How to Use a Microphone to Sing

Learn how to use a microphone from vocal coach Cari Cole in this Howcast singing tutorial.

Hi I’m Cari Cole. I’m a celebrity vocal coach and artist development expert. And I help artist find their voice, craft their music, and create successful music careers. I’ve worked with Donald Fagen from Steely Dan, Courtney Love from Hole, I’ve worked with the band Journey. I’m going to teach you how to be a better singer and performer.
So Im gonna teach you a little bit about using microphones. We’re gonna talk about performance microphone- like the microphone I’m using today. This is a line 6 microphone, this is actually a microphone used by American Idol currently. And it is a digital wireless which means it doesn’t operate on a bandwidth and it is a sensational mic, it’s one of my favorites. Most singers a re a little bit afraid of the microphone in the beginning so they tend to pull back too much, and notice what happens when I do that, it gets thinner and it doesn’t have much of a presence. So in the beginning of using a mic, I always teach singers to eat the microphone, almost have their lips on the microphone as I do now, or close by. When you’re singing louder, you can pull away a little bit, but don’t pull away so far, because then it starts sounding thin. Thats more prevalent on a recording microphone than on a performance microphone. So, eating the microphone, not being afraid of it. And the best way to get good at that is to get a microphone, have a microphone and a stand at home. Use a microphone regularly to sing. If you don’t want to bother your neighbors, you can plug that, get an interface and plug that into your computer and wear headphones, and get used to singing on the microphone. A couple of things about it. One, the sweet spot. A couple of things about it. There’s a sweet spot in the center of that microphone that’s very important. If you’re singing like this, you’re not gonna get that sweet spot. You need to be in the center of it. But the best way to learn is to get comfortable on it so to use it all the time. Also microphone placement is important. If you’re gonna use the piano, you’re gonna want that microphone, like when you sit at the piano position your microphone, notice I have it at an angle like this so I can look down at my hands and also at you. Because if you go to the piano and you get it all positioned and everything and then you look down and you’re like "Woops" Or, you position it too low, I see a lot of singers do this on stage and they put both hands and they lean on the microphone and look what happens. A beginner student did that in one of my sessions the other day and I had to go up on stage and help her because she didn’t know what to do. So when you’re sitting at the piano its important to have the microphone positioned correctly so you can straight ahead and look down at your fingers and not be confused and have to move up and down. When I’m playing piano I will keep my mouth on the microphone so I know where I am in space. Now when you’re standing up, heres a typical mic position standing up,one of the things you want to be careful of is, especially when you’re not used to using the microphone is, if you put weight on it, it tends to do this as your singing and then you’re kind of stuck. Either make sure that the mic itself is really tight and don’t put weight on it, just put your hands here, and a lot of singer’s use just one hand. You also want to get comfortable taking the mic off and don’t do it when you’re singing, wait for a break, and then take the mic off. Always put your hand on the stand first instead of just grabbing the mic and then make sure that you move the stand so that it doesn’t upstage you. Then you want to get really comfortable with where your movements are with where that microphone center. So people start moving in the beginning and pulling the microphone away because they’re focused on their movement. For singers that are more seasoned, you’ll see them pull the microphone back when they’re singing louder. This is when you’re more advanced and you know how to control it. But you’re really controlling it by what you hear. On stage you have monitors, they’re either up above you or on the floor. This is what’s feeding your voice back to you so you wanna make sure you have a good monitor level so you can hear yourself or its easy to go off pitch. So these are just a couple of tips for a live microphone but remember you want to get comfortable with it so it doesn’t look like you’re struggling. The last thing you want to think about is your microphone. You want to be thinking about your music, and what you’re singing about, and your audience.