Even the best microphones will perform poorly if they’re not positioned correctly. Proper microphone placement is an art in and of itself and must be practiced. With that being said, there are tips and tricks that will help to better your mic placement.
Here are the top 23 tips for better microphone placement:
- Listen before placing the mic to find the “sweet spot”
- Understand your microphone’s address type & polar pattern
- Understand proximity effect
- Understand vocal plosives
- Understand phase and phase flip
- Understand gain-before-feedback in live situations
- Know the sound source
- Listen to the room
- 2:1 rule of ambience
- 3:1 rule of distance
- 10 dB phase rule
- 12th Fret – 12 inch rule
- Try tilting your microphone slightly off-axis
- Close-mic to diminish leakage
- Distance-mic to capture fuller sounds
- Try multiple mics on the same source
- Less is more in live environments and dense studio situations
- Watch drummers play/warm up before miking their kits
- Use stereo mounts for coincident and near-coincident stereo techniques
- In less-than-ideal rooms, try lowering overheads
- Hang your tube mics upside-down for long sessions so the tube doesn’t overheat the diaphragms.
- Use pop filters to help keep singers/speakers at a safe distance from their vocal mic.
- When holding a boom, keep a direct line of sight with your camera operator if possible.
Each of these 23 points deserves more detail. This article will explain each of these top tips in greater depth without getting into specific miking situations.
Why Should We Be Concerned With Improving Our Microphone Placement Skills?
As audio engineers or recording artists (professional or aspiring), we pride ourselves on our ability to capture sound. Mic placement is an essential part of capturing the best sound possible from the world around us.
- 50% of the overall sound comes from the source (the musician, speaker, instrument, or another sound-creating person/device)
- 20% of the overall sound is the environment (room, ambience, etc.)
- Another 20% of the overall sound has to do with the mic position in relation to the sound source and the environment.
- The last 10% of the overall sound is defined by the microphone choice.
Though up for debate, many engineers (myself included) will generally agree on the above percentages. Because this blog is all about microphones, I’d like to think that microphone choice plays a bigger role, but in reality, the placement of the microphone plays a bigger role.
Even the slightest adjustments in mic positioning can improve microphone frequency response, bleed, overloading, signal-to-noise ratio, and much more. On top of that, proper mic positioning will capture the “sweet spot” where a source sounds its best.
Learning proper mic placement is a lifelong skill to develop. No performer, instrument, room, or microphone is the same. However, having a strong understanding of microphone placement will ensure you achieve a great sound at the source any time you’re in charge of placing the mics!
1. Listen Before Placing The Mic To Find The “Sweet Spot”
This is the most important tip for proper microphone placement in the studio and plays a role in broadcasting as well.
What is a microphone “sweet spot?” The sweet spot is the position relative to a sound source where that source subjectively and/or objectively sounds the best. Sweet spots are highly dependent on the sound sources themselves and also on the acoustic environment. Placing a mic in the sweet spot will generally yield the best results.
Acoustics is an extremely complicated field of study. The way sound waves behave in their medium (typically air when using microphones) and their environment (other sound waves and reflective surfaces) is very complex.
All this is to say that depending on the listener or microphone location, a sound source will sound different. Finding the subjective, or even objective, best listening/mic position, then, is a matter of testing various positions in an acoustic environment.
Depending on the polar pattern of the mic, there are specific methods to help you find the sweet spot.
- Omnidirectional: plug one ear and listen closely with the other. Move around until you reach the sweet spot where the source/environment sounds the best and place the omni mic there (with the capsule where your open ear was).
- Cardioid-type: plug one ear, cup the other and listen closely with the open ear. Once you find the sweet spot, place the cardioid mic with its capsule pointing perpendicular to your palm toward the sound source. This is effective with all cardioid-type mics and works fairly well with bidirectional mics as well.
- Stereo-miking: when placing coincident and near-coincident stereo pairs (of cardioid-type mics), cup both ears with your hands and move around to the find the sweet spot.
Alternatively, if there are several engineers or musicians around, you could use the following method to find the sweet spot:
Have the assistant engineer move a microphone around a sound source while the head engineer is listening to the mic signal in the control room. Have a communication system in place so that the head engineer can direct the placement of the microphone while actually listening to the sound of the microphone.
Taking the time to find the sweet spot where the microphone will sound best is, again, the most important tip on this list. If you are to gather any information or habit from this article, please let it be this!
