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Articles : Michael Mish "Mic Technique"
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Capturing your best voice                                                                                      26 Jan 05

Microphone technique

I once had an engineer tell me, “Imagine that the microphone is someone’s ear.”

OK. Simple enough. Logical.

But, you know, that advice has helped me more than any other I’ve ever had regarding microphone technique. You wouldn’t yell in someone’s ear. Not right up close, anyway. And if you wanted to emphasize something that was soft and gentle…well I, anyway, would move in nice and close and soften my voice way down.

As a voice-over artist, I learned all kinds of stuff about how to maximize the effect of hearing the overtones that scatter like star dust off of the vocal cords. There are lots of subtle things that happen in a voice.

Try this:

Say “ I love you” right now.


Now say “I love you” with both of your ears cupped forward with each of your hands.

Did you hear all the high-end stuff. That sizzle in the upper register and the presence in the lower register.

This is good to know. This is what the good microphone registers.

You don’t need to keep a one-size-fits all distance from the microphone. Remember. The microphone is your best friend. And it’s an ear.

Tell it all your secrets. Let it in on the deepest parts of you. And THAT is how you invite a listener in. Be it intimate. Raw. Raucous. Subtle or sexy. The microphone can work FOR you.

Move in and away from the microphone AS you’re singing depending on what you’re singing and at what volume you’re singing it. Of course limiter/compressors do a great job of obviating the need to move in and out…but that, notwithstanding, remember the ear thing. And practice a vocal line away from the microphone cupping your ears forward (like Dumbo), before even taking it to the microphone.

Try taking one of the ear phones off when tracking a vocal. And cup that ear forward so you can hear that intimate sound with a little room tone too. It’ll keep you closer to pitch and it just plain old sounds good.

When doing background vocals, try making your voice more vanilla…even a bit more breathy. Stacking background vocals like that sound great. You probably don’t want to do background vocals in full voice. It just starts to get too thick and heavy if you have any more than 3 or 4 over dubs in there. Think light and airy.

There are awesome ways to increase the subtle intimate sizzle of the vocal by using Aphex-type enhancers. And that is to say, software or hardware that will accentuate the harmonics that are naturally, though not always obviously, a part of your voice. If you Dumbo yourself more, you’ll hear them. UAD’s Pultec plug-in is a very cool way to broaden out the bottom end and the ephemeralize (I know this is not a word…but wouldn’t it be a good one?) the top end too. (

So go ahead. Give that friend, the microphone, an earful.

Michael Mish


(ed: Michael is one of our Select Artists, a veteran of the trade, and a children's music treasure, buy his cds and support this talent.)
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