Before getting up on stage to perform, I always think I’m special. Yes, I’m bragging, I feel like I am just about to show up as the one everyone has been anticipating. Whether it’s a fact or not, it’s a feeling, my own. Well, hold up. What it actually is, is when an audio tech comes to me and delicately hand a microphone just like presenting a golden scepter to a king. I feel honored and treated well especially when he gives tips on usage because he wants a part of my success. What I do with the mic can make or break a well-prepared singing, everything in my hand.
An aspiring singer must learn how to sing using a microphone to be a professional, so to speak. You know this; presumably, it’s the reason you’re here. You feel the device you’re holding isn’t bringing out the best in you. Maybe it’s the lack of mastery of it, or you’re not familiar with microphone types and uses. You’re probably right on both accounts, so here we go.
What Kind of Microphone Are You Using?
There is a whole array of mics out there. The way you use, hold and sing on one will vary according to its type, build, and even brand. The most common in live events are dynamics. In posh recording studios, there are condensers. In rough band garages, podcast function rooms, or voice-over booths, a ribbon will often be present.
At home, people often have three types available built for casual and telecommunication use. You have mics from smartphones, headsets, and built-in ones on computers. All those microphones have different quirks. It should be your goal to use, know, and adjust to them. Take advantage of those oddities when singing and amplify your voice’s beauty and quality.
Dynamic Microphones: The Jack of All Trades
This is the de-facto standard. It’s also often the cheapest out of the three most commonly used ones in a recording studio. You can sing on it beautifully, even if it’s your first time. Just let your instinct do the work.
Dynamics are very forgiving. It doesn’t pick up environmental noises. It’s the reason it’s mostly used during concerts and as monitors for guitar amps and drums. Since it’s hard for it to pick up noises outside its range, it won’t easily create a feedback loop. Feedback loops are the blaring, ringing, and rising tones when mics accidentally get pointed on speakers where they’re connected to.
The most significant caveat of this type is that it will make voices sound darker and a bit dull. You need someone to operate the mixing booth to make your vocals great.
The most important technique you need when using this type is mic distancing. It’s the act of situationally adjusting the mic away from your mouth. When singing normal and easy lines, get your mouth close to it. Some artists even place it below their lower lip to make sure their voices are heard continuously.
If you’re going to go through lines with thick ‘s,’ ‘p,’ and ‘b’ sounds, tilt the mic downwards since letting your voice hit its mesh will produce unpleasant sounds.
You can observe that most singers tend to suddenly pull their mics away from them when they’re on high pitch phrases of the song. You will tend to be louder than usual when singing high pitches. Pull the mic away from your mouth to prevent bursting the eardrums of the audience.
Condenser Microphones: Good Results With A Price Tag
You will rarely see condensers used on stage, so don’t need to worry about performing with it. Also, these are always mounted, so holding it or positioning will be a non-issue. The only drawback with condensers is its dependence on other audio gear and recording/event location.
To get good results, the air from your mouth, which carries sound, must directly hit the condenser’s mesh. Don’t worry about sibilants (ess-y sounds) and pops (p’s, b’s). Condensers often have pop filters.
BUT! And that’s one big but. If the mic doesn’t have a filter, don’t use it until there’s one attached. All ess’es and pops will get through it because of how much audio it can pick up (it can even pick up low-volume noises). And since condensers tend to pick more highs and lows and only a little from mid-range, a recording will be terrible without a pop filter.
Unlike a dynamic mic, using a condenser with proper set up is excellent. You can sing live with it, and you don’t need to be scared of deafening an audience. This is especially true when your performance gets ‘hot.’ You don’t need to always move in and out of a condenser’s pickup range, and it can tolerate high audio signals. Still, make some adjustments when you’re getting loud.
In short, a pop filter, an acoustically treated room, and proper gear setup are requirements for a condenser. You can sing freely using one as long as those three key elements are present.
Ribbon Microphones: Oldie But Goodie
The ribbon mic is the middle ground between a dynamic and a condenser. It doesn’t pick up a lot of noise, so you can sing without restrictions in an untreated room. However, be reminded that you can’t casually use it on stage since it’s fragile.
There are ribbons for use on a stage, which are often installed on stands, but they’re expensive. Not to mention that they aren’t that versatile. You’ll be limited in situations like singing mellow music in front of a quiet and calm audience. Or even in an opera where movement and stage performance aren’t focused on.
In terms of tone, your voice will sound warm and smooth through a ribbon. It won’t be as dark and dull as a dynamic, and it won’t be bright and crisp like a condenser. If you are a nasal singer, you will benefit mainly from this.
When it comes to positioning, the resulting audio’s quality depends on how far or how close you sing into a ribbon. Get close, and it will produce snappy and bright sounds. Move a bit away, and the vocals will be round and blended together with low ambient noise.
And The Other Mics: Let’s Not Forget
Of course, your phone, computer, and headset mics aren’t well suited for high-fidelity and high-quality song recordings—it’s common knowledge. However, they can still deliver satisfactory performance, depending on the brand. If you want to hear yourself sing and save some cash, by any means, use them. Buying a good microphone and the necessary audio gear will have to wait for another day.
But Richard, my phone is a high-end one! It should be on par with the previous three types!
I’m not saying your phone is terrible just because it can’t meet standards. But look, they’re only great when it comes to their cameras. Manufacturers tend to focus more on their phone’s photo snapping and video taking capabilities than their mics. And it’s understandable. With space limitations, they can’t attach a high-quality microphone, which has integrated technology unique to ones built for professional use on their products.
That’s why some companies developed mics intended to be connected to a smartphone if users want to film or record something with it. I have yet to get my hands on one of those for review purposes.
Moving forward, the most significant challenges these have are their size, location, and build. These are so tiny, and they only pick up sounds through one small hole. The only advantage they have is they are portable; use and plug them anytime, anywhere.
If you want to pursue using them, you have three things to do. First, minimize all environmental sounds. These microphones will pick up anything and everything. High-end smartphones have a bit of an advantage since some of them have additional noise-canceling features.
Second, get or create something to hold them in place. The mic will pick up any movement even a slight bump or touch. Lastly, get a pop filter. It’s the cheapest and most effective audio gear one can spend on.
Nonetheless, here is a sample video of a musician recording a song using his iPhone. He mostly placed his phone on places where there wouldn’t be any shakes. However, instead of using a pop filter and using a phone holder to record his song, he held the phone and pointed the mic of the phone away from his mouth to avoid the plosives and hisses. It resulted in some noise, as the YouTuber said, but fixed everything on post.
There you have it. Those are the types of microphones you can buy, use, and record on. I review some of them from time to time, so better watch out for the best ones and deals out there.
If you want a microphone to be reviewed, just leave a comment down below. I promise I’ll get to it as soon as I can. On the other hand, you might want to check out some of the simple singing lessons or singing courses I’ve reviewed.