2. Understand Your Microphone’s Address Type & Polar Pattern
This tip is microphone specific. Knowing the direction(s) in which a mic is most sensitive is crucial when positioning that mic.
There are two basic address types for microphones:
- Top address: the mic’s on-axis response line points out of the top. Most pencil and handheld mics are top address.
- Side address: the mic’s on-axis response line points out of the side. Most large-diaphragm condensers and ribbons are side address.
In the above examples, the Neumann KM 184 and the Shure SM57 are top address mics. They are most sensitive to the direction in which they point.
The Neumann U 87 AI and the Royer R-121 are side-address mics. They are most sensitive to sounds entering from their sides rather than “where they are pointing.”
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Understanding the address type of a microphone means we’ll know where the on-axis point of reference is and to which direction the mic is most sensitive. Once we know the frame of reference, the polar pattern of the microphone is essential to comprehend for optimal mic positioning.
For the sake of keeping this article short, let’s break down our mic polar patterns into 3 simple categories:
- Omnidirectional: sensitive from all angles.
- Bidirectional: figure-8 polar pattern that is equally sensitive from the front and back and dead at the sides (90° and 270°).
- Unidirectional: cardioid-type and shotgun polar patterns that are most sensitive to the front.
Whether you’re tasked with positioning a particular mic or with choosing the right mic for a particular position, understanding polar patterns is key. Let’s run over some generalities of the 3 main polar types:
|Sensitive from all|
|Sensitive from front|
|Sensitive from front|
|No proximity effect||Most proximity effect||Some proximity effect|
|Some bleed (from|
|Least amount of bleed|
|Good close or at a|
|Best for close-miking|
|Great for miking|
multiple sources at
|Great for miking one|
or two sources at once
|Great for miking a|
|Resistant to wind|
|Vulnerable to wind|
|Vulnerable to wind|
|Great for spaced|
|Great for coincident|
|Great for coincident|
|Captures the most|
|Captures the least|
|Immune to vocal|
|Most sensitive to|
|Sensitive to |
These points will not only help to position each polar pattern type but will also aid in choosing the right microphone for the job.
Do you need to close-mic each drum in a drum kit? Pointing cardioid mics on-axis is likely your best bet.
Do you need to record an entire drum kit with bass and guitar? Try using omnidirectional mics at a distant “sweet spot!”
3. Understand The Proximity Effect
What is the proximity effect? The proximity effect is an increase in bass response in directional microphones as they get closer to their sound source. Proximity effect happens the most in bidirectional mics, less in cardioid mics, and is absent in omnidirectional mics.
For more information on microphone proximity effect, check out my article What Is Microphone Proximity Effect And What Causes It?
Understanding the proximity effect will enhance your mic positioning greatly. Let me explain this tip anecdotally.
I first learned about the proximity effect when miking guitar cabinets in the studio at audio engineering school.
When miking my guitar cab live, I’d always use a cardioid placed as close as possible to the speaker cone to avoid bleed and feedback.
In the studio, I was free from the nasty possibility of feedback, instrument bleed, stage noise, and other extraneous noise. I was also fortunate enough to be tracking with a Royer R-121 (a bidirectional ribbon microphone).
However, being new to recording and to microphones, my live performance habit had me position the microphone up against the mesh of my amp. The result was a muddy guitar tone that lacked any clarity.
What went wrong? My guitar track sounded nothing like it did in the studio iso-booth.
First, I did not look or listen for the sweet spot (see tip 1). Second, the proximity effect (which is most present in bidirectional mics) exaggerated the low end in the mic signal.
Without finding the sweet spot (I wish I knew that exercise at the time), I moved the Royer R-121 back several feet. The result? A cleaner, more natural sounding guitar tone!
All this is to say that when using directional mics, be aware of how close you’re placing them to the intended sound source.
4. Understand Vocal Plosives
The majority of the time microphones will be used to capture the sound of someone’s voice. The human voice creates vocal plosives, which are critical to understand when positioning mics for recording voice.
What are vocal plosives and how do they affect microphones? Plosives are strong blasts of wind energy that come from the mouth of a speaker. Plosives happen on certain consonant sounds when a part of the mouth gets closed and opened (lips, tongue and teeth, or the back of the mouth) and will overload a mic, causing “pops.”
Mic position is one of the main strategies for reducing and eliminating vocal plosives. Let’s discuss some mic positioning tips:
- Distance: moving the mic further from the speaker allows plosive energy to dissolve in the medium (air) before striking the microphone diaphragm.
