Recording and Mixing Vocals

Mic Positioning

Thu Dec 31, 2015

In previous posts we talked about mics and preamps a make-shift vocal booth and getting a mic in place. Now the focus is on the mic in relationship to the body and especially the mouth.
I'll be using the CM-5 in this post. This is a side-address mic. Imagine this mic suspended straight up and down with the capsule basket at the bottom. The front of the capsule is facing the singer.

I think of the mic working on 6 dimensions.

  • On the vertical dimension, above or below the mouth. Also distance from the floor if I'm sitting.

  • On the horizontal dimension, left or right of mouth. Also distance from a side wall.

  • On the distance dimension, how far away from the mouth.

  • The angle of which the mic is tilted back.

  • The angle of which the mic is turned left or right.

  • The mic polar pattern chosen.

While doing some vocalizing and singing I'm listening for the 'sweetspot'.

Vertically, if it's too high i may pick up a more nasally sound. Too low I'm missing a breathiness or maybe the sound of the windpipe or some other articulations.

Horizontally, I'm just trying to move the mic out of the way a bit. I see lots of singers sing directly into the mic but i just don't like blowing right into it.

Distance: Some mic patterns have proximity effect, bringing the bottom end up as you get closer. I'm trying to avoid excessive low end and sometimes knowing you'll be singing loudly requires you back away. On the other hand if you want the vocal to sound up close you gotta get up close.

Tilting the mic back focuses the mic towards the chest more and away from the nose for a warmer sound.

Tilting left/right is somewhat of an adjustment due to moving the mic horizontally but still wanting it pointed at the mouth. Placing the mic on an angle may also help block reflection from a side wall. It can also effect its frequency response as does tilting it back.

Having a mic with selectable polar patterns is real nice. Cardioid and Supercardioid will cancel out sound on certain angles behind the mic which is useful to reduce picking up reflections in the room. Playing around with switching patterns can give some good results plus it may give you some idea where the best place is to setup your mic.

In the picture you'll see how the mic is tilted back and to the right. If you look closely you'll see a chrome band near the top of the basket. I recently read how this mic style has the actual capsule mounted high in the basket and that the band was designed so that the capsule is somewhat behind it. The idea was that sibilant sounds like s and ch hit the band and reduce those sounds from bouncing around in the basket. Sibilance is pain to mix out later and this does seem to work.

In the next post I'll get into recording in the DAW.