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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, recording studio vocal producer and Originator of the world renowned Deva Method®, Complete Voice Technique for Stage and Studio™ celebrating 36 years of helping singers achieve excellence. For additional information and exercises to develop pro mic technique and all aspects of your performance, get Jeannie Deva’s digital eBook: “Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances” available for iPad and all digital readers as well as a download for Mac and PC. Follow: JeannieDeva on Twitter and Facebook. © 2012. The Deva Method and Jeannie Deva Voice Studios are registered trademarks owned by Jeannie Deva Enterprises Inc.

  • As a singer since the age of 5 and now approaching 70, I found this write-up interestingly basic and obvious in many ways. One thing I am always quick to pick up on in human interchange and which is something I find quite obnoxious is any sense of deprecation or self-superiority in the proponent . JD’s use of the term “Clueless Singer” In my opinion JD comes across to me as if she has something of an “Up thyself” complex about herself and her methodology. To my way of thinking and doing things, there is an enormous difference between authoritative professional mentoring and using put-downs to describe one’s actual or potential students. There was a time when JD was totally ignorant of the subject she now professes to excel at and be qualified to teach and mentor others in. I wonder how she would have felt if at any time someone described her ignorance as that of being ” A clueless singer”. No-one knows it all no matter how long their involvement or their study of their pet subject. One deprecating remark to an aspirant can de-motivate and even destroy something of their self-esteem. JD…..my suggestion is that you get rid of the term “Clueless singer” from both your vocabulary and thinking and also perhaps,your tendency to keep using the “So” explanative in your dialogue.

  • Avvie

    good tips here….gotta say though that white text on a white background doesn’t come across so well.

  • Mathew Molk

    i am also 70 and played my first paying gig new year’s eave 1954 when I was 8. Been at it ever since. I have been been in this game as a live entertainer and have also been hired to run sound and even lights by some clients. .

    During all that time I have had the misfortune at both running sound off stage as the sound engineer and on stage while playing. Here is the fact, especially since there are also fewer and fewer classically trained musicians. There far more clueless singers then people that know which end of the mick to sing into by a ratio of over 2 to one. They haven;t got a clue about why THEY are the ones causing all the feedback and that the mic was set up with it on center and 1″ away from there nose and then can’t understand why the completely drop put of the mix when the back out a foot away from the mic and hop 2 feet to the side.

    It is you and not JD that sounds inexperienced. You should try running sound for a death metal band some time and I think you would be “singing” a different tune. Not every musician is Diana Krall, you know.

  • Lil Wayner

    The real question is, at 70 years old, how do you know how to use the internet?

  • York

    I believe her point was simply that while everyone is clueless about mic technique at some point in their life, the “expert” has a choice of constructive criticism or destructive criticism. While both forms of criticism will point out the error of the singer, using the destructive form says more about you than anything else and it isn’t saying something good.