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Mic Placement

By | February 7, 2007

Nice mic, huh?You know what? A lot of people out there are just using their mics wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that a good quality mic is essential for a pro quality podcast, but even with a good mic, you’re not gonna get the best results unless you use it right viagra generico.

People that are in the entertainment industry know how to work a mic. An amateur will walk up to a mic and first of all, they’re kinda afraid of it because they’re being recorded or amplified over a PA, so my first suggestion is, get some mic time. Don’t be afraid of your microphone. Different mics do work a little differently though, so that’s why you need to log some high quality time with your mic. Do lots of recording and note the effects of distance and volume.

There are basically two different styles of microphone, dynamics and condenser. I don’t wanna forget about ribbon mics either, but those are typically outside of a podcaster’s budget. If you’ve listened to my other podcasts you know that I prefer a condenser in the studio, but with either one, placement is key. Here’s why.

Aside from the two main styles of either condenser or dynamic, we’ve also got patterns to worry about. There are omni-directional, unidirectional, bidirectional, cardiod, and super-cardiod. Omni-directional patterns pick up sound from all around the mic. This is typically a bad choice for a podcaster’s mic because if there’s noise anywhere, it’ll get picked up. Unidirectional mics pick up sound best from one direction. They tend to reject sound from the sides. Bidirectional mics pickup sounds equally well from two different directions and usually have a figure-eight pattern, so if two people were standing on opposite sides of the mic, it would pick them up equally well if it was aligned properly.

A cardiod mic is a unidirectional mic and it has a pattern that is kinda heart shaped, which is where I think they get the name cardiod. For voice work, either a cardiod or better yet a super-cardiod is the way to go. A super-cardiod, which I’ve also heard called a hyper-cardiod, the mic is most sensitive in a very small area in front of the mic. There’s also a small area behind the mic, that’s just a little bit sensitive. You get real good rejection of signals on the side of the mic, meaning it doesn’t pickup much from the sides.

Now an omni-directional mic does give you the most accurate reproduction of sound, but any good quality cardiod or super-cardiod will actually add some tonal color to the recording and is usually a desired effect. One drawback though, is in the bass response. If you get real close to a cardiod, you’ll hear the ‘proximity effect’ which adds tons of bass to the sound. To help with that, there are two things. Most mics have a bass rolloff switch that essentially kills the bass below a certain frequency, and of course we also have proper mic technique, which is what we’re wanting to talk about today.

If you’ve ever watched a professional singer on stage, you’ll see them ‘working the mic’. That means that they use the distance and angle of the mic from their mouth, to benefit the overall sound. For example, if they’ve got to really belch out hard to hit a high note, they’ll pull the mic away from their mouth so that the overall sound remains constant, even though they’re pumping out way more volume.

If they want to whisper, they pull the mic in close. When I’m recording, I unconsciously tilt my head a bit on certain words that contain what are known as plosives. Words that begin with the letter ‘P’ or ‘T’ for example. If I say ‘Peter Pan Peanut Butter’ and don’t watch my plosives, I’ll get ‘Peter Pan Peanut Butter’, which doesn’t sound very professional, right?

The trick to this is your interaction with the mic. You can’t fix a plosive once it’s been recorded. If you can, plug in a set of good quality headphones and listen to yourself talk while you record. You’ll learn to move your head away or turn a bit when you’re going to say certain words. That’ll be hard at first, but if you keep your headphones on while you listen to yourself, you’ll get real comfortable with it and you’ll be able to see what you have to do to prevent those plosives.

Now, I guess we should start with mic placement before we really get into this. I’ve found both in the studio and on stage, that most people just don’t know how to use a mic. They don’t know what’s required to get good sound, they kinda figure ‘It’s a mic, it just works.’ And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. They haven’t made a mic that works as good as the human ear, and I seriously doubt they ever will, so that means you’ve got to help your mic.

Hopefully you’ve got a unidirectional mic. You’ve gotta find out where the pattern is though. With most mics, it’s pretty straight forward, you talk into the end of the mic, but that’s not the case with a lot of condenser mics. With your headphones on, move around the mic and talk. Listen to the quality of the sound. With large-diaphragm condensers, you’ll be talking more to the front of the mic, than the end.

