How to Hold a Microphone When Singing: A Mental Checklist

How to Hold a Microphone When Singing: A Mental Checklist
Photo by MD Duran / Unsplash

Whether you have just started singing or have been singing for years, every singer will come to realise that there is a wrong and right way to hold a microphone. Whether they choose to follow that advice is up to them, but there are definitely benefits to holding a microphone correctly. This article will guide you through how to hold a microphone when singing and why.

A microphone should be gripped mid-shaft to maintain control and avoid blocking the grille. It should be held about one inch from your mouth, but no more than three inches if you experience issues with plosives or sibilance. The bottom of the microphone should also be angled slightly downward.

You can learn more about why this is the optimum way to hold a microphone below, as well as the wrong way to hold a microphone. I have also included a few exceptions to the rule that singers use to their advantage.

How to Hold a Microphone When Singing

Below are all the things you should be checking off in your head as you position your microphone when singing live. These apply to wireless microphones, corded microphones and microphones on a stand.

Don't forget to take a look at all the things you need to do before your performance as well.

Distance From Your Mouth

The microphone should be one inch away from your mouth, or no more than three inches.

A microphone needs to be close to your mouth in order to pick up as much of your voice as possible. Picking up more of your voice will allow you or the sound desk to have more control over the volume ('gain').

In saying that, there are also disadvantages to having the microphone too close to your mouth. This is why the 'sweet spot' tends to be between 1-3 inches from your mouth. Below are the reasons why you shouldn't hold the microphone too close or too far from your mouth.

Holding the Microphone Too Far Away
Microphone pickup/signal follows the inverse square law. This means that if you double the microphone's distance from your mouth, the signal will decrease to 1/4 of what it was before.

If you are too far away from the microphone, your voice will not be loud enough for the audience. The volume controls will allow you to turn the microphone down to the point of no sound at all if you sing too loud, but there is a limit to how far you can push the volume up if your voice is too soft.

Also, as the volume is pushed higher and higher, background noise will also become louder. This means that the movement of your hand on the microphone might be heard or backing instruments may be picked up. These background noises will further drown out the clarity of your voice through the sound mix.

Holding the Microphone Too Close
From what I've mentioned above, you would think that you should be holding the microphone right up against your mouth. This is also not great for your voice.

Although you will have plenty of volume, the microphone will also pick up more plosives and sibilance. Plosive sounds include 'p', 'd', 'b', etc. and sibilance is the high pitch frequencies from 'sh' and 's' sounds. These harsher sounds are often picked up more and over-exaggerated by a microphone.

Having the microphone too close will therefore enhance these harsh sounds and make the sound mix uneven. Distance from the microphone helps to remove some of the intensity of these sounds. Quality microphones or accessories can help rem

Another reason why your lips should not touch the microphone is simply to keep the grille clean. Most microphones are shared between different people. Any contact with the microphone puts you in contact with their saliva, which is not an overly pleasant thought.

Exceptions to the Rule
Some people will use the distance of the microphone to control the volume of their voice when powering out a big note. This saves needing to adjust the volume at the sound desk for just one note. In a similar way, you can also bring the microphone closer for a softer phrase.

You can also use distance to slowly fade out your voice. Drawing the microphone back slowly will decrease the volume of your voice until you are ready to finish the note. This is particularly handy if you are holding a long note as it covers up the sudden stop if you run out of breath.

Angle of the Microphone

The microphone should be angled slightly (no more than 45 degrees) so that the bottom of the microphone is lower than the top.

Holding the microphone slightly off-axis to your mouth will help to reduce harsh plosives and sibilance when singing, just like if you hold the microphone further away from your mouth.

Being off-axis means that you are not singing directly into the microphone. To achieve this, simply lower the bottom of the microphone so that it is on an angle. Most people tend to hold the microphone at an angle anyway because holding it perpendicular is more tiring.

Exceptions to the Rule
Holding the microphone as close to your mouth as possible has the effect of increasing bass frequencies (the low frequencies of your voice). This is known as the 'proximity effect'. This effect is common among rappers. However, you may notice that those who use this effect also have issues with plosives and sibilance.

Hand Placement

Your hand should grip the microphone in the middle of the shaft so that you have enough control but don't cover the grille.

Microphones are top-heavy because of the intricate equipment inside the head of the microphone. This means it is easier to hold and control the microphone when you hand is close to this weight.

Holding the microphone further down requires more balance and is much more tiring and unstable. Having good control will help boost your confidence when performing. For more ways of improving your confidence, take a look at this article.

However, holding the microphone too close to the top may cause you to cover parts of the grille. This can affect the quality of your voice being picked up by the microphone and create issues with feedback.

The term 'feedback' is used to describe the loud high-pitched noise that sometimes comes from a microphone. This most often occurs when a microphone is held in front of a speaker. However, covering the grille can contribute to this.

For these reasons, it is best to grip the microphone mid-shaft so you still have control, but don't risk covering the grille. If you are using a microphone stand, you'll notice that the clip holds the microphone in this position too.

A Little Tip
Some microphones can be weighed down by a cord. If you find it comfortable, try using your little/pinky finger to support the underside of the microphone. Your little finger can therefore take some of the weight, making it easier to hold the microphone. This will allow you to relax your grip.

Exceptions to the Rule
Some singers prefer to hold the grille of the microphone so that they have a better idea of how close the microphone is to their mouth. This is common among singers who constantly bring the microphone down and then back up to their face, such as rappers or dancers. Misjudging the distance may cause you to chip a tooth.

Follow your Head

Make sure to follow your head if you turn to the side so that the microphone can still pick up your voice.

When you are singing, you will probably be looking around the audience to boost audience engagement. However, wherever your mouth goes, your microphone should follow. It seems simple, but is something to keep in mind.

Posture is also important when singing. To learn more about correct singing posture, click here.

Exceptions to the Rule
Sometimes there may be reasons you don't want the microphone to pick up your voice. If you need to take a deep breath in or are panting from some dancing, you should consider lowering the microphone or moving your head so the audience don't hear you (click here for tips of dancing and singing at the same time).

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