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Rehearsing with a Mic

Essential microphone “know-how” from Mister Tim

You spend time rehearsing your vocal instrument. Perhaps you also spend time rehearsing other instruments you play.

The mic is also your instrument.

So, today, let’s look at some of the most essential issues between singers and their mics.

Moving with the Mic

I have had more than one bloody lip from awkward mic encounters: bringing the mic up too quickly (DOINK my face).

Stepping on the base of the mic stand, sending the mic careening in to my face (ka-THWANG like a cartoon character stepping on a rake).

Using a mic that is a different size and shape than I’m used to and I misjudge how far it is from my face (THORNK now my tooth hurts).

Running into other people on stage (CLARNNG now my face AND my pride hurts).

If you are holding the mic, you have to learn to keep it in front of your face while you move. If it’s on a stand, you have to learn to keep your face oriented toward the mic, even if you are moving.

Mic Care 101

Using a mic means learning to take care of it. Putting it back in the clip when you are not holding it.

Setting a wireless mic down in the right place so it doesn’t roll off your chosen surface and fall to the ground.

Checking with the sound guy before you unplug or plug in ANYTHING.

Dealing with Feedback

Perhaps the most essential knowledge for mic usage is how to deal with feedback. Learn what causes it.

Learn where you should hold your mic (preferably NOT pointing right at your monitor).

Different mics have different polar patterns that affect their tendency to feedback, and should influence where you place your monitors.

Experienced singers have a reflex response to nasty feedback: they automatically pull their microphone away from the closest monitor.

If you are running sound yourself or the sound gear is on or near the stage, EVERYONE in the band should know where the main volume slider or knob is so they can kill feedback immediately.

Time, Time, Time

Most of what you need to learn about using a mic is learned from spending time with a mic in rehearsals and at gigs.

Much of it is simply familiarity. Some will come from instruction: tips from other singers and specific techniques from coaches or managers or sound guys.

Mics – Beyond the Basics

Once you have mastered the basics of mic usage you can begin to use the microphone as an instrument.

Learn your mic’s proximity effect: how far can you move away from the mic before the sound quality suffers? How close can you be before it gets boomy or muddy? Can you use the near-mic bass enhancement to your advantage on certain parts of your songs?

One advantage of singing with a mic is that you can change the gain level.

If you want to sing quieter, you can turn the mic up; yoou can sing with a more intimate sound by cuddling up close with your mic, maybe turn up some of the high EQ to give you that tasty airy breathy sound.

You, the singer, will benefit from knowing how to use your mic to make you sound your best.

Spend time rehearsing with a microphone, plugged in to a live PA, with a mixer and EQ, to learn how to sound best on that device.

Jacob Bradshaw – That Should Be Me cover

Jacob! You have a great instrument and piles of talent. Great personality, too. Pitch is nice, though there are a few clunky notes. Good tune all around, great young potential! You definitely should find a good teacher and take a few introductory lessons. Training in breath support for efficient muscle use will help smooth out the cracks in your sound, make it possible to sing better for longer periods, and increase your ability to make great music. And if you are serious about music, consistent lessons are a MUST.

Pili Barreto – Turn My Swag On (cover)

You’ve got an amazingly strong and unrestrained voice, full of power and clarity. It seems like you could hand very difficult music, I recommend you challenge yourself. I would like to see more emotional engagement with the music. The sound is great but it’s somewhat robotic. Put some emotion into what you’re singing, make it more crazy or more subtle or more heartfelt, whatever you think works for your version of the song. Some dynamic contrast would add interest, and if you sing some parts softer your big strong voice will sound even bigger and stronger!

-Mister Tim

Mister Tim is a published composer, award-winning recording artist,and in-demand performer, teacher & performance coach. In addition to an active performing and touring schedule with his his solo vocal live-looping/beatbox shows, Mister Tim sings with Boulder, CO-based Celtic Rock band Delilah’s Revenge and 2012 BOSS Loop Station World Championship finalist Vox Machina, manages the… READ MORE