Microphones and Mic Technique

Hey all you singers out there, this is Jim Dix. I want to take just a minute to put up a quick tip on singing and matters relating to singing. Today's topic is going to be microphones and mic technique. The first thing, some of this may be old stuff to veteran singers and some of this may be really important good information if you're new to singing or just new to performing live with a sound system and a microphone.  

So the first kind of mic, the most common mic you're going to use or find is Shure SM58. This is a dynamic mic. It's the most common microphone you're going to find in a live situation. You may wind up using a wireless version of it, but still basically this is the kind of mic you'll find.  

So one thing that you don't want to do is hold the mic way down here. If you hold the microphone far away from your face or angled away from your face, it's going to require the sound engineer to turn up the volume on the mic really high, and it's going to make it more sensitive to the sound that the mic itself is sending to the speakers.  

When the mic begins to pick up its own sound from the speakers, that's when you get what's called feedback. That's when you get the squealing that's very unpleasant for any listener, and it tends to make the singer or the person holding the mic seem maybe a little amateurish.  

So what you want to do is get nice and close to the microphone and have it aimed right at your face. That's going to give you a much punchier sound and it's going to minimize any chance of feedback. You also don't want to get really close to a speaker for the same reason. If you can stay nice and far away from the speaker, that's great.  

One of the reasons monitors -  these floor speakers that that aim up at you - they aim up because generally that's going to make the sound come at you from behind the mic,  and microphones generally, there are some exceptions but generally live performance microphones are going to reject sound that comes from behind them for the most part. So the most the more that you can stay off axis as they say, you know, so that your microphone is not pointing into the sound source, into the speaker, the better.  

So there are mic techniques like if you want to do some you want to note to fade out or something you can pull away like this and the sound will fade the microphone pick up less and less of it. 

One thing that is common that people overdo is like if they're going for a loud note, they'll pull away. And it's common to pull away a little bit, maybe if you're going to hit a loud note, depending on the style some styles more than others.  

If you're if you're doing like rock and roll, then you're probably going to stay right up on it and let that high note just kill everybody, but so to speak. But if you're in jazz, you may pull away a little bit. But, um, one thing that sometimes happens is that people will go for a high note, they'll go and pull it way out there in this and nobody gets to hear that nice high note that they're hitting, because the microphone is at this point, it's not picking up their voice really, maybe a little bit but not it's not doing them justice.  

So be careful how much you work in microphone in terms of distance. Alright, so I'm going to move on from the dynamic mic which picks up pretty close to the source, by the way. It's not going to... it's not designed to pick up something from too far away, unless, I mean, that's what it's designed for. The sound may sound person may have to turn the gain up, as I said, but generally speaking, no.  

Alright, the next type of microphone, it looks very similar. This is a condenser mic. There are various types of condenser mics, but this is a condenser mic that you might see for live performance. This is an AKG C535. If your watch a sting concert or a James Taylor concert or anybody, you know, that's on that level, it's very common to see these microphones there are others but this is a very common one on a high level. 

Now, condenser mics are great if they're used properly. They're very sensitive. So if you want a lot of detail in your sound, you want it just extremely sensitive and subtle, this is a great mic, but you have to be careful with it because it is designed to be super super sensitive, and also to pick up better from a distance. So you can hold it from way out here and still get a pretty good sound, it's still going to sound better if you're closer up on it, but if you're too close, you could start getting into problems. It's going to maybe exaggerate your plosives like your B's and P's and things like that in a way that's not really flattering.  

But it's just a delicious mic to use if you know how to use it, but you have to be careful again, you don't want to get feedback and it's easier to get feedback with a condenser mic. So I'm going to move on from there.  

This mic here, can't really... pull it up into view a little bit better... this is... you may see these in record... well you'll almost certainly see these in recording studios, any recording studio you go into. This is what's called a large diaphragm condenser mic. It too is a condenser mic, and designed to be extremely sensitive, extremely subtle, and to pick up well from more of a distance than the dynamic mic is.  

You'll rarely see this used by a singer in a live performance. I can't think of an instance where I've seen that. It would be really, really strange to see, so you're not likely to encounter this, but in a recording studio, they're all over the place. It's ubiquitous. So this is the most common thing to see in a recording studio for a vocalist.  

So that's really about it, in a nutshell. Just remember, again, when you're... most of your live performance situations, you're going to be using a dynamic mic and you want to be really pretty close up on the mic just an inch or two away from the windscreen. It's not uncommon to actually be in physical contact if you're doing something that's really intense.  

But you don't want to be holding it way out here. So, that's about it for today's quick tip. Again, I'm Jim Dix if I can be helpful to you or if you want, if you're looking for individual voice lessons in the Delray area - Delray Beach, Florida - please feel free to contact me just go to my website jimdixvoicestudio.com and I wish you well in all your singing life out there. Have a great day. 

Jim Dix 


(561) 573-5719