Welcome to mixing monitor sound for a singer. There are many kinds of professional entertainers, songwriters and celebrities, but when working for that breed of performing artist who sings exceptionally well, a refined audio approach helps them do their best on stage.
When she’s in her zone, a palpable connection to every member of the audience produces goose bumps and wet eyes. She’s easily identified because she holds the microphone in her hand.
For singers, the microphone is the handle for the entire sound system, pro audio’s “mother of creation.” Young singers may not prefer a particular mic, but eventually become attached to a specific model. All other equipment is easily substituted, but that same mic, in the palm of her hand, provides daily consistency and confidence to sing her best.
With young singers, it’s possible to try different vocal mics, but after using one model for years, its sound, balance and weight feel familiar and it’s simply a comfortable pair of shoes. Changing mics for older singers is a huge challenge that should never be tried on a day with the pressure of a show later.
While hard-wired mics provide the best performance and value, today’s singer often requires wireless freedom of movement. Improved companding helps wireless sound more like wired, and digital wireless provides noise-free audio without companding at a cost of three milliseconds of latency. As a result, choosing a vocal mic often includes choosing a wireless system, and many mic makers offer capsules that fit a variety of quality handheld transmitters.
Dynamic mics have advantages on loud stages, are more rugged and don’t need phantom power, but true singers favor condenser mics for their transparent, accurate sound. Condenser mics are detailed and crisp, but tend to pick up nearby sounds, so some distance between singer and band helps on loud stages.
Mics with tighter supercardioid or even hypercardioid polar patterns better isolate the singer’s voice on louder stages. Hardwired condenser mics must be used with their high-pass and pad engaged, as its proximity effect is too boomy and her voice is too loud for the capsule on big notes.
Safely store the show mic until she arrives on stage. Use the spare when you need to talk into her channel so you’re not putting your germs in her mic. If her channel seems a bit quiet when you speak into it, that’s because she produces more level than most. And I probably don’t need to tell you that there’s no smoking anywhere near the stage until the singer has left the venue.
While frequency response can be tailored with EQ, polar response and handling noise can’t be adjusted electronically, making them important features, the best reason for choosing the right vocal mic is that it can help their singing.