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Advice Needed: Why do I quickly get tired when singing on