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For a singer, the microphone can be your closest friend or your most intimate arch enemy. It all depends on how you use it.

Many times a singer will come off as harsh or grating primarily because he or she is holding the microphone too close, especially on high pitched notes. Unless you’ve developed strong breath control and find working the mic to be second nature it’s wise to pull the microphone away from your mouth just before you sing a high note.

Low Close, High Far

In fact the distance between your mouth and the microphone depends on you’re the volume of your singing voice. You definitely want to avoid getting too close! Sing with a consistent volume and practice moving the mic away from and toward your mouth. When your high notes are picked up clearly without any split in your voice, you’ve found the place you need to hold the microphone.

When you’re singing the low notes, you want to hold the microphone as close to your mouth as possible. If you pull away you will lose subtlety in phrasing. In fact, those nuances will be missed altogether. Practice singing scales from your chest voice to mix. You will find a point when the mid note of the scale is not being picked up by the microphone. That causes splits and jerks in your singing. Remember – low notes stay close and high notes – pull back.

Chat Time Tips

When engaging your audience in repartee in between songs the microphone is too often neglected or dismissed altogether. Maybe a singer-songwriter is talking while tuning or flipping through cheat sheets of newly written or recently forgotten songs. You don’t want your chat time to alienate your audience. You want to further engage them and pique their interest.

Know Your Speaking Voice

Rule number one is: know your speaking voice. Learn the abilities of your voice indoors and out. A great way is to test the power of your voice with an understanding friend. Mark a spot where you’ll stand, and then get your friend to blindfold you. Then, start speaking with a normally projected voice. You can prepare a speech or tell the story of how you found Brett Manning and Singing Success, whatever works as long as you keep talking with projection.

Then, have your friend move around to various spots in order to see how much area your voice covers – no peeking! Have them then mark spots or take notes on where your levels drop below something that can be comfortably understood. Estimate the amount of people that a venue you want to play will comfortably hold. This gives you a rough idea of your capability, so you can use this information to decide if a microphone is needed to reach the people you want to in your in between song chat time.

Know Your Microphone

Rule number two is to know the microphone. They come in many different types and styles, including handheld, mounted, lavaliere and headset. Some have on / off switches, while others don’t. Familiarize yourself with the equipment so you won’t be faced with the embarrassment of wondering why you can’t be heard.

Most microphones you’ll work with are likely unidirectional. Those pick up from only one angle. With this type of microphone you need to avoid turning your head away while speaking or singing. This type of microphone is great for clarity of vocals and controlling feedback, but it’s really easy to drift out of range.

Sound Check, Please

Never skip a sound check. You want to familiarize yourself with the room, the monitors, the mic, the stage, or you’re a accident courting disaster. Give yourself time to get comfortable and use your microphone as the support tool it was designed to be.

Remember, the microphone can be a powerful tool for amplification, so the speaking level should be slightly louder then normal volume. In other words, let the mic work for you. If you’re holding it, remember its proper usage and avoid gesturing with it or letting it drop too far away from your lips. If a mic stand is near you, keep in mind that it is a support for the mic, just as with a lectern. Don’t use it to hold onto for support.

Randy Moomaw

Author Randy Moomaw

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