Changing the mic position when recording vocals will change the way the vocals sound and affect our productions.

Change the distance of the mic from the mouth of the vocalist, the vertical and horizontal angle of singing with respect to the mic, to get different results.

An obvious change would be producing a less direct sound when pointing the mic at an angle from the mouth, instead of direct. Some recordists note that pointing the mic downwards instead of straight at the vocalist's mouth captures the chest sound more and that pointing the mic up may capture the nasal sound more. Keeping a condenser a bit lower than mouth level gets the reflections from the roof of the mouth, making the recording have more of high end.

Below are a few points about the three positioning factors: distance, vertical and horizontal angles.

Distance between mic and vocalist

Distance is an important factor to consider when placing mics.

  • Proximity effect of cardioid microphones results in boosted bass frequencies when the vocalist comes closer to the mic.
  • When the vocalist stands away from the mic, her head and chest resonances are picked up better into the recorded vocal signal.
  • Lip noises will be lesser when the vocalist is farther from the mic, while the resonant characters of the voice will reach the mic.

Vertical Angle

  • Higher frequencies reflect off the roof of the mouth and the nose. A mic positioned slightly below the mouth can capture these reflections and record a signal rich in high frequencies.
  • Plosive sounds like ‘S’ and ‘P’ are the reason we need to windshields. They get exaggerated the most when the vocalist is straight on axis of the mic.

Horizontal angle

The coloration of a large diaphragm condenser mic is often the reason some models of microphones are famous. Angles away from on axis show different colorations for recordings done with the same mic.

The off-axis frequency response often means a lesser sensitivity to higher frequencies. This property can be used to record backing vocals: singing away from the axis of the mic to make the sound less direct and more background. But, in practice it maybe better to record on axis and then do some reduction in high frequency and get the same effect of being less direct.

Problems of not singing on axis

Drum mic positioning
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Off axis response of many budget condenser mics is shaky. They can give a varying response resulting in a less than satisfactory recording. More the vocalist moves horizontally, more the difference in recording is obvious.

When the singer is not facing the mic on-axis, the most sensitive on-axis of the mic is facing the room, picking up reflections from the room. This makes the room coloration in the recording much more than it would be if the singer was singing on-axis and thereby giving vocals the highest priority by directly pointing to the most sensitive part of the cardioid mic.

SM58 postioning

Mouth within one inch of the mic while not touching the mic, straight on to the axis of the mic is what has produced good results for me. This signal can further be treated with eq, compressor and reverb to get a good vocal recording.

Next time you record, remember the effect that distance and angle can have on the final result. Here is an overview of vocal mics.

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