Unlike other musicians, a singer already has their voice all ready to go. So we’re pretty lucky in that respect. But If you’re wanting to get into performing and recording, then having your own microphone is a great start.
There are some amazing microphones out there that you can get for thousands of dollars, but it really depends on what you will be using it for.
My Top Picks for Microphones:
Wired Microphone: Shure SM58 (link to amazon.com).
This dynamic cardioid microphone is a well-loved, inexpensive, reliable microphone. You can’t go wrong. I’ve used it many times before and anyone who knows anything about microphones will have heard of it. It’s a great all-rounder if you’re starting out, great value for money and has sturdy casing, so less likely to be damaged on the road. This is my #1 pick.
Wireless Microphone: Sennheiser EW 100-835S (link to amazon.com).
This microphone is more expensive because of all the extra equipment needed for a wireless system. But if you’re looking for something a little bit more classy with a richer sound, this is the mic I would recommend. I love the look and sound of this mic on stage and it’s something that isn’t going to cost you thousands of dollars.
Recording Microphone: Rode NT1A (link to amazon.com).
There are so many amazing recording mics out there that I could list, and this one is not the best of the best. But this cardioid consdensor microphone has a great sound for voice recording. Unlike some other recording mics, it has sturdy casing that will last years if you look after it and doesn’t require any extra amplification to get a good sound.
Why I Recommend the Shure SM58
Out of all the microphones, even out of the three listed above, I would recommend you buy the Shure SM58 (link to Amazon.com).
As a singer, you’ll find that you don’t actually need a microphone if you are singing at an event. Most venues will supply there own. It’s too complicated for every singer to have their own microphone and is much smoother running if the mic(s) are set up in a fixed position on stage.
The situations where you will need to bring your own mic include busking on the street or doing a gig in a smaller venue. Basically anything where the music is not the main feature, in which case having high-quality equipment is probably not worth it.
Microphones are also a very personal choice. It’s not worth paying thousand of dollars to get an amazing quality microphone if that particular mic doesn’t suit your voice. Once you know more about the frequency and tone of your voice, you could consider finding the perfect match for you.
The Shure SM58 (link to amazon.com) is a microphone that is both affordable and good quality will last a long time due to it’s secure casing and simple design. It has been widely used for both love vocals and voice recording, with great results.
The only thing I would recommend if recording with this mic is to invest in a mic stand so the recording doesn’t pick up external sounds like knocking the mic cable or when you touch the microphone.
Also, don’t forget your XLR cable! This cable connects the microphone to the speaker, so a nice lengthy one will give you plenty of room to move around on stage.
Dynamic vs. Condenser Microphones
Dynamic vs. Condenser microphones describes the type of transducer the microphone uses. A transducer is an instrument that converts sound waves into an electrical signal.
In the most simple explanation, dynamic microphones are suited to live performance and condenser microphones are better suited to recording.
But here’s a more in-depth explanation.
Dynamic microphones contain a large diaphragm (thin sheet of metal), followed by a vocal coil and magnet. The sound waves hit and vibrate the diaphragm, vibrating the vocal coil. Because this coil is within a magnet, this produces an electric signal. No external power source is required.
Condenser microphones have a smaller diaphragm, followed by air space and then a thicker backing sheet. When the sound waves vibrate the diaphragm, the distance between the two metal sheets is varied, condensing the air space (hence the name). Unlike dynamic microphones, an electric signal is only produced if the diaphragm has an electrical current. Therefore an external power source is needed. The signal must also be amplified because the signal is a lot smaller.
The larger diaphragm in a dynamic microphone is able to handle loud punchy sounds without breaking, which is why it is well-suited to live performances. The smaller diaphragm in a condenser microphone will pick up more detail in your voice, but is more prone to damage with louder sounds.
There are many other strengths and weaknesses to each type of microphone, which I have listed in the table below.
Good for live vocals.
Withstands loud volume.
No external power needed.
Less chance of feedback.
Good for recording.
Sensitive to voice quality.
Can pickup from a distance.
Can detect higher frequencies.
Some voice quality lost.
Must be close to microphone.
Softer output volume.
Lower quality with high frequencies.
Not as durable.
Damaged by loud volume.
External power needed.
Susceptible to feedback.
Polar Pattern: What is Cardioid?
Each microphone has it’s own polar pattern. This refers to the direction that the microphone will be picking up sound. These are the main types:
Cardioid: This is the main form of unidirectional polar pattern. Sound is picked up mostly from the front of the microphone, some from the sides, and none from behind. Cardioid comes from the word ‘cardio’, meaning heart. This is because this pickup pattern is shaped like a heart.
Supercardioid and Hypercardioid: These unidirectional microphones are designed to reduce picking up sound from the sides of the microphone, at the expense of detecting noise from behind. This means the sound that is picked up is more focused to the front of the microphone. They both have the same shaped polar pattern, but hypercardioid microphones are even more focused to the front and have even less pick-up to the sides, but pick up more sound from behind, compared to the supercardioid microphone.
Bi-directional: Picks up sound equally in the fron and back of the microphone, with barely anythign at the sides. This would be ideal for two singers who are facing one another. Or sometimes singers will use bidirectional mics, but only use the front.
Omni-directional: Picks up sound equally in all directions. This is great for choirs, where voices will be coming from many directions.
Some microphones can even switch their polar pattern, but this is not common and will increase the price.
Other Features to Consider
Windshields: A feature that protects the microphone from too much wind, particularly in plosive sounds, such as ‘p’, ‘t’, ‘d’, etc. Most microphones these days have this feature.
Frequency Range: The variation in frequencies that the microphone can pick up. A wider frequency range can detect lower and higher notes. These ranges always include the human vocal range, so this is more of a feature to consider when picking up instruments or other sounds.
Frequency Response: Some microphones are tailored to be more sensitive to certain frequencies (which makes those frequencies louder). A ‘flat’ frequency response means that all frequencies are the same volume. A ‘shaped’ frequency response means that there is a variation. For example, a microphone might be shaped toward more bass notes.
There are so many things to consider when purchasing a microphone, so once you are more familiar with your own voice and style, you can have a bit of a play with different microphones. In the meantime, if you just want somewhere to start, give the Shure SM58 (link to amazon.com) a go.