Welcome back everyone to our monthly Worship Production Talk! This month I want to respond to a subscriber with a microphone placement question. Achieving good microphone placement is a surprisingly straightforward process, grounded in physics and engineering concepts. Technical aspects like the microphone type directly influence the design, sensitivity, sound and directionality.
Did you know that each microphone setup has a “sweet spot”? Depending on where you are physically oriented in relation to the microphone (e.g. far away or close up), you’ll get a very different sound. This means that microphone technique is crucially important for getting your very best sound. Finding the microphone sweet spot can be easy with a few simple tricks.
All presenters or performers should know where their voice sounds best on a microphone. Every mic is different and has its own unique set of characteristics so it’s important to learn to them and get to know what sounds best so that you are providing the best audio every time. Here are my tips on how to provide the best audio quality for your House of Worship:
Key Microphone Techniques for Success
When it comes to microphone placement, you need to reduce the distance to a sound source. If you place the mic too close, there is the risk of distorting and muddying the captured sound. A microphone set up too far away causes the source to sound weak or washed out. Condensers lend themselves better to distances. Make sure they keep the mic as close to their mouth as possible in order to only pick up the sound of their voice, and not the other sounds of the band or the presentation area. A good rule of thumb is to have the mic positioned about 6-12 inches away from their mouth. As they get closer to the mic, an increase in low frequency response can occur, causing their voice to be overly bassy.
High frequencies are very directional, meaning that if they turn their head away from the microphone at any point during the service, the mic will sound very dull.
You can aim the mic either above or below your mouth to minimize popping sounds or mouth noises.
Microphone Filters – Use a Pop Filter
A pop filter will provide extra assurances that users won’t pop their “P’s.” The pop filter can also act as a guide and reference to help them maintain a consistent distance from the microphone.
Microphone Sensitivity and How to Reduce Background Noise
The microphone is a very sensitive piece of equipment that can pick up just about any external and unwanted noise that you may not hear. The sensitivity of your microphone will vary depending on the type and brand. When exposed to the same kinds of sounds, different microphones may produce different output levels. A microphone’s sensitivity is the measure of its ability to convert acoustic pressure into electric voltage.
There are a few things you should tell your Worship Team to be mindful of when stepping up to the mic and things you may need to monitor during the service. Mouth noises, breathing, coughing, audible body movements, jangling jewelry, watches, clothing rustling, touching the music stand, rolling pencils, clicking pens, pages being turned, room tone, and other extraneous noises.
A note on clothing – although your worship team may not think too much about what they wear when behind the mic, if your microphone is sensitive it can become an issue to deal with quickly. Some items you should avoid include:
- Clothing with too many buttons or zippers
- Shoes with clicking heels
- Long sleeves that could rub against the mic
- Textured fabrics
Have them stick to clothing that is soft such as cottons or knits and shoes that have soft soles to ensure they are as silent as possible and the mic only picks up the sound of their voice.
Finding the spot and setup of your microphone that highlights the best qualities of each voice takes a bit of practice and trial and error. You can set yourself up for success before you even set up the service by making sure that anything they are wearing or doing won’t be picked up by your microphone.
The spot on the mic where the voice is its absolute best will become instinctual over time and you will be able to eliminate any unwanted noises from your sound system so that their voice shines through in the final product.
These techniques will be getting you headed in the right direction for a cleaner and strong sound from each microphone. Each mic has a different and unique characteristic so make sure to learn them and get to know what sounds best so that you are providing the best audio every time. I am sure these tips will improve your audio quality for your House of Worship, talk to you next month!
About the Author
Bill Di Paolo has worked in live production for over 30 years, He is the owner and technical director of Entertainment Services, a production company based in upstate New York that handles lighting, audio and video for events of all sizes in the Northeast. If you have questions for Bill you may send them to him at email@example.com.