When it comes to correctly using a microphone, it might seem like a no-brainer – but actually, there’s a definite technique involved! We’re going to teach you the basics of microphone use, explaining what you need to know about:
- How to position a microphone for the best possible results
- The “3-to-1 rule” of microphone use
- Simple tips for using a microphone effectively
Speaking into a microphone isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally, even if you consider yourself a born public speaker. Instead, it takes some practice and a certain level of skill to become an audio engineer.
Nearly all of us have experienced the frustration of being unable to hear or understand someone who wasn’t using a microphone properly. Something as simple as poor mic use can have a major impact on the audience experience, whether they’re listening to a conference presentation, a podcast, or even a television broadcast. But with a bit of preparation and some practical tips, you can master the art of microphone use.
How Do You Properly Use a Microphone?
There are three key components to proper mic use:
- Microphone placement should aim to find the “sweet spot” where the mic can pick up your voice without unnecessary background sounds. Practice maintaining the proper distance between a microphone and your mouth (more on that below).
- Microphone setup has everything to do with how you’re speaking into the mic. High frequencies are directional, which means that turning your head away from the microphone can end up producing a dull, low-quality sound. Instead, speak directly into the microphone at all times.
- Microphone control involves using certain techniques to refine the output sounds. For example, you can aim the microphone slightly above or below your mouth if you are trying to reduce mouth noises or popping sounds.
Types of microphones
Generally, there are two main categories of microphones. There’s a huge variety of brands and types within those categories, with new technology debuting virtually every day. Plus, there are other, more specialized categories reserved for highly specific uses.
However, the majority of hobbyists and professionals alike tend to use microphones that fall into one of these two categories:
- Dynamic mics are the ones you usually see used onstage, including for public speakers and performers at live events. These are designed to handle louder sounds and withstand more intense handling and use. Sounds are aimed downwards, toward the front of the microphone.
- Condenser mics are commonly found at recording studios and are more sensitive to volume and nuances in sound. This makes them ideal for studio use because the acoustic environment can be precisely controlled. Sounds are aimed into the side of the microphone, which is positioned directly towards the sound source. A condenser mic can be set up in a hanging position or pointed upwards to the ceiling, depending on the model.
What’s the “3-to-1 Rule” when dealing with microphones?
The 3:1 Rule (or 3-to-1 Rule) applies to situations in which you’re using multiple mics. It states that the distance between the source-to-mic of multiple microphones should be about three times the distance between the source of the sound and the closest mic. Additionally, there should be a difference of about 10 dB between various mic contributions.
Implementing this rule is one of the best ways to reduce audible phasing issues.
How far away should you hold a microphone?
A good rule of thumb is to position a microphone about 12 inches from your mouth. Ideally, you want the mic to clearly pick up the sound of your voice without also amplifying background noises.
Starting at 12 inches, you can carefully move the mic closer to the sound source as needed (generally, no closer than 6 inches away). However, the “proximity effect” should be taken into account. This effect produces an increase in base and volume, along with a decrease in frequency, the closer the microphone is to your mouth. Mainly, this concept applies to dynamic mics because condenser mics are much more sensitive and aren’t intended to be moved closer to a sound source.
Keep in mind that the sensitivity of your microphone will vary, depending on both the type of microphone you’re using and the specific brand. This means that two different microphones might produce dramatically different results, even if they’re held at the same distance from your mouth and exposed to the same type and volume of sound. This is yet another reason that mic checks are so important.
Other Tips for Improving Your Microphone Use
Now that you have the basics down, here are a few other handy tips for mic use:
1. Be mindful of background noises.
One of the most common mistakes of microphone use is the unintentional addition of distracting background noises, which can make it harder to hear and understand the speaker. Whether you’re going to be using a mic in a studio or onstage, be aware of the many contributors to background noise, including:
- Mouth noises
- Audible body movement(s)
- Clothing ruffling
- Jewelry that jangles/moves
- Watches that produce ticking noises
- Touching the presentation podium/stand or desk
- Moving papers or writing instruments
- Room tone
- Extraneous noises (such as an A/C unit, a fan, etc.)
2. Remember that a mic check is a must.
The only way to know exactly how something will sound on a mic is to actually put it into practice. This is why mic checks are so critical and non-negotiable for any presentation or recording.
During a mic check, you can become more comfortable with the specific mic type that you will be using. As a result, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where and how to position the microphone, as well as find the ideal volume for the space and situation. Plus, a quick practice session is the perfect opportunity to catch any unexpected issues and background noises, so you can resolve them before an audience is present.
3. Get media training to strengthen your mic skills.
Learning how to use a microphone is a foundational skill for anyone that wants a career in the media industry, and especially audio production. Understanding correct microphone use is a basic necessity, whether you’re hoping to work in front of the camera or behind it – or even in the editing room.
If you envision yourself with a future in media production, enrolling in a specialized, media-focused program can be your first step towards success. Even if you already have an established career path, media courses and training can be hugely helpful for building better public speaking and presentation abilities.
At the Beonair Network of Media Schools in Miami, Chicago, Colorado, and Ohio, we equip students with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to enter the media industry as in-demand job candidates. One of our newest programs, Digital Media Production, offers a unique path towards building a comprehensive understanding of the processes of planning, developing, editing, and launching exceptional creative projects.
Enroll in a Media School to Start Your Career Journey Today
When you choose a future in the world of media, you open the door to an array of exciting opportunities and creative experiences. Don’t wait any longer to pursue your goals and dreams; take your first step towards your career when you apply at one of our campuses today!
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