A Guide to Microphones and Good Microphone Technique for the Novice Vocalist

If you are looking to make the step up from a bedroom vocalist to singing in front of an audience you will at some stage have to use a microphone. The purpose of a microphone is to pick up sound and convert it into an electrical signal. This is then channeled through a variety of audio equipment before ultimately being emitted as a louder sound from a set of loudspeakers. Vocal microphones are usually held in the hand or supported on a microphone stand but certain types are mounted on a head strap, which is ideal for vocalists who like to move or dance during their performance. Vocal microphones are also available in wireless formats which again allow the user to move around without being restricted by a wire.

Using a microphone may seem fairly self-explanatory, you sing into the top and the sound comes out of the speakers a bit louder, but there are certain microphone techniques that you should practice to ensure your voice is picked up and relayed in the best possible way.

To hold or not to hold – As mentioned above, most vocal microphones will be positioned on stage secured on a microphone stand. The benefit of a microphone stand is that it holds the microphone so you can use your hands for other activities such as playing instruments or dancing. The microphone clip that holds the microphone to the top of the stand also acts as a shock absorber protecting against unwanted movement and vibration emanating from the stage. So if you prefer you can leave the microphone secured on the stand and not have to worry about holding it. However many famous vocalists including Elvis Presley and Freddie Mercury used the microphone as a prop with which to enhance their performances so this is likely to be something to try but only while bearing the following techniques in mind. Only ever hold the body of the microphone and never around the grille which can muffle or distort your voice and may pick up the sounds generated by your hands. Also never hold the microphone over the top of the grille or point it directly at the speakers or stage monitors as this can cause feedback – the high pitched squealing sound regularly heard at live music events

Which part to sing into? – Most vocal microphones are what’s known as cardioid or unidirectional microphones which means their optimum pick up zone is around the front and to a lesser extent to the side of the grille. The purpose of this is to reduce ambient sound being picked up, but if you don’t sing into this optimum area, the volume of your vocal will be reduced. As such always try to sing directly into the top of the microphone as this is the most sensitive and receptive part.

Distance from mouth? – As you sing the volume and emphasis of your vocal will change depending on which part of the song you are at, for instance, you are likely to sing out more during the chorus compared to the verse. You want your audience to feel and understand the narrative and emotion of the song but ideally, you don’t want to have significant differences in vocal volume from one instant to the next as this will require the sound engineer (that tired looking guy sat behind a complicated-looking desk at the other end of the room – see the ‘who’s that tired looking guy section below) to constantly adjust it. What you need to do is learn to move your mouth slightly further away from the microphone during the louder sections of your song. The emotion and change in emphasis will still come across to the audience but as you improve your microphone technique there will be less of a contrast between the louder and quieter sections. Watch videos of your favorite singer using a microphone and try to emulate how they move the microphone depending on the volume of the song.