- Off-axis: tilting the mic slightly off-axis (tip 13) will cause plosive energy to hit the diaphragm at an angle and soften the blow of the plosive in comparison to having the blast his perpendicularly.
Additionally, omnidirectional microphones are practically immune to plosive overloading. So if you’re using an omnidirectional mic on vocals, the mic can be positioned much closer to the speaker/vocalist. On top of that, there will be no worry about the proximity effect either!
Again, try listening/positioning the microphone until you find the sweet spot. Ideally, this will be at a location where the mic will also be safe from vocal plosives.
For more information on vocal plosives and how to eliminate them, check out my article Top 10 Tips For Eliminating Microphone Pops And Plosives.
5. Understand Phase And Phase Flip
Phase is a critical component of the complicated field of acoustics. Sound waves in an acoustic environment interact with each other in a complex, frequency-dependent manner.
What is phase and why is it important to microphones? Phase refers to the amount that a wave has passed through its cycle. Because sound and mic signals are waves, phase is important. Two identical waves/signals in-phase sum together while two identical waves/signal out-of-phase cancel each other out. Mic positioning is crucial for phase coherence.
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When two waves line up perfectly in-phase, their positive and negative amplitudes match up and are summed together. When two waves line up perfectly out-of-phase, one wave’s negative values match up with the other’s positive values and the waves are cancelled out.
Phase helps to explain part of the microphone “sweet spot” and is also important to know for a microphone’s placement among other microphones.
When two or more microphones are set up in an acoustic environment, the phase of sound waves in those microphones becomes very important. This is especially true if the mics are mixed in mono or are positioned to capture the same sound source.
In-phase mics signals combine to produce a full representation of the source. Out-of-phase mic signals, conversely, will yield a thin and weak representation of the source.
Because of the complex nature of sound waves, no two microphones will ever be completely in or out-of-phase, but with proper positioning, they can be pretty close.
To improve the phase coherence between two mics, consider the following:
- Distance: having two mics positioned at equal distances from a sound source will cause the waves from the source to reach both mics at the same time. When recording a source with both close and distant-miking, see the 3:1 rule to help minimize phase problems.
- Direction: having two mics pointed in the same or similar direction will help with phase coherence. Conversely, having two mics positioned at the same distance to either side of a source will yield a near perfectly out-of-phase signal (this can work with phase flip).
- Sound source: If a sound source has a lot of lower frequencies, phase becomes more important due to the longer wavelength of lower frequencies. Having a bass instrument recorded out-of-phase will make it sound thin and lifeless. This is not as big an issue with higher frequency instruments (though phase should still be considered).
The best real-world example of explaining phase and phase-flip is the miking of a snare drum within a drum kit (both close-miking and miking with overheads).
Miking A Drum Kit (With Snare Drum) With Overheads
When miking a drum kit with overheads, it’s common practice to use a stereo pair with two mics positioned at an equal distance from the snare drum. This is inherently true for coincident pairs but also strived for with spaced pairs.
The snare drum is important and is likely going to be struck the most. It also has critical low-mid information (usually a strong resonance between 150 – 300 Hz).
We want the overhead mics to pick up the snare drum in-phase in order to capture its full sound. Let’s discuss the phase-coherent of coincident and spaced overhead pairs:
- Coincident overhead pair: the microphone capsules are positioned as close to one another as possible, so they have equal distance from the snare drum.
- Spaced overhead pair: the microphones are spaced apart from one another but are at equal distances from the snare drum. Oftentimes they point in the same direction or at the very least a similar direction.
Note that the high end of the cymbals can afford to be a bit more out-of-phase and that the toms do not typically see as much action as the snare. The kick drum is further away and will usually be miked separately. Overheads are also high-pass filtered to remove the low-end of the kick drum if there are phase issues.
For more info on high-pass filters, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• What Is A Microphone High-Pass Filter And Why Use One?
• Audio EQ: What Is A High-Pass Filter & How Do HPFs Work?
Close-Miking A Snare Drum With A Top Mic And Bottom Mic
A fairly popular technique entails miking the top and bottom of a snare drum. The top captures more of the stick impact on the batter head while the bottom captures the rattle on the snare head.
So when miking from both sides, place both directional mics at equal distance from the snare but point them in opposite directions. This makes the two mics as out-of-phase as they can be.
This will sound horrible until one of the mic signals is phase-flipped (on the mic preamp or in post-processing). Flipping the phase of one mic signal will bring both signals in-phase with one another.
