Microphone Control (A tip for singers)

Hey all, Nick here.  Since I sing (exclusively) in Division, I figured I’d return to the blogging game with some tips for singers.  This post will cover some aspects of mic(rophone) control techniques.  Listen up, if you’re a lead or backup singer, this stuff is important to you, your band, your fans, and even your ears.

What do I mean by “mic control”?  Simple.  Mic technique is understanding your projection and adjusting your position and distance from the mic to compensate. In simpler terms, if you sing a low note with little projection, but the same note an octave higher with massive projection – well, your mouth can’t be as close to the mic for both notes.

Got it?  Good.  Let’s move forward.

What makes mic control important?  Let me list two very important scenarios.  The first is dedicated to the touring musician.  The second is more about your ears.

Division singer Nick Kelly


Touring musicians might hire their own personnel to handle lights and sound.  These hired guns know every mood change and can assist in the band’s attempts to reach out to the fans to personalize the performance. They might know every note, the order of the songs in the set, or even the points where the audience should be moved by a sudden on-stage action. Most bands don’t have this.  Instead, they have the sound and light guys who cover every band that perform on their stage.  They have no idea when the singer might growl, shout or spike in volume.  Their ignorance of the band can actually scare off casual fans. One man’s lack of a band’s catalog can literally isolate dozens of potential new fans. If the sound engineer doesn’t know how to manage the volume of the instruments, two things can happen.  First, the mix may wash out some of the band’s strength, like a signature guitar solo, or great vocal performance.  Second, if the monitors on stage aren’t done right, and the musicians and singers can’t hear what they’re doing…look out.  That’s the quickest path to a lousy performance.

Singers, from casual to professional, should also make sure they aren’t suddenly bellowing in to the mic.  In addition to hurting the band’s performance, it can also hurt your ears.  In-ear monitors can be used to isolate voices and instruments, and to block out all sound.  If a singer’s voice has a direct path to your eardrum, and that singer suddenly goes from singing to shouting as part of a performance, it can cause serious damage.

Distance is your friend when it comes to mic control.  The distance from a singer’s mouth to the microphone can affect three things; volume, strength, and enunciation. Singers who tend to get very close to the mic can lose enunciation and make their voices sound warped. Jon Tidey describes trying to record these singers on the ProSound Web Blog HERE.  Marc Acito writes a whole blog about the Broadway trend of swallowing the mic to be heard HERE. A well-trained singer doesn’t need to have her lips and teeth on the microphone in order to be heard. Learning how to project with the mic just a few inches from the mouth can really help a singer learn to project and to help her sound engineer.

Another technique that assists in maintaining tone is to move the mic away when holding a note that is intended to fade out.  Don’t attempt to lower the volume and intensity of the note at the same distance from the mic.  Hit the note strong. Hold the note strong, and move away.  That ensures the same tonality of the note from start to finish.  It will clash less with the supporting instruments, and require fewer takes when recording.

Symphony X frontman Russell Allen


Two singers with incredible mic technique are Russ Allen from Symphony X (Video HERE) and Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear (Video HERE).

Are you the singer in your band?  Are these tricks you use every rehearsal, recording and performance?  If not, was this helpful?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Got an opinion?  Let’s hear it below.  Till then, see you at the next show!

One Love,
nK, Division

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Control Issues

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Control Issues delivers a deep assortment of musical textures and emotions through songs that have been forged and tested in the unforgiving world of live concerts.