cupcake with pink and white icingDo you know what the sweet spot is?

How can you find it?
Every voice over talent should know where their voice sounds best on a microphone. This skill is particularly useful when you go into a studio and are unfamiliar with the studio mic they have in the booth.
Hear from some pros who know how to work the microphone… and if you’re happy to share your tips on how to find the sweet spot, add your own thoughts to the conversation!

So, Just What is the “Sweet Spot” and Where is it?

Following the article published yesterday where audio recording engineers shared their preferences and pet peeves when working with voice over talent, I received a number of questions about the sweet spot and how one might find this somewhat ethereal place.
When I was at a workshop with Mike Kirby’s Voiceworx, instructor Libby Lennie related that sweet sound comes from the spot on the mic where you sound absolutely heavenly!
I put a call out for answers and here’s what I’ve got for you:

Sweet Spotting

“The ‘sweet spot’ is the particular point/area of the mic, where you know your voice is at its absolute best. After so many years announcing it becomes ‘instinctive’ you can just sense the ‘spot’ on the mic where your voice sounds the fullest. Every mic is different and has its own characteristic. But, once you learn to play with your voice, you get to know what sounds best and where to speak into the mic.
In relation to your discussion with the audio engineers yesterday: I agree with the engineer who mentioned ‘trusting’ them to know where the mic is placed and how it’s placed for the individual talent for a session. It’s their job. I always trust the engineers for mic placement… and then, when you do find your ‘sweet spot’… it’s even… dare I say? ‘sweeter!'”
Kristi Stewart
“I agree with Kristi about the ‘instinctive’ part. When I was in broadcasting years ago, I was partial to certain brands, and the funny thing was, some of my co-workers had exactly opposite taste. I liked certain higher-end Shure mikes and disliked Neumann models – I felt they were too ‘bright’ for me. Yet, others loved them. Once I had the overall feel right, finding the sweet spot wasn’t that difficult for me. You know it when you hear it.”
— Tom Hosmanek
“I’m also a fan of the Shure mics. For my voice, they seem to be flat and natural sounding. The best thing is to get in there and play around with the mic for a while. You’ll know when you hear something you like!”
Jeannie Stith
“I am ‘right’ mic-ed. I like the mic to come at me from the right side. I like those wide ranging mics that allow the textures of my voice to come through. I like to work close.
None of us can know all mics — I worked with a tube mic they said I had to practically swallow. Engineer told me that and I followed his instructions. Otherwise, it’s like a batter learning the pitchers and their tendencies. The longer you do this, the more you learn. I also agree with previous comments about the ‘instinctive’ aspect.”
Michael J. Schoen
“If your mic is not a condenser and/or you don’t have a pop screen, try talking slightly off to the side of the mic to avoid puffs, plosives and sibilance from words that start with the letter P, T or S.”
— River Dain Kanoff
I think what River means to say is that even if you have found your sweet spot, you can make it even sweeter by ensuring you don’t have any speech issues such as popping ps.

Other Tricks For Avoiding Plosives Are:

๏ Smile through your words
๏ Put a pencil in front of your mouth
๏ Cut the air in half by speaking with your face turned down a bit
If you’re interested in learning more about microphone technique, take a listen to this podcast recording by voice over coach Melody Jones about microphone techniques for voice over artists.

What’s Your Strategy For Hitting the Sweet Spot Every Time?

If you are experienced in this effort, I’d love to hear about how you found the sweet spot and tricks you use to consistently find it, even if you have to use a microphone you have never encountered before.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best wishes,
Stephanie
©iStockphoto.com/Ruth Black

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her blog serves an audience what wants to grow in their careers as professional voice users, and more specifically, voice actors. Stephanie was recently listed on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Experiment! I’ve tried my mic from literally every angle; straight on, left, right, top, bottom, loud, soft, I’ve even tried seeing what it sounds like backwards from behind. Try it from 7 feet away all the way down to kissing the grill. The whole idea of a sweet spot is that a mic sounds different from different approaches, and the sweet spot is different for different reads. If I’m voicing a trailer style spot I may be straight on and up close. If I want a conversational sound I may back off a little. If I’m doing a character or cartoon I might be into the side just because it seems to complement the sound. Having just one “sweet spot” would imply that all your reads are exactly the same. I like to “work” the mic and go looking for the spot that best fits the project.

  2. Very helpful article, Voices.Com! Too many audition booths lack headphones, unfortunately, which makes talent dependent on the (often rushed) suggestions of the engineer/director in getting on axis…

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