6. Understand Gain-Before-Feedback In Live Situations
When positioning microphones live, whether it’s a single podium mic or a full set-up for an orchestra or rock band, it’s critical to understand gain-before-feedback.
What is gain-before-feedback? Gain-before-feedback is the amount of gain that can be applied to a mic in a reinforcement situation before feedback happens with the foldback monitors and/or public address system. GBF is influenced by the acoustic environment, mic polar pattern and mic position relative to its loudspeakers.
Though microphones will definitely feedback with public address loudspeakers, it’s most important to focus on mic placement relative to foldback monitors.
Foldback monitors are set up to allow musicians and performers to hear themselves. Therefore, the monitors often point toward a performer’s ears and their vocal microphone. Pointing a loudspeaker at a microphone is, of course, a recipe for feedback.
I suppose this becomes equal parts mic placement and monitor placement.
A solid understanding of microphone polar patterns will help with positioning microphones with monitors. Always use directional microphones in live settings and have their null points face the monitors.
Let’s look at some live reinforcement mic placing strategies for different polar patterns:
- Omnidirectional: exercise extreme caution. Too great a risk of feedback.
- Bidirectional: try using far away from monitors.
- Cardioid: can be positioned close to monitors if the monitor is 180° off-axis (cardioid null point).
- Hypercardioid: can be positioned close to monitors if the monitor(s) are at 109.5° and 250.5° off-axis (hypercardioid null points)
- Supercardioid: can be positioned close to monitors if the monitor(s) are at 126.9° and 233.1° off-axis (supercardioid null points)
- Shotgun/lobar: not typically used in live sound reinforcement.
For more information on gain-before-feedback and eliminating feedback, check out my article What Is Microphone Feedback And How To Eliminate It For Good.
7. Know The Sound Source
A big part of microphone placement is understanding what sound you’re trying to capture. When miking any sound source, ask yourself the following:
- Where does the sound come from?
- In what direction does the sound travel primarily?
- At what distance does the sound fully develop?
Let’s take an acoustic guitar as an example.
Where does the sound come from in an acoustic guitar and in which direction does the sound travel?
- Soundhole: the soundhole projects much of the low-end and body of the instrument by pushing a lot of air. The low-end travels in all directions while the higher frequencies travel outward from the soundhole.
- Body/soundboard: the exterior shell of the acoustic guitar’s body projects much of the instrument’s sound. These sound waves travel omnidirectionally but are often focused outward from the front soundboard. This is mostly due to the musician blocking sound from the rear.
- Strings: The strings make sound as well. These sounds travel in all directions.
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At what distance does an acoustic guitar’s sound fully develop? See tip 15.
The lowest fundamental frequency of an acoustic guitar in standard tuning is ~82 Hz (E2). 82 Hz has a wavelength of 4.18 m (13.7 ft), which is the distance it would take for the full sound to develop. However, we hear more harmonic content of the guitar and so we hear a fully developed sound at a much closer distance than 4.18 m. Placing a mic at half that distance (2.09 m or 6.85 ft) would yield a full sound based on the lowest fundamental’s first harmonic.
Armed with this knowledge, we can make better mic placement decisions. Near-miking acoustic guitars are often our best bet. What we lose in a “fully developed sound,” we gain in clarity of being close to the strings and the isolation of the instrument.
Knowing that the soundhole pushed out a lot of air means we can avoid pointing a mic directly at the soundhole. This will decrease the chances of overloading the mic as well as the boominess that comes with large air movements.
Learn about your sound sources and place your microphones accordingly.
8. Listen To The Room
Every room is different, acoustically speaking. On top of that, a sound source’s position in a room will drastically alter its sound at any significant distance.
Listening to the room ties in tightly with tip 1 (finding the sweet spot). If the room is acoustically dead, the sweet spot will be largely dependent on the sound source itself. If the room is very reverberant, the sweet spot will be heavily influenced by the room reflections.
Move around the room and try to find the critical distance (the position where the room sound (initial reflections, reverberation, and standing waves) becomes equally as strong as the direct sound source). A mic positioned at the critical distance could sound nice as an ambient additional mic, but will not yield a clean capture of the source.
If the room sound absolutely terrible (many untreated rooms do), it may be best to mic the sources a bit closer than usual to minimize the unflattering room reflections.
9. 2:1 Rule Of Ambience
What is the 2:1 rule of ambience? The 2:1 rule of ambience states that a cardioid microphone must be positioned twice as far from a sound source than an omnidirectional microphone in order to capture equal amounts of room ambience.
