Posted on 14. Mar, 2016 by Daniel Duskin (Record Producer, Mixing & Mastering Engineer) in Recording
Did you know that your position will make a bigger difference than the choice of microphone used in getting professional results? The importance of positioning yourself to the microphone is too often overlooked. It may seem obvious, but most don’t understand just how enormous of a difference your position will make for your voice. It isn’t just how close either, there’s also angle, tilt, and consistency.
Generally speaking, there are no rules when it comes to recording, but we’ll assume your goal is to make your voice sound as big and professional as possible, without sounding nasally, shrill, harsh or distorted.
That Big Vocal Sound
You need proximity effect to achieve this. Essentially, this means that you want your mouth to be as close to the microphone’s capsule as possible. You can’t fix this in the mix, so get right up on the microphone.
That Professionally Recorded Sound
Much of this comes from consistency on the microphone. i.e., don’t move your head around. You’re going to want to keep your mouth in exactly the same place while performing, and pointing in exactly the same location. Don’t move back from the microphone in the studio when you fear you might be too loud, or when you want to tuck a part in you aren’t confident with—it won’t work; studio’s use level compressors and may even ride the fader, which will bring the part you tried to hide right back up in level, and it will sound even worse if you are further from the microphone.
Microphone choice can change the captured tonality of your voice, but the importance of vertical position/angle is often overlooked, and this can make a positive improvement to your voice, provided that you (or the engineer) take the time to find out just where to place that microphone. A seasoned engineer will usually know just where to place the mic, and will move it accordingly if it needs adjustment. Often you may find that the engineer placed the microphone by your chin facing up toward your nose, or by your nose facing down toward your chin—this is intentional to get an optimal tone for your voice, and so you should project forward (do not tilt your head).
Preventing Harshness & Distortion
The downside to performing close and directly into the capsule of the microphone is the possibility of harshness or distortion. Luckily you don’t need to compromise, you can have your cake and eat it too! No need to move back from the microphone, simply angle the mic ever so slightly to one side, so your breaths are moving across the microphone capsule, and not directly into it. This will prevent plosive distorted pops and booms, and will drastically reduce harsh “S” sounds (as well as Sh, T, K, Ch, and other hard consonants). A pop screen is often used to prevent plosive distorted pops and booms, and this is recommended, however a pop screen alone will not reduce harsh “S” sounds, so you may need to angle the microphone (ever so slightly) as well. Just remember to stay right up on the microphone, as this technique is not meant to move the microphone away from you in distance, but only to angle it away.