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Pop Shields and Women’s Tights

Discover time honored ways to de-pop your vocals –says Wes Maebe

Hey all you vocalizers – Happy New Year.

We’re steadily rolling into February already and I hope you’ve had a fabulous time over the festivities, managed to rest your vocal chords, experiment with that new microphone you managed to get as a Christmas present or were out there on the stage earning well deserved bucks.

Pop Goes The Weasel

You’ve just laid down what could be THE vocal performance of your life.

Your heart and soul was in it, you transported yourself back to that time when you wrote the lyrics – you nailed it.

But you listen back to this gold dust and the take is riddled with pops and thuds!

How can we stop your mix engineer shouting at you for delivering an amazing vocal that’s pretty much useless?

Pop shields, spit guards and women’s tights could provide a solution.

Not As Simple as EQ-ing Out

Of course we can EQ out the problem frequencies. Most of these popping frequencies will not be part of the vocal as such.

Unfortunately it’s never as simple as that.

There will be harmonics of the pops; the blast of air may have triggered some resonant frequency in the microphone and these tend to overlap with the vocals.

In this fast evolving technological world there are plug-ins that will de-pop and de-thud the signal.

But these are really automated EQ’s/Compressors suppressing these noises and they end up effecting the final sound and quality of your vocal.

The Shield

Pop shields come in a vast array of varieties.

If you want to DYI-it, then you can grab a coat hanger and a pair of your girlfriend’s tights.

Don’t laugh! These things are surprisingly effective and cheap.

However, I have found that the newer metal mesh versions allow you to get in a lot closer to the mic for those intimate vocals.

Most of the major microphone manufacturers make their own brand. Some of your local electronics stores sell them as well.

However, I suggest you go through a trusted audio dealer.

And always make sure the bendy arm of the pop shield is long enough to reach from the mic stand to the front of the mic.

The Foamy Wind-Stopper

If your microphone was supplied with one of those foamy wind stoppers, do not use this as a pop shield.

These wind stoppers are made to do exactly what they say. The thick foam will seriously reduce high frequencies, which may be desirable in a live situation, but not in the studio.

You may find that some pop shields don’t quite work for you. Some of them may still cut out too much high end or let through too many pops—it really depends on the design.

So, once again, it comes down to test driving the products.

A Pencil and two Rubber bands

If extreme clarity and openness is required I try not to use a pop shield at all.

Some singers have such a mic technique they don’t pop the diaphragm at all by singing at various different angles. e.g. You could sing slightly across the mic or back away a little when you know there’s a big P or B coming. Have a chat with your vocal coach to see if there are any tricks and tips to ease these plosives out.

A little trick I learned along the way is to put two rubber bands around the microphone to hold a pencil against the grill and across the diaphragm.

The pencil (we engineers prefer a china graph pencil) breaks up the wind pops created by plosives.

This allows you to get extremely close to the microphone, deliver very intimate performances and maintain the open top end of the microphone.

One last little pointer; If you can remind yourself about an earlier Voice Council article on microphone polar patterns, you’ll find that putting your mic into omni mode reduces the bass created by the proximity effect. So, less popping. As your omni mic is now picking up sound from all directions you do need to be in a pretty decent acoustic to start with.

Right, let’s get back into the studio and make some great music.

-Wes


  • Anthony

    Yep…I get it!
    Please email attach me one of your mic pencils. I hope it’s XP and USB compatible tho’ !
    While you’re at it , when is the WM HAT going to be in your webshop?
    So much for the humour……….now the tears!

    About 35 years ago at a garage sale I got a Ribbon Mic a bit like the RCA44. Fellow Technicians who were not Musos like me told me it was the best thing on earth for fidelity recording. I tried it with my tape recorder and it worked in a fashion but not as well as the dynamic one I got from my workplace which was the Sony Service Centre then. It looked big and bulky and porting it around was a bit of nuisance. As the dynamic did the job I wanted and I was clearing out the place…I chucked it in the garbage Bin!!!!!

    Don’t say anything Wes…………..just don’t say anything!

  • Wes Maebe

    still biting my lip Anthony!

  • Somehow this article inspired me. I love to sing and maybe I’m going to try those tights.

  • Wow! Love the pencil trick. I’m familiar with the pantyhose variety of pop sheilds..lol. But this is the first I’ve heard of the pencil. Can’t wait to try it!