10. 3:1 Rules Of Distance
What is the 3:1 microphone rule? The 3:1 rule of thumb states that if a mic is recording a sound source at a distance x, the next mic should be placed at least 3x from the first mic. This sufficiently decreases the amplitude of the sound source in the second mic and reduces the likelihood of phase cancellation between the mics.
11. 10 dB Phase Rule
The 10 dB phase rule plays closely with the 3:1 rule of distance.
What is the 10 dB rule of microphones? The 10 dB rule is a general rule of thumb that states the following: when multiple microphones in close proximity capture the same sound source, it’s best to have at least a 10 dB signal difference between the dedicated mic and the auxiliary mics in order to minimize phase issues.
Basically, I wanted to share this tip because sometimes the 3:1 rule of distance is just not attainable (due to space restrictions or the close proximity of sound sources). In this case, try placing the microphones closer together but reducing the gain on the far mic to emulate the goal of the 3:1 rule of distance.
12. 12th Fret – 12 Inch Rule
The 12th fret -12 inch rule refers to acoustic string instruments (particularly the acoustic guitar).
What is the 12th fret-12 inch rule of microphones? The 12th fret-12 inch rule states that it’s best to start miking a guitar (or a similar stringed instrument) with a directional mic distanced 12 inches from and pointing at the guitar’s 12th fret. From there, slight movements will likely get the mic to its sweet spot for close-miking the guitar.
13. Try Tilting Your Microphone Slightly Off-Axis
Tilting the microphone slightly off-axis has numerous potential benefits. This slight change in mic positioning can help reduce the likelihood of:
- Vocal plosives in the mic (directional mics).
- Exceeding the mic’s maximum sound pressure level (active microphones).
- Overloading the ribbon diaphragm of ribbon mics (on sources like kick drums and guitar cabinets).
Going too far off-axis with directional mics will often colour the mic signal in unflattering ways. However, a slight tilt (as this tip suggests) will not overly affect the mic’s frequency response while yielding a cleaner capture of the sound source.
14. Close-Mic To Diminish Leakage
There are plenty of situations where microphone bleed/leakage is inevitable. Live performances, crowded studio rooms, panel discussions, we could go on.
In the above situations, close-miking the sound sources will avoid microphone bleed/leakage from the other sound sources. This increases the clarity of each instrument/source and provides extra flexibility in the mix.
In orchestral settings, the featured instruments are often “spot-miked” to improve their clarity in the mix.
Close-miking is also done for vocals in pop music and voice recording in panel discussions.
15. Distance-Mic To Capture Fuller Sounds
As discussed in tip 7 (know the sound source), miking a source from a distance will allow its sound to develop more completely before reaching the microphone.
On top of this, omnidirectional mics, stereo pairs, of stereo mics sound the most natural at a distance.
Similarly, when recording compound instruments (like a drum kit for example) or multiple instruments (an orchestra as an extreme example), distance miking to capture the performance as a whole is an excellent microphone technique. This yields a fuller, more natural sound when compared to close-miking individual elements.
Again, find that sweet spot when placing microphones at any distance!
16. Try Multiple Mics On The Same Source
Miking one source with multiple microphones is often used to great effect. With multiple mics, we are capable of achieving:
- Stereo recordings: Regardless of the stereo technique you decide on (if you decide on a stereo technique), you’ll require multiple microphones (or a stereo mic with multiple capsules).
- Increased depth: Close-miking and distance-miking will yield a clean, more isolated capture and a more ambient capture, respectively. The two mic signals can then be mixed with an excellent depth of sound. Be conscious of the 3:1 rule of distance (tip 10) when miking like this.
- Flexibility in the mix: Having multiple mics positioned to capture a single source gives us plenty of flexibility in the mix. We can choose to used only one mic, or a blend of both to achieve an ideal sound.
17. Less Is More In Live Environments And Dense Studio Situations
This tip may seem counter-intuitive, but the truth is that too many microphones can actually sound worse than fewer microphones when capturing large numbers of instruments and sound sources.
Close-miking every sound source in a dense environment seems like a great choice that would yield a clean, flexible recording. However, that’s not usually the case. Let’s look into why that is (isn’t):
- We do not naturally hear sound like that: close-miking each individual sound source will often lead to an unnatural sounding recording. This is because we do not naturally hear individual elements. Rather, we hear every sound wave (and the acoustic environment) mixed together.
