Proper Microphone Technique for Singers

Discovering proper microphone technique can improve your vocal sound and make you look and sound like a real STAR! 

 KnowiAs a singer, a microphone can really make or break a good vocal performance. If you want to be a good performer, then you’ll need to think about proper microphone (mic) technique at some point in your musical career.


Having proper microphone technique can make the difference in how good, clear and consistent you sound to others. You can have an incredible voice but if you don’t handle the microphone properly, it can’t be recognized because others will not hear it.  

While there are many microphones on the market today, there are basically two (2) different types of mics:


  1. Omni-directional (“omni” = “all” or “every”); omin-directional microphones pick up sound from many directions



  1. Uni-directional (“uni” = “one”) with this mic, sound travels into the microphone in one direction – straight through the top of the mic


The drawback with using an omni-directional mic is that the microphone will not only pick up your voice but it will also pick up any other the sounds that are happening around you. Omni-directional microphones are more prone to cause feedback than uni-directional mics. For this reason, unidirectional (one direction) microphones are most often used for vocalists.

 If you don’t know what type of microphone you are using, you can find out by talking into the sides or bottom of the microphone head (the ball on the top of the mic). If your voice fades or is noticeably stronger when you sing through the very top-centre of the mic head, then it is most likely a uni-directional mic.  If you’re still not sure, then assume it is an uni-directional mic and handle it accordingly.


As shown in this diagram, when you sing, sound and air flow out of your mouth in a straight direction.  In order for a uni-directional mic to pick up the sound of your voice, it must align (line up) with the air flow that is coming from your mouth.


That means, when using a uni-directional microphone, it’s important to sing straight into the top of the mic if you want your voice to be heard (for example, see this picture of the legendary Celine Dion). On the other hand, holding the microphone under your mouth pointing upwards will result in inconsistent or lost sound in your volume, tone and quality.


Being a Professional Vocalist and Karaoke Host (KJ) for over 15 years, I have witnessed many singers – both amateur and experienced singers alike, hinder their performance due to poor microphone handling. Common mistakes include:


«     Holding the mic too far away from their mouth, resulting in a loss of volume, tone, and sound

«     Holding the mic under their mouth, resulting in loss of volume, tone, and sound

«     Holding the mic too close to their mouth, resulting in a muffled, garbled sound

«     Holding the microphone so their hand is covering the head of the mic, which will likely trigger feedback as it cuts out any vocal sound for the mic to pick up.

«     Singing VERY LOUD or SCREAMING directly into the mic at close range, which results in an overpowering volume for your audience and has the potential to cause annoying feedback and even blow out (destroy) the PA system.


If you have the time and the equipment to practice, then it’s a good idea to get familiar with singing into a microphone.  Try singing while you hold the mic close to your mouth, then slowly move it away from your mouth as you continue to sing. You can also play around with holding it at different angles while you listen to how your voice fades out or is lost altogether.  If you don’t have the luxury of having your own equipment to practise with, there are still some simple guidelines that can help you to get the most from voice, when singing with a microphone.  

Here are a couple tips that can help you to get the most from singing with a microphone:


TIP #1: Distancing the mic.  Most singers tend to get louder as they go on, and many songs call for a louder chorus, a stronger bridge or a quieter ending than the rest of the song. Using different volumes in a song is referred to as the ‘dynamics’ of a song.  If you know in advance that you will be singing with dynamics (varied volume), begin the song by holding the mic about 3 inches from your mouth. This will give you some room to move it closer on the quieter parts, as well as move it further away, while keeping the top of the mic in line with your air and vocal flow.


TIP # 2: Positioning the mic.  The microphone should be positioned so that your air and vocal flow are pointed directly into the top of the microphone.


TIP #3: Holding the mic.  Hold the microphone so it feels comfortable in your hand. Nervous singers tend to grip the mic too tight, which can become uncomfortable  while singing. Whatever you do, DO NOT cover the top of the microphone with your hand. This will prevent the mic from picking up your voice and is prone to cause feedback.


There are other behaviours that may not affect the quality or sound of your singing but using your microphone in one of these manners will show you to be a real amateur. When using a microphone, be sure NOT to:

«     Swing the microphone around by the chord

«     Bang or hit the top of the mic

«     Scream or blow hard into a microphone


Once you get familiar with the microphone, there are other techniques you can try that will enhance your vocal sound, such as pulling the mic slowly away from your mouth while holding a note, resulting in a fade-out of your sound.

Just remember that with any good quality of showmanship comes practice and dedication. Keep working with your microphone and you’ll be singing like a Rock Star in no time!

Your Personal Vocal Coach

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