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Top 5 Mic Techniques

Top 5 Mic Techniques

I’d like to talk about mic techniques, as there are loads of different ways we as speakers sometimes have to use microphones for speaking.

You could be recording a podcast like this one, you could be a voice over artist, perhaps you’re narrating a book you’ve written for the first time. These days many of us actually rely on mics just for online meetings now that we’re working from home a lot more. Of course, if you’re presenting live in person somewhere then you’ll often be mic’d up in some way.

There are loads of different ways we come across microphones – all shapes and sizes, sensitivities and qualities – just like humans. You’ve got your tabletop mic, you’ve got a mounted mic, handheld mic, clip on mic. Mic’s which are really sensitive even to the tiniest gurgle in the vocal tracts. Mics which are designed to be really forgiving to your environment.

So, here are my top tips for when you have to use the microphone…

In many ways that is kind of a tough one because there are loads of variables at play from mic set up to mic set up. What’s right for a voice recording, won’t be right for a conference presenter, and what’s necessary for an audiobook, won’t be necessary for your online meeting with your colleagues. So I thought I’d share with you my top tips, which I feel are universally beneficial regardless of the situation when it comes to speaking with a mic, but not the mic technique tips you were expecting… ooo!

Tip one – Alignment

Alignment is really important in voice care but really, it’s about how you set yourself up in relation to the microphone, how you place your body physically and your mouth in relation to the microphone into which you’re speaking. You need to set yourself up so that the mic comes to you, rather than you moving towards the mic, or having the desire to lean towards the mic. So whether you’re seated or standing, whether it’s a handheld mic or mounted mic – if you start to reach towards the microphone with your mouth, which tends to be the instinct, you’ll be breaking your head-neck-back relationship.

So look to be stood or sat with your nose gently feeling like it’s being pulled back ever so slightly towards your spine. Your earlobes kind of sit in the centre of your shoulders, so your spine is long and your neck is free. If you start to reach forwards towards your mic then that position becomes misaligned and you can hear the strain and stretch in your vocal range – plus it feels uncomfortable and you’ll have to work a lot harder.

What tends to happen with microphones, is people set up the microphone then realise actually to get a decent proximity to the microphone for whatever they’re reading they have to then sort of push or lean towards where the mic is sitting. So when you’re setting yourself up with the microphone, even if it’s a handheld mic, make sure that you’re putting it somewhere that will pick up your voice from a position where you are physically aligned and physically comfortable.

Tip two, is to let the mic do its job.

So yes, you still need a focused and supported vocal instrument and you still need articulatory clarity in some form, but ultimately, remember that the mic is there to take your voice and translate it into whatever it needs to be. Be that louder in a conference space, or controlled and pure in a VO recording or, real and authentic in a radio or TV presenting capacity.

These mics are pretty good, so if you’re in a big space you don’t need to shout and strain – just make sure that when you’re doing your sound check, you speak at a level that you’re comfortable maintaining and the mic will pick your voice up. Just ‘do you’, read what you have to read, communicate what you have to communicate, and let the mic do its job.

Tip three is playing across the mic.

This mic tip is potentially aimed at people who are new to speaking on mics. One of the major things that can happen is popping closives, so the closives are the consonants that have a stop and a release phase for example T, B, G… If you notice the tongue tip comes to that bumpy bit just above the teeth and you don’t get your ‘T’ sound until you release that pressure with the lips together. That pressure builds and when you release the lip is when you get the sound, but because you get a slightly bigger air release further up the vocal track, rather than the air being slightly regulated and slowed down by the vocal folds, while it vibrates in there before it gets to the release up at the lips if you don’t have huge vocal awareness yet.

Playing across the microphone can really help with this or having your mic at a slight angle so you’re not speaking directly into it. Because what happens then, is the majority of the air pressure is actually not hitting the area on the microphone where the sound is taken in. There are other tips out there like if you put a pencil between your lips and the microphone it breaks the airflow and it disperses it. But that just makes me really super self-conscious of being on a microphone which isn’t always useful.

There are also of course vocal techniques too which might be better long-term to explore but I’ll get to that another another day.

Top tip number four is to forget the mic is there.

I don’t mean literally, Jesus, it’s metal and plastic and foam and pop shield and whatever else. Or it’s in your actual hand and you’re literally holding your face or it’s clipped to your lapel and there’s a battery pack hanging off your knickers, or you’ve never spoken into microphone before and it’s sat on your desk at home, plugged in your computer and you’ve no idea how it works and it’s absolutely terrifying, lots of reasons why it’s really hard to forget is there!

What I’m trying to say is that it’s not about the mic, ultimately you’re not speaking to the mic – it’s about the listener and if you try to keep your focus on the listener and your desire to communicate your message front and centre in your brain. The mic is but a conduit, it picks up what you’ve got to say and pumps it through to whoever needs to hear it. It’s the listener who is important here, not the mic, not your voice and how you sound – the listener. Change the focus, is the point of this tip, and I know that is really hard. I’ve been a voice artist for lots of years and there are still times when I’m very conscious that the mic is there and I’m not forgetting it.You’re never going to forget it’s there, but don’t focus on the microphone – remember on the other side of that microphone is the listener.

Tip number five is hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Please, there is nothing worse than amplified mouth noise, it is just nerves and it’s so common and so normal, but it is annoying when you hear someone on the radio and their speech is peppered with that kind of smacky, kind of gloopy, inside of the lining sound. It is the body’s reaction to nerves, the autonomic nervous system reacting to the surge of adrenaline and focusing on shutting down what you don’t need, e.g. saliva, and focusing on what you need, e.g. breath (and the ability to flee and keep yourself alive in this terrifying and threatening position). It’s not a sabertooth tiger anymore, it’s just people’s judgement which you might argue is worse.

If you know you’re speaking soon and you know nerves make your saliva turn to glue then up your fluids in good time.

There are loads of other mic tips out there, like staying a hand’s span away from the microphone or moving in on intimate reads and farther away on the big energy reads.

Even where the sweet spot is and where your voice works best with all different kinds of mics in different environments, but it all comes with experience and every speak, mic and situation is different so let’s just recap those five little tips.

Number one – hydrate well in advance
Number two – focus on the listener not the microphone
Number three – play across the microphone rather than directly into it to reduce those plosives
Number four – let the mic do what it’s there to do, and again that comes with experience
Number five – check that chin, bring the mic to you, not yourself to the mic

Here’s a YouTube video I did on alignment with a microphone so that you can see what I mean!

And of course, enjoy it! That mic’s a lucky fecker that gets to listen to you communicate your message to all of those lucky listeners!

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Top 5 Mic Techniques

Top 5 Mic Techniques

I’d like to talk about mic techniques, as there are loads of different ways we as speakers sometimes have to use microphones for speaking. You

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