- Microphone bleed does not disappear: even when close-miking sources with directional microphones, bleed does not go away. The more microphones we use, the more overall bleed there will be. The thing with bleed is that it sounds unnatural due to the off-axis colouration of the microphones it affects.
- Phase issues: more microphones means there’s a greater chance of phase issues. In a complex acoustic environment with many sound sources, the risk of phase incoherence increases further. More mics will likely lead to a thinner sounding recording.
- Complicating the mix: having more mics needlessly complicates the mix. That is due to dealing with the above issues as well as trying to balance more channels.
So less is more when miking live environments and dense studio situations. Often times a nice stereo pair with a select few spot-mics will yield a much cleaner recording than individually miking each element. It will also save you a lot of work!
18. Watch Drummers Play/Warm Up Before Miking Their Kits
This tip goes for singers and other musicians as well. Watch their technique and how they move with their instrument.
Once you’ve got a good idea of the drummer’s movement, place the mics where they’re least likely to be in the way and get hit.
Note that mics designed to drums are typically durable and can take a beating. However, if the drummer hit a microphone with his stick, the recording (or sound reinforcement) will suffer a nasty transient or clip.
With other musicians, place the microphones similarly so that they do not get hit.
19. Use Stereo Mounts For Coincident And Near-Coincident Stereo Techniques
Stereo mounts are huge time savers when it comes to stereo miking.
Rather than using individual mic clips and stands for your coincident and near-coincident pairs, use stereo mounts. Doing so will reduce set up time, improve your placement consistency, and greatly reduce the likelihood of having to re-position the microphones.
20. In Less-Than-Ideal Rooms, Try Lowering Overheads
This ties in nicely with tip 8 (listen to the room). However, it’s difficult to position yourself to listen to where drum overheads would be located.
So instead, a good tip is to listen to the room, and if the room sounds terrible, trust that lowering the overhead microphones will improve the sound of the drums.
By lowering the overhead mics, we reduce the ratio of direct drum sound to the room sound. If the room doesn’t sound good, we would logically want less of it in our microphones!
21. Hang Your Tube Mics Upside-Down For Long Sessions So The Tube Doesn’t Overheat The Diaphragms.
In many studios, you’ll see microphones positioned up-side-down. This trend came from tube condenser microphones and the way engineers used them in the past.
See, tube electronics produce a great amount of heat. As the vacuum tube in a tube mic heats up, the heat rises. Since the mic capsules are generally above the tubes in the mic design, they often get damaged by the excessive heat.
Hanging your tube mics up-side-down will not alter their sound by any noticeable degree. However, positioning them like this will definitely prolong the lives of their diaphragms and capsules.
22. Use Pop Filters To Help Keep Singers/Speakers At A Safe Distance From Their Vocal Mic.
When positioning a microphone to capture a stationary sound source, it’s all on the engineer to place the mic correctly. Things change when recording animated sound sources like musicians and speakers.
When recording people singing or speaking, there will be an inevitable variance in the distance between the mic and the vocalist/speaker. The closer the person is to the mic, the more pronounced the variance in distance will be to the mic signal.
To help with this, try putting a pop filter between the person’s mouth and the microphone. On top of the numerous other benefits of pop filters, having the barrier there will help keep the person at a reasonable distance from the microphone.
For more information on pop filters, check out my other articles:
• What Is A Microphone Pop Filter And When Should You Use One?
• Best Microphone Pop Filters
23. When Holding A Boom, Keep A Direct Line Of Sight With Your Camera Operator If Possible
The name of the game when holding a boom mic is to keep it as close to the talent as possible while remaining out of frame. However, when you’re operating a boom mic, you usually cannot see the frame.
So you rely on the camera operator to let you know if you can come down with the mic or if the mic is in the frame. Keeping a direct line of sight with the camera op will allow for this critical non-verbal communication to happen easily.
For more information on boom microphones, check out my article How To Properly Hold A Boom Pole And Microphone.
Where should I position my headset microphone? Though there’s no single greatest position for a headset microphone, it’s best practice to position the headset mic a 1-3 inches from the face and slightly below or to the side of your mouth. This position will effectively capture your voice without excessive breath noise or plosive pops.
What is the best microphone distance from my mouth? In loud live music situations, having the mic as close to your mouth as possible is appropriate. In studio environments, 6-18 inches is often considered the ideal range. When judging ideal distance, be aware of gain-before-feedback, vocal plosives, proximity effect, and overloading the mic.