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Whether you’re just getting started or already a professional, knowing the best mic placement when recording vocals will make all the difference in the overall sound quality. Not only can this help in cutting down on the time you might allot for sound editing and processing, but it can also give your human voice the spotlight it deserves.
Let’s uncover the best microphone placements that will help highlight your vocals and make your voice recordings sound good in a recording room.
While there’s a science (or some would say art form) behind the optimal positions of a microphone, there are generally three easy best practices you can choose from.
The general rule of thumb for placing the microphone is to keep it 4 to 6 inches away from the mouth or sound source. This is a good starting point as the microphone will be close enough to pick up the voice clearly but just far enough to reject any background noise.
Depending on the preference of the sound engineer or the user, the microphone can be placed on either the front of the performer (on-axis) or the side (off-axis). Adjusting the placement of the microphone based on which axis will have a direct effect on how you want to record vocals.
Placing the microphone in front of the performer (on-axis) will make one’s voice loud and clear, but there is a possibility that plosives will be picked up if there is no pop shield. To prevent this from happening, consider using a pop filter or putting enough distance away from the mic.
On the other hand, you can prevent plosives from getting picked up even with the use of a pop filter if you place the microphone on the side of the performer (off-axis). However, make sure you have the right input gain and that you’re using the right microphone for this application so it can pick up enough sound. This is also the preferred placement for when you soften recording backing vocals.
A pickup pattern is the directionality of a microphone. This will refer to where a microphone will most pickup sounds from. With that said, different mics have varying pickup or polar patterns.
The most common pickup patterns are cardioid, figure-of-eight, and omnidirectional. It’s important to know the pickup pattern of your microphone so you would know where to place them in relation to the pickup area.
From the name alone, cardioid microphones have a cardioid pickup pattern because they can only pick up sounds from one or a single direction. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones and dynamic microphones also have this pickup pattern, but it also makes them ideal for recording detailed sounds and vocals.
A figure-of-eight pickup pattern means the mic can pick up sounds from two directions. One can also call this pickup pattern bidirectional. If your mic is bidirectional, it’s good to place it in the middle of a room where sources can be found in the front and at the back. Do take note of the proximity effect though.
An omnidirectional pattern means the mic can record audio from every direction. Place a mic or music stand in the middle of the room and attach your mic to it, you are guaranteed to pick up voices and other instruments around the area.
In order to get the best sound possible for voice recordings, your mic vocals need to take note of two things: distance and directionality. These will factor in the overall sound quality of the recording and will enhance the vocal sound.
Be wary of the distance you put between the performer and the microphone. If you are using multiple microphones and have more than one performer, then use the 3:1 Rule. This is when you space out the mic at least three times as far between the next speaker in proportion to the microphone. This practice will create a natural reverb effect and enhance the overall quality of your recording.
Depending on the distance of the microphone, you can also change the tone of the vocal recording. Too close it might get muddy, too far will give you a distant recording, but if you find the sweet spot you will get vocal clarity.
Knowing where to face the microphone will give you the best vocal clarity pickup. This will also help in making sure the audio signals are received well.
Applying these best microphone placement tips can help you achieve voice recordings that are topnotch, and perhaps even good enough to cut down on editing and processing time.
The most common pickup or polar pattern for a vocal recording is cardioid. This is because a cardioid pickup pattern will help a microphone reduce ambient noise or background sounds because it will focus on picking up sounds only from the front.