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What Is a Vocal Microphone?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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A vocal microphone is a device used to pick up soundwaves created by a person's voice. This microphone can feature different methods for picking up such sounds, and can then transfer those sounds through a cable and into a mixing board, amplifier, or recording device. The two most common types of microphones used as a vocal microphone are cardioid and condenser microphones; each has its own specific purpose, as well as its own ways of picking up vocal sounds from a singer or speaker. If only one person will be speaking or singing into the microphone, a cardioid microphone is commonly used.

Cardioid microphones are directional mics. This means the vocal microphone will only pick up sounds that are created directly in front of the microphone, eliminating ambient noise from being amplified through the mic. If a person is signing or speaking directly into the microphone, and all other noise needs to be eliminated, a cardioid microphone is commonly used as the vocal microphone of choice. These mics usually do not require any source of power, so they can be plugged directly into most mixing boards, amplifiers, or PA systems.

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Condenser microphones are the vocal microphone of choice when more than one person is singing or speaking into the mic. They are also commonly used during the recording process, but only if the mic is being used in a room that is sound-controlled; ambient noise needs to be eliminated or reduced significantly, since a condenser mic will pick up sounds from all over the room or space. These mics are sometimes used for recording because they tend to pick up more of the singer's voice, creating a richer sound. They are not commonly used for live performances because ambient noise is easily picked up by the mic and transferred into the PA system.

During the recording process, a vocal microphone is often covered by a pop filter. This filter is essentially a screen that prevents gusts of air from a person's breath from striking the microphone, thereby causing a popping sound. Such air gusts are common when people sing or speak into the microphone: when a person speaks or sings an S or a P, for example, the resulting air rush will strike the microphone and cause an unpleasant noise. The pop filter can be foam, or it can be made from layers of thin material stacked on top of each other.

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Discuss this Article

orangey03
Post 8

After getting twisted up in cables on stage several times, I decided to get a wireless microphone. It makes performing a lot easier.

The mic communicates with a transmitter that has two antennae on it. As long as I stay within the specified range, it will work wonderfully.

I have experienced one glitch with this mic. Sometimes the signal will get disturbed somehow, and my voice will disappear for a few seconds. This problem never lasts for long, though.

I absolutely love not having to deal with cables. I can walk about freely without fear of tripping and embarrassing myself.

seag47
Post 7

I am the singer in a band, and I use a cardioid microphone. I have to, because any other type would pick up sounds from the other instruments.

During rehearsals, I kept forgetting to get close to the microphone. In the past, I have used condenser mics, so I am used to standing off from them a little. The other band members had to keep pointing to their mics, their mouths, and then to me to motion me to sing directly into it.

During a live performance, it was easier to remember. I needed to hear myself sing so that I could know if I was hitting the right notes, so I kept right on top of that mic.

lighth0se33
Post 6

I use a condenser microphone, because I need the surrounding sound to be picked up. I often play an unplugged acoustic guitar while I sing, and the condenser microphone amplifies it.

Guitars can be heard without amplification, but it helps to have the sound level slightly enhanced with a microphone. I don’t like to plug it in, because to me, it sounds tinny, and tiny mistakes can be heard easier.

I like the way that the condenser microphone picks up all the tones in my voice. I also like the vague amplification it gives my guitar. The sounds blend together pleasantly.

Perdido
Post 5

I was recording a CD with equipment on my manager’s computer. We were having difficulty with that sound, so we went to a music store and bought a pop filter.

They are a lot less expensive than I assumed they would be. The one I got is just a rounded piece of foam that fits over the top of the microphone.

It totally eliminated the “P” boom, as well as the “S” hiss. I won’t sing in public without a pop filter now, because I have been spoiled by it.

everetra
Post 4

@David09 - I’ve used a condenser vocal microphone in an interview situation once. I think these are the best types of microphones for those scenarios.

The microphone is close to the subject’s mouth giving me the greatest volume and clarity. The only problem is that the subject has to sit still and not wear any clothing that would ruffle the microphone; otherwise you’ll pick up the noise too. For most interview situations that is not a problem; you just need to be aware of it.

David09
Post 3

@Mammmood - We use a dynamic vocal microphone in our church. Actually we’ve migrated from the basic hand held microphones to the headset variety.

It looked kind of weird at first, seeing the pastor with a headset on as if he were some kind of customer service representative. However, we’re all used to it now. It gives him increased flexibility to move around the platform and address the congregation as he needs to.

Mammmood
Post 2

@MrMoody - Not all shotgun microphones need to be camera mounted. I have one that has about fifteen feet of cable, and I can hang it above the subject’s head just like they do in the movies.

I have a special stand to attach it to so that I don’t have to hold the microphone with my hand. Fifteen feet is the maximum amount of cable for my microphone; anything longer than that, and you start getting noise.

MrMoody
Post 1

I have a baby shotgun vocal recording microphone for my digital camcorder. I say baby because it’s much shorter than the typical shotgun microphone, about half the size.

It is mounted on top of the camcorder and plugs into its microphone jack. It’s the perfect microphone for interview situations when I need to capture the recording of the person right in front of me.

When you listen to it in post production, you will notice that the person in front of you sounds crystal clear, while ambient sounds around you sound muted, almost as if they were shot from a distance.

The only disadvantage that I can see with the shotgun microphone is that the output is mono, not stereo. This means you can only hear it in one channel. I can fix this in post production however, just copying one channel of audio into another, making it stereo.

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