Choosing The Right Microphone For Your Pastor
Microphones come in all shapes and sizes, and more importantly, a huge range of prices. Choosing the right microphone is imperative to getting the quality sound you are after. Before you head online or down to your local music shop, consider these three factors:
It is important to recognize the difference between microphones that are commonly used for vocals and instruments. You will generally choose a dynamic microphone for vocals. Shure is one of the top manufacturers of inexpensive dynamic microphones for this purpose. Shure also has a reputation for durability on stage. On the other hand, instruments require a combination of dynamic and condenser microphones to achieve a well rounded sound.
If you are building a small church sound system on a limited budget, you need to be very careful about how you apply your spending. Through some research you can determine which areas you need to spend the most on, and where you can afford to use a less expensive option. With careful planning you can stretch your budget farther than you ever imagined.
In this time together we will go over the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of microphones for your church worship ministry or for your pastor, including headset, gooseneck, lavalier, and shotgun microphones. If you’ve done any type of live streaming of your sermons or other church events, you can understand the importance of audio quality and having a great sound team ministry.
There are several microphone types to choose from. Handheld, clip-on lavaliere, headset, and lectern microphones are all commonly used for capturing the spoken word. PZMs can also be used on altars and lecterns for a discrete and low profile option.
Pastor’s should definitely be involved in the microphone selection process, as the type of microphone selected will need to fit his/her speaking style, voice tone and movement during sermons.
Handheld mics are great, my pastor at our church has always used a handheld and he has no problem maintaining a consistent distance between the mic and his mouth so that the best sound quality is achieved. Some pastors that I have heard, it is difficult to adjust because they vary in their tone during their preaching, so you have to keep that in mind. That shouldn’t be a big problem when you get to know how the pastor sounds when he is giving a sermon.
Clip-on lavaliere are a good option and the microphones should be placed high on the chest and centered on the body if possible. It is recommended to place the mic 6-8 inches from the chin. Too close and you’ll get a throaty or bassy tone, too far away and you’ll get a thin or tinny sound. This will depend on the pastor voice as well.
Headset or ear worn mics are very popular due to their low profile and the ability to get the mic very close to the mouth. This can quickly reduce the risk of feedback and ensure that the sound quality doesn’t change whenever the pastor’s head turns. These mics should be positioned so that the capsule is just back from the corner of the mouth to minimize breath noise and pops.
Lectern or pulpit microphones are a great choice if the pastor is always behind a pulpit. Pastor’s that are stationary are good candidates for these types of mics. These microphones often use a 12-18” flexible gooseneck boom to position the mic and get it closer to the mouth. It is especially important to select the right pattern for this type of microphone, since the pastor could easily move out of the pickup pattern of the microphone capsule, lowering the overall volume of the voice. Again, you will know what to use if you know how your pastor preaches.
PZM or altar mics are generally attached to a flat plate that captures the sound bouncing off the flat surface. PZMs are very low profile and can even be used to pick up sound from a rather wide coverage area. However, they can be more susceptible to causing feedback if they are near the main loudspeakers. Positioning and EQing these mics is very important.
There a not a lot of things that can ruin a broadcast more, than bad sound. Like we said before about ways to improve audio by choosing the right speakers and mics, but in this post deals with the specific types of microphones your church should use during services.
Though the mic built into the video camera is the easiest to use, it will produce the worst audio because it’s too far from the sound source and often picks up surrounding noise. If we want a great production we have to take it to the next level.
The most common types of mics for speakers are headset, gooseneck, lavalier (or lapel), and shotgun. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Headset mics typically hook over a speaker’s ear and tend to be the most popular with pastors. The distance between the mic and the speaker’s mouth remains constant, so these mics produce consistent sound quality and don’t pick up environmental noise.
Note that they typically require a wireless bodypack (a set of wireless radios) to transmit the speaker’s audio to a mixer or other capture device.
