The human speaking voice is the most difficult instrument to record correctly. Good mic technique is essential in any recording situation, but especially when recording voice over.
This article will help you improving your microphone technique.
You can get away with a lot in the music industry that could be considered intentional if it has an interesting sound, but bad mic technique in spoken word productions is going to stand out like a crying baby in a bank.
Being able to record at home is a great advantage in the world of voice over, but it opens the door to a lot of problems that you hopefully won’t find in professional recording studios. If you don’t have a very quiet room those problems could be more than you bargained for.
Have you ever thought, “I’ll just get closer to the mic and you won’t hear the room so much.”
And then what?
Is that how you really sound?
That’s a problem.
With the growing number of talent recording their voice at home, the problem of improper mic technique is exploding into the voice over gene pool.
When you are working from home you can get into some bad habits and without guidance and feedback from someone else, you may not even know when or how things could be better.
Let’s talk about what is happening when it comes to mic technique, the good and the bad, so that you will know the difference as well as the full story.
I say “the full story” because most people think of it as how they approach and interact with the microphone. But that may not even be half the story.
Let’s begin where most people think mic technique starts.
How To Approach The Mic
Most spoken word productions start out on the right foot from using a side address, large diaphragm microphone. There are exceptions to this rule, most notably when using the modified Sennheiser 416. (model MKH416T-F) This is an altered version of the standard television shotgun mic that does not have the steep low-frequency roll-off, making it more suitable for closer voice work. The same principles that follow will apply to either side or front address mics, to some extent.
“You Don’t Spit Into The Wind”
Suppose your 5-year-old daughter is having a birthday party. She loves bubbles.
She loves bubbles so much that she wants a constant stream of bubbles throughout the party.
This somehow becomes your job. You certainly don’t want to disappoint her.
So you have an idea, something about a fan… blowing a constant stream of air all the time?
So you get a couple flasks of bubbles and you get the fan out of the closet and plug it in. The party is going on, the children are screaming for bubbles, so you dip the wand into the jug and then you hold the wand out in front of your chest and stand right in front of the fan.
Can you picture what’s happening here?
I think we can agree that this is not going to work well. Of course, you’re blocking the bubbles by addressing the fan head on. A better solution would be to stand a bit to the side of the fan and guide the bubble wand into the path of the fan’s wind.
It is good practice to approach a microphone in the same manner. Addressing the mic straight on can create all kinds of problems with sibilance, plosives, and proximity effect, even with a pop filter.
Rather, you want to throw your voice across the path of the polar pattern, not directly into the capsule, keeping your head at about a 45-degree angle to the microphone.
When the mic is plugged in and phantom power is feeding it, the polar pattern is constantly active. Constantly waiting for audio to cross its path. It is very similar to a fan in that the fan is continuously moving air for a fixed distance.
There comes a point where the farther away from the fan you are, the less air movement you feel until you don’t feel it anymore.
The polar pattern acts much in the same way, yet kind of in the opposite direction. Think of a microphone as gently drawing the area of the polar pattern toward the capsule and all you have to do is toss your voice into the area where it “hears” best.
Your voice gets gently sucked into the mic. Gently.
Even with a hard sell spot you should let the mic do its job without forcing your voice directly into the capsule’s diaphragm.