How to Adjust Your Singing Voice for Different Microphones

We all have an idea of how our voices sound, but the idea doesn’t usually match the reality. Most people are surprised and even sometimes horrified by hearing themselves in a recording. In fact, only 10 percent of the people in the world are able to recognize their own voice when it’s played. But if you’re a professional singer or hoping to become one, you’re probably used to hearing yourself and have taken special steps to improve your vocals. Nevertheless, you’ve noticed that your voice doesn’t sound the same in different microphones, and sometimes the results can be quite alarming.

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So the first thing to realize is this: different microphones are manufactured and calibrated to suit a variety of needs. The type of microphone to use will depend a lot on your genre of singing, the accompanying musical instruments used, location, and the result you’re aiming for. As the world’s only musical theatre program that creates fully-produced, original movie musicals, NYFA’s Musical Theatre School offers students the opportunity to record their vocals in state-of-the-art, professional studios. But what if you’re looking to do your own project on the side, or have booked an outside job? This guide will help you adjust your singing voice across different microphone and help you determine the best ones to pick for your next recording session.

1. If You’re Using A Condenser Microphone

If your music is focused primarily on your vocals or acoustic instruments, this is the microphone for you. However, a condenser mic is more prone to sibilance, so when you’re singing something which has a lot of S and F sounds, you can either use software to mask it or sing at an off-axis angle. Alternatively, you can do the “pencil trick,” which basically involves tying a pencil over the mic’s diaphragm with a rubber band that splits up and diverts the high frequency vibrations.

2. If You’re Using A Dynamic Microphone

This is a cheap, all-rounder alternative to the former that is good for vocals, drums and even recording guitar amp. However, one of the chief drawbacks is the “proximity effect.” This means that if you sing too closely to the mic, there’s a perceptible low-end boost in the frequency response. You can counterbalance this to some extent by using a pop filter or omni-directional mics.

3. If You’re Using A Ribbon Microphone

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These are extremely expensive and extra sensitive and are perfect for those who want to bring a vintage vibe to their music. If your music involves piano, strings or woodwind, or if you’re singing in a choir, this is your best choice.

Whether you’re recording your voice for a music project or for a musical film, there are two more very important things you can do to improve and adjust your voice for the mic…

4. Work With a Vocal Coach

As you already know, hearing your own voice is vastly different from the way others hear you. Getting a trained vocal coach to oversee your singing lessons is very important, as they can help spot new areas of your vocal work that need attention, and direct you to new techniques and skills. Not only will a professional vocal coach make sure you hit the right notes, you’ll also have an objective, outside perspective to help you practice better posture and breathing as well as how to adapt your techniques when you’re singing in a studio or live.

5. Control Your Vibrato

Most of us tend to have a natural vibrato, but professionals must learn to control and harness vibrato at the right time for best results. A vibrato can be similar to having an accent, and with regular practice you’ll be able to control and manipulate the rhythms and add more style to your singing.

Finally, remember that singing is a performance. For any show to be successful, your emotions must be real and you must enjoy what you do. Happy singing!

Ready to up your vocal game with some formal training and hands-on experience with real-world projects? Check out NYFA’s musical theatre programs.

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