If pastors don’t want to wear a microphone over their heads, gooseneck (or lectern) microphones are another great option.
The good thing about them is they have long stems so they can get close to the speaker’s mouth.
The only drawback is the mic positioning since they’re almost always positioned on a podium, these mics will limit the mobility of speakers who prefer to pace or move around the stage.
Lavalier mics are clipped onto a speaker’s lapel or shirt. They’re tiny, unobtrusive and good all-purpose mics. These mics are similar to headset microphones in that they are usually wireless and require a bodypack system to transmit audio.
However, lavalier microphones can pick up the rustle of clothing, and since the pickup element is small, these mics don’t capture the same sound quality as a shotgun mic. If you choose a lavalier mic, ensure that it’s omnidirectional so that you don’t lose the speaker’s voice if the mic is placed incorrectly. If possible, use a windscreen (typically included) with these microphones to prevent any rubbing sounds.
These mics are so named because they’re long and skinny and meant to be pointed in the direction of the source of the sound. They are often mounted to a camera or stand, making them useful if you’re within close proximity of your speaker.
Despite their length and look, shotgun mics cannot pick up sounds from farther distances. They’re unidirectional, meaning that they’re good at picking up sound from what they’re pointed at while largely screening out other sources. That’s fine so long as neither the intended source nor the mic moves. If the mic doesn’t follow a pastor who moves on stage, the sound will be lost. So, these mics require a separate operator.
Whichever type of mic(s) you choose, it pays to buy the highest quality you can afford. A cheap microphone will hurt your broadcasts and the aggravation will quickly outweigh the savings. You’ll make the best decision for your church if you consider the speaker’s distance from the mic, the acoustics in the room, and sources of environmental noise.
The number one tip for getting great sound from the pastor’s mic is to maintain a consistent distance from the mic – the closer the better, in most cases. There are two reasons for this.
- Keeping the mic close to the mouth will reduce the risk of feedback. It is important to have a strong signal at the mic so that any background noise from the stage or sound system is minimal when compared with the speaking volume at the mic.
- Every microphone will have a “proximity effect” associated with it. When placed properly, the voice should sound natural and tonally balanced. As the mic is moved closer, there will be more low-end muddiness. As the mic is moved farther away, the sound will thin out.
Microphones are available with a number of different pickup patterns. The pickup pattern indicates the area around the mic where it is most sensitive.
Mics pickup sound 360˚ around the capsule. This may be ok for headset mics where the mic is very close to the mouth, but it is not ideal for most other live sound purposes.
Pattern mics are probably the most popular and commonly available, and they feature a sort of hemispherical heart-shaped pickup pattern that has good sensitivity in front of the mic, with very low sensitivity to sound from the rear of the mic. This is a common pattern for handheld or lavaliere mics.
Mic pattern is even narrower than the standard cardioid pattern, allowing for very directional sensitivity in front of the mic combined with great rejection of noise from the sides of the mic. However, this type of mic will have a small rear lobe that is sensitive to sound directly behind the mic. This mic pattern is good for some clip-on lavaliere and lectern/pulpit mics if the pastor isn’t moving around a lot.
It is important to pay attention to the microphone pickup pattern so that the sound presented to the microphone is even and clear, while providing lower sensitivity to background noise behind or off to the sides of the mic.
Closely considering the three parameters of mic type, proximity, and pattern will help you choose the right microphone for the pastor and get the best sound possible at the source so that the spoken word is clear, articulate, and sounds natural.
People often assume that wireless systems are always better than their wired counterparts. However, there are a number of advantages that come with a wired microphone. Wireless systems are useful in large scale applications, but in small confined spaces they often introduce their own challenges. Interference and connectivity problems are just two examples.
These are just a few of the things that you need to consider before you buy your next microphone. Additional information about microphone construction and features will improve your choices. Your integration team will identify the best available microphones in your budget and ensure that you are getting a reliable product from a trusted manufacturer.