You’re gonna find out real quick that placing your mic is easiest done with a boom stand. I’ve got a couple of stands that just mount to my desk and I can move my mic around wherever I want it. Those desktop mic stands are pretty much worthless as far as I’m concerned. You’ll hear every time you bump your knee or tap the table. Buy a mic that has a shockmount and then use a boom stand. I promise, you won’t regret it.

So now, with your boom stand and your shockmount, start about 8 inches from the mic. Don’t talk straight into the mic either, that’ll cause more plosives. Envision the pattern that the mic makes, and talk ‘across’ that pattern at maybe a 45 degree angle. If you were singing on stage with a dynamic mic, you’d do it totally different, but in the studio with a condenser, I’ve found this works best.

Another thing that helps eliminate plosives is a pop-filter. This mounts to your stand and sets in front of your mic, like you see in the photo here. It should be about 2 inches from the mic, and it’ll not only help subdue plosives, but also keeps spit from hitting your mic.

Now what I’m gonna do is demonstrate the differences in sound by not placing your mic correctly. I’ve already show you what a plosive sounds like, so I’ll refrain from any more. This is what it sounds like if you’re too far away from the mic, this is what it sounds like if you’re too close. This is what it sounds like if you’re outside your mics pattern, kinda like you’re far away, and in the case of a large diaphragm condenser, this is what it sounds like if I’m talking into the mic as though it’s a dynamic stage mic. Not good, huh?

So now you know, don’t just take it for granted that you’re using your mic correctly, this is where your audio signal starts, so it can’t get any better than what you start with.

Aside from these options, I guess I should mention headset mics. I really try to discourage people who want to use a headset mic just because good ones are very expensive, and I don’t mean $50. Shure makes some great quality headset mics, but they’re meant more for the stage. If you go get one of those cheapy headset mics from Staples or Wal-Mart, you’re gonna have bad audio quality, period.

One thing I almost forgot to mention is to put the mic just above your mouth, vertically speaking, you’re still 8 inches away, but make it where you’re talking up slightly and definitely not down to the mic. The reason is, that’ll help your throat to not be constrained and again, makes it where the mic isn’t straight across from your lips so it lessens plosives.

If you don’t have a very pronounced voice, bring the mic closer, you have to capture as much fullness as you can, and that isn’t done by amplifying the signal later on. Believe it or not, correctly placing your mic can be more important than buying an expensive one.

Before I finish up, I’ll just remind you, do your recording with a headset on so that you can hear yourself, at least until you’ve been doing it for awhile. If you don’t have any way of monitoring yourself while you record, then do a lot of recording and listen carefully to your voice. Move around a lot and talk so you can hear the difference when you play it back, and don’t do the old ‘Testing..1..2..3.’. Get some real copy and go through the motions. Talk like you’re talking to your friends, talk about the weather, talk about how great you’re gonna sound once we’re done with you, whatever.

I think next week, we’re gonna do a little production work and talk about using sound effects, zingers, and music in your podcast.

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Topics: Audio Hardware, Studio | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Mic Placement”

  1. shaun Says:
    September 5th, 2007 at 11:10 am

    I have a Mic with a behringer mixer Ub1622. My mic is a AKG s52 Dynamic mic. At times I can get a good mix of signal. But I tend to use the sequencers (Sonars) plug ins to get the right sound. The roll of on the mic is quite deep (Bassy) compared to say a shure mic. How can I deal with problem as the Roll of is from the mic and not the signal coming from the mixer. My voice is naturally quiet but boosting levels through the mixer usually ends up in feedback. more so now that I am recording in a smaller room.

    Thanks for answering my questions in advance.

  2. Ken Walker Says:
    September 5th, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Well, you want to not be too close to the mic, try 8 to 10 inches, and cut the bass on the mixer’s EQ for the mic channel.

    When you talk about feedback, I’m assuming you’re talking about through the headphones. In that case, you might want to get a set of closed headphones like AKG K240s.


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