Microphone Technique

If you’re not a classical singer, chances are you’re using a microphone when on stage. Knowing how to work with it is crucial, if you want to make the most out of your vocal performance.


The spheres

The spheres are a way to describe the distance you create between your microphone and your mouth.

SPHERE 1

  • Closest to the mic.
  • Only suitable for very low volumes.
  • Bass boos / Proximity effect: Low frequencies are amplified more than middle and high, which results in more “body” in the voice. Neutral with air works perfectly here. Sphere 1 makes it sound rich and broad, which is impossible without a microphone.

SPHERE 2

  • This is the sphere you use the most.
  • All frequencies of your voice are picked up equally.
  • When you sing the loudest, pull the microphone away a bit more than when you sing more quietly

SPHERE 3

  • Here, the mic only picks up some higher frequencies.
  • You are more audible acoustically than amplified.
  • Hence only suitable for intimate performances where you want to add an acoustic element.

Exercise: Practice singing a dynamic song in a microphone while looking at the lights of the input-volume on the mixing console. Your task is to keep them at the same level at all times! Quite frustrating in the beginning, but oh my, how you get to know the spheres like this 😉


Holding your microphone

Picture by Charlotte Marez-Vanhecke

Hold it a bit angled at the level of your chin. Above all sing straight into the microphone unless you want to obtain a special effect.

Holding the capsule of the microphone or covering it with your hand / arm like Ronnie James Dio creates a special muffled sound, but beware of feedback (the screeching sound coming from the speakers…). You also make the job of your sound technician a lot more difficult like this, and you really don’t want to get them into a bad mood 😉 Never – ever aim the microphone towards the speakers or monitors, as that will create feedback for sure!

Exercise: Practice singing with a microphone with the sound (backing track + your voice) only coming through your headphones, not a speaker. Now you hear what the audience will hear, without hearing your voice acoustically, so you can practice functionally.


Buying a microphone

Every microphone is unique. They all favor different frequencies and thus change your sound. Take your time to choose and don’t economize. It is a crucial lengthening of your voice that will define your sound substantially. If you’re a beginner at this, don’t hesitate to ask advice to the people at the shop, friends, colleagues,… Use extra sets of ears that will help you to know what to listen for when trying out microphones. Tip for beginners: Yes, Shure SM58 provides good quality for your money. But it’s not because it’s the most popular (best marketed…) microphone, that it also works for your voice! Test as much microphones as you can!

There are roughly 2 types of microphones that are used the most for amplifying voices. Make sure you know what you need, when choosing your mic! For many live performances, you will need a dynamic microphone. As its pick up pattern is cardioid – it will pick up sound mostly at the front of the microphone, it is suited for louder bands. A condenser microphone is much more sensitive and will also pick up the sound of the other instruments surrounding you. Hence, these microphones are mostly used in studio or for more intimate live performances.


General tips

  • Make sure you don’t drop your microphone and protect it (also from moist) during transport.
  • Allow your mic to heat up a bit before using it, when it has been stored in a cold place, because condense will ruin it.
  • Smoke is bad for your voice ànd for your microphone. The tarnish on the membrane of the mic will dampen high frequencies.
  • During a sound check, you sing a song. Don’t hit or blow into your mic, especially not a sensitive condenser mic, as it could damage the diaphragm.
  • Don’t forget the batteries + spares if your mic needs them… I know what I’m talking about 😉

What happens after the microphone?

Make sure you have some basic knowledge of equalizing, compression and effects. By doing so, you will be able to communicate clearly with your sound technician during the sound check and make them perfectly clear how you want your voice to sound. Don’t leave it all up to them as it is quite possible that their artistic opinion doesn’t match yours.

Because this person will define your sound, it is very important that you build a good relationship with them. Say hi, introduce yourself, be polite, communicate clearly and say thank you afterwards. It’s incredible how many musicians forget this… The sound technician is an equally important member of the band as your guitarist or you, the singer!

Have fun with your microphone!

You are responsible – Part 1

One of the first things I communicate to you when you start lessons or coaching with me, is that YOU bear a big part of the responsibility. Whether my work with you will be effective and have clear results, is not only defined by me! I depend on your questions and feedback, in order to be able to give you what you came for.

I am not the kind of teacher that will tell you what to do every step of the way and expects you to always believe me and follow my opinion. On the contrary. I am here to help you find and develop your own artistic personality and make sure that you do this in a healthy way. Your voice, your sound. That’s one of the reasons I work with Intake sessions. Before that session, you will have to fill out a form with questions that will help me to understand who you are and what you need. These questions will compel you to think about your goals as a singer and what will be the best way to achieve them. I ask you to answer those questions again every few months, in order to make you reflect about the path we have taken together. Did we stay on track? Did we use the right strategy or do we need to change something? And so on…

So, whether you’re thinking about starting lessons or coaching with me or with somebody else, I advise you to think about these questions. First of all, you are helping the teacher and coach to work with you in the best way possible. And as a bonus, it just feels SO good to reflect on the questions, write the answers down, re-read them a few months later, realize you have reached your goals and find new ones, eventually change your strategy,… It’s great to take your growth as a singer into your own hands, and work together with your teacher and coach. They are there to help you. So you have the right ànd the responsibility to make clear what it is you want.

Oh, one more thing: It’s OK to answer “I don’t know (yet)” ;o)

GENERAL INFO FOR YOUR COACH

  • Which relevant education(s) did you receive in the past?
  • Which relevant education(s) are you receiving at the moment?
  • Are you singing in a band / choir or have you done so in the past?
    Are you performing?
    If so, how many gigs per year?
  • Are you suffering from relevant medical conditions? Airway-problems, food intolerances, allergies, structural problems that effect your posture, reflux,…
    If so, are you being treated?
    If so, is it necessary that your vocal coach gets in touch with the person you’re treated by?

WHO ARE YOU AS A SINGER?

  • What are your strong traits as a singer?
  • Which singers / composers / artists / … inspire you?

PERSONAL GOALS IN THE PAST

  • What have been your goals? (f.e. breath support, interpretation,…)
  • How did you work? What was your strategy?
  • Are you happy about the progress?
  • If not, why?
  • What did you have to do differently?
  • How do you think your coach can and should help to do this better in the present?

PERSONAL GOALS IN THE PRESENT

  • What are your goals? (f.e. breath support, interpretation,…)
  • How are you working? What is your strategy?
  • Are you happy about the progress?
  • If not, why?
  • What has to change?
  • How do you think your coach can and should help?

PERSONAL GOALS IN THE FUTURE

  • What are your long-term goals? (f.e. a certain song, performance,…)
  • How are you going to work? What will be your strategy?
  • How do you think your coach can and should help?

STUDYING

  • Do you have a certain strategy?
  • How regular do you study?
  • How long do you study?
  • Are you using a fixed structure / routine?
    If so, explain.
  • Does your strategy & routine work?
  • If not, what has to change?
  • How do you think your coach can and should help?

EXTRA

  • Is there something else you want to mention?

Click here for part 2 of this blog, where I explain about how you can take responsibility during a coaching session.

Testimonials on Skype Coaching

I have started offering coaching via Skype successfully in January 2013 and wrote a blog on my own opinion about it. But sometimes, I notice that people are still skeptical. That’s why I decided to share the testimonials of a few people that I’m coaching.

It’s simple: It works! ;o)

Julia Klotz, Musical theater singer, Germany, leading part in Evita.

Afbeelding

“I took Skype lessons with Sarah and her vocal coaching was amazing. She helped me through a tough time with lots of rehearsals and shows to play.

My singing improved more than I expected and it still does with her concrete and precise tips in mind! :-)”

 

Singer-songwriter, Belgium

“I was recording in studio and the deadline was approaching. Sarah was abroad, so I booked a coaching session through Skype.Afbeelding

Besides the advantage of the last minute aspect, I felt even more freedom compared to regular sessions: I didn’t have to come to the coaching studio and we immediately started working to the point. After the session, I felt completely relaxed and ready for action!

Compared to a regular session, the way Sarah handles coaching through Skype is equally personal, the result equally impressive and efficient.

Whether it’s offline or online, Sarah is always great, and the session is always productive.”

Sara Van Crombrugge, singer, Belgium

I just had my second Skype lesson. I wondered in advance whether it would be something for me, but I’m glad to say it was very nice. Next to the fact that I don’t have to make the trip to Ghent, it was very nice to have the lesson in my own living room, where I’m very at ease. I would recommend it to everyone  🙂 !

Skype coaching

Today, I decided to start offering vocal coaching via Skype.

I have to admit, I have been sceptical… There’s nothing like the real thing, huh? Live human contact with the whole spectrum of senses to communicate with. And what to do when the connection fails? Throwing the computer out of the window isn’t gonna help, I’m sure…

But after experimenting a few months with the medium from both sides (as a teacher and as a student), I’m really convinced that this concept is going to be a valuable addition to my business.

Imagine a singer being in the recording studio, having tried to nail the take, but failing, and getting really frustrated… Of course, the first thing to do is make a mental note “Book Sarah to come with me for the next session” ;o) After that, the fastest solution to this situation is being coached through Skype! Sometimes, even the fact that your coach is “there” to help you out is enough to get rid of the stress.

I think we all know this one: Your big premiere was there sooner than you’d wanted, so you have overdone the rehearsals. The vocal fatigue, together with the stress of the performance results in your voice being constricted and you being even mòre stressed out… 1 hour before the curtain goes up! Then, a Skype-session backstage with your vocal coach, focusing on Emergency Aid (more about that in a future post) is worth gold.

I have decided to use the same price setting as I do for “IRL coaching”
As a student, I feel I receive the same value for my money as I would in a normal coaching situation. And I save transportation costs ;o)
As a teacher, I work the same amount of time

So now I’m very curious to hear you opinion & experiences!
Have you ever coached / been coached through Skype?
Are you as enthused as I am?
How did you handle technical issues?
What’s you opinion about the price?
Do you have tips & suggestions?

Skype