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Microphone techniques for vocalists
Ideally, the mic should be about two to four fingers away from the mouth and tilted up, at a slight angle.

Mic Techniques for Vocalists: Positioning, Working with Director

Performing properly removes distractions, so that we can get out of the way of worship and let the Holy Spirit work on those in need.

The pastor looks back and glares, and you know what he wants you to do.

It is amazing how much just a few inches can affect your sound.

The soloist has suddenly moved their microphone three inches from their mouth, and as a result, you cannot hear them over the choir. You turned them up already on the mixing console. In fact, you turned them up so much, that you are starting to hear feedback.

To try to fix it, you came back down just a touch.

It is amazing how much just a few inches can affect your sound.

What are you supposed to do? Yell at your singers during service, to hold the mic up? Most of us have had that thought … OMG!

Ideally, the mic should be about two to four fingers away from the mouth and tilted up, at a slight angle.

How do you know which is best? Try it and listen.

The further you move the mic away from the mouth, the warmer the tone. However, you lose volume at an alarming rate. There is a balance, and it is different for everyone. You as the sound engineer or vocalist are responsible for how it sounds.

Most vocalists don’t know or don’t care. You should!

Most people move the mic back and forth. Listen to each person, and when you find the proper spot, note it and then discuss this with them. Show them how to hold the mic, and at what distance, and let them listen to the difference.

While you are working on their mic distance, it is good to note where they stand and where they walk. Feedback often comes from speakers and monitors.

If possible, the vocalist should never be directly in front of a speaker, and if they need a monitor, they should hold the microphone, so that the base of the mic is aimed at the speaker, where the sides do not pick up any signals. All these things can and should be taught routinely.

When thinking of positioning, don’t forget that most singers move about and turn their head. I capture video of people that I feel need work on my phone. Then, if I have a good relationship with them, I show them how they are turning away from the mic. After that, I ask them if they can hear themselves when they look away.

Usually that works.

These singers will need to be reminded from time to time and I have the director help as much as possible. My last director helped me by getting on stage in front of everyone and demonstrating proper technique and had them listen to what it sounds like when you move away from or pull the mic away.

I have only met two people who had enough knowledge to move the mic back and forth. They had both taken the time to learn the proper way to hold and move the mic. Everyone needs to hold it and let the sound guy adjust the volume. We earn their trust when we talk to each other.  

Also, do not be intimidated, if you are not sure about what to do. It is one of the easiest things to learn. Just have someone you know sing or talk with a microphone. Have them move back and forth and turn their head and move in front of a monitor. All you need to do is look and listen, and you will be teaching both of you the proper technique. Then duplicate this with others.

It is easy to learn, and with practice, it will become natural for them. Having everyone use a proper technique will assure a seamless performance. I realize that this is service, and we should not be “performing,” but frankly, we are all performing a service to the Lord.

Performing properly removes distractions, so that we can get out of the way of worship and let the Holy Spirit work on those in need. It is your duty as the sound guy/person, to work with the director and train everyone that uses a mic, how to use it properly. I say work with the director, because we are all humans and as such, are sensitive to criticism.

The director will help you navigate each personality, which will help you when you need to speak to someone, if the director is not around.

In addition, I would also have a conversation with the director about the mic positioning. If they don’t understand what you are trying to explain to them about microphone positioning, then record it and show them. Then discuss and hope that they will demonstrate good technique and help you when others are having problems.

Remember that the biggest obstacle to getting people to do the things that we want is our sensitive nature as humans.

We need to be servants like Christ.

As they see our heart, they will be more willing to change. American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “You can get anything that you want, if you will help others get what they want.” With singers, they want to sound good. If you work with them, one on one, by having them sing with a track standing in the auditorium off stage, they will be able to hear themselves. When they get comfortable singing that way, have them sing without the track, and help them build a sound with EQ and effects, that they will feel comfortable with, and then mark those settings so that you can recreate it when they sing.

Our singers rotate, and I have each of their settings written down. Before a service, I ask the director who is singing, and I make my changes to the soundboard before practice begins.

I have had it happen that a friend goes to one of the singers, and says that they heard them that day, and that they sounded great. That builds confidence in them, and they will tell other singers to come to you to work with them as well.

From all that has been noted, recognize that it all comes down to relationships. I know that I say that in each of my articles. It is true, though, and it is the number one way to communicate when you have a problem.

If we will remember that it is all about doing our job the best that we can, and helping others do the same, then the Spirit can work in your service, and the needs of others will be served.


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