistake made by amateurs. In a May 2012 episode of the American TV show Duets, judge John Legend pointed out this error to a contestant during his feedback.

Working with Proximity Effect

Proximity effect has to do with how the mic responds to the nearness of your mouth to the mic head.

Increasing the bass frequencies can add warmth and dimension to your voice. Depending on the design of the mic this can make you sound better or make your voice sound muddy (not well defined).

A singer who is mic-technique-savvy can use proximity effect as a “tone-control” while an inexperienced and clueless singer may have problems not knowing how to use it to advantage.

Don’t Be a Drifter

This is the singer who moves away from the mic while still singing the last part of a phrase or who randomly moves on and off mic by not having it follow their head movements.

It’s distracting for the listener to hear a voice sporadically booming and then fading. The vocal quality will be uneven and the lyrics difficult to follow.

More often than not, the key lyric of a song phrase occurs at the end of the line.

The multi-talented Rihanna singing live

If you move your mouth off the mic as you approach the end of your phrases, you diffuse the impact of the most important lyrics: what you’re saying will be lost to the audience as will the emotional impact of your performance.

So, keep the mic in front of your mouth through the end of your phrases.

Take Control

Consider your mic technique as one part of your larger journey to take control of your sound.

Other areas include getting a great vocal sound through your monitors and learning to use effects pedals so that you can maintain control of the sound you want to achieve.

Singing in club and concert settings can be fun and inspiring for both you and your audience by integrating each key element: good vocal technique, song choice and stylization, performance skills and working with your stage sound and equipment.

May your life on stage be joyful and powerful!

– Jeannie Deva

Jeannie Deva is a celebrity voice and performance coach.

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