Placing the speakers is about making use of the best of what is coming out of the sound card. Holding the mic is about getting the best into the sound card. Both these ends of the signal chain matters.

Placing the speakers

The triangle

The two speakers and our head forming an equilateral triangle (all sides equal), is said to be the best monitoring situation.

Place the two speakers in a way that the distance of each of the speakers from you is equal to the distance between the speakers.

Distance from you to the left speaker = distance from you to the right speaker = the distance between the left and right speakers.

Practical

See how far away from the speakers you can sit, then adjust the distance between the speakers.

OR

If the room is narrow, place the speakers as wide as you can, then position your sitting so that the distance from each of the speakers to you is same as the distance between the speakers.

Start with

Take this as the basic starting point. How reflections happen, how to get a stereo field without holes in it etc are a bit more involved and will take time, learning and experience to set up with perfection.

Don't bother about the '60 degree' markings or about the exact measurements. A basic careful setup like about is good enough especially when we use headphones to monitor, along with the speakers.

Holding the mic or using mic stand

The heaviness of recording your song

Microphones can be heavy.

When you hold the mic in front of you, your hands are away from your body holding the weight of the mic. The weight of the mic acts on your extended arm towards the earth like an End load Cantilever beam. (Any of you engineers can help with better terms and explanation).

A heavy mic can tense the back and abdomen muscles, affect the shoulder posture and breathing. This can make it difficult to sustaining vowels, execute subtle slurs with agility and ease.

SM 58, the most used stage vocal mic, is fairly light (about 300 gms) and can be held with the hand while singing, without much straing.

Get used to it, make sure your muscles are not tensed. Shift your body forward and back and feel in which position the muscles are least tensed. That is the position  of ease where you body balances when you are holding a mic in addition to your body weight. Maybe this is part of 'mic techniques'. This helps us be aware of our body in the long run.

Most condenser mics (Rode NTK, Neumann etc) is heavy, and better to be on a stand. In the case of condenser mics, handling noise if you hold the mic is an added valid reason why you should place it on a stand

Condenser mic on a stand

Condenser mic and handling noise

Condenser mics are very sensitive, which makes they are really useful for sound reproduction while asking us to be more careful when using condenser mics.

The same sensitivity can make even the slightest handling noise or mechanical noises that come up through the stand, picked up and magnified.

Shock mount or roll off

When using a condenser use a shock mount if available to keep away unwanted low range frequencies and noises that creep up through the mic stand. Condenser mics pick up toe tapping, street traffic and other similar sounds and vibrations, transmitted via the building structure and up the mic stand.

Roll off the lower frequency range while mixing, if there is unnecessary low frequency energy in the recording with or without the use of a shock mount while recording.

Handheld condenser mics

Having said that hand held is probably the best for recording with condenser mics, here is the CAD C195 Cardioid Condenser Microphone which is a handheld condenser microphone. Before using, see if it will or will not suit our needs, read the details about low frequency handling.

Holding and positioning SM58 – mic technique

Singing with lips pressed to the mic (kissing the mic) – as we see in shows is useful on stage, one reason being that it makes sure the surrounding noise is cut down to the least possible, with max possible priority to the vocals. But in my experience recording with SM58s and making a final mix, it is better to keep the mic within 1 inch from the lips followed by specific equalizing.

  1. If you are making a recording, don’t kiss the mic, keep the mic within one inch of the mouth.
  2. Sing to the front of the mic, in line with the axis. The axis is the most sensitive direction in which a cardioid mic captures the best.

You don't need a windshield with the SM58, it has some basic protection built in. But take care not to blow excessively. Take care of B P Ph and similar sounds because they have higher chance of blowing air in.

Placing a large diaphragm condenser mic for recording

General positioning of vocal condenser mic A large-diaphragm condenser mic sounds brighter on the axis. To get a bright sound, try to sing as on-axis to the microphone as possible.

Vertical positioning of vocal condenser mic High frequencies are more directional than low frequencies. When singing, the high frequencies resonate in the head cavities and tend to bounce downwards off the top of the oral and nasal cavities. So you may get a brighter sound if you place the mic lower down the mouth than in line.

When recording with a condenser mic, a windshield is a must.

A position to start with:

  • top of the mic in line with the nose
  • around 9 inches between mic and singer
  • pop shield in between to cut off the air noises

Proximity effect

When you are working with mics it is important to know how they behave; at least some of their common behaviour trends.

Proximity effect is an important recording aspect one should know about when dealing with mics. The full explanation the physics behind it. – wikipedia link

Basically, when the source is very close to the mic, the bass compensation built into the mic over compensates and the proportion of bass in the recorded signal is higher than other frequencies. This is called proximity effect – the way the mic picks up your sound, boosting the bass in the recorded signal, when you allow yourselves to be too close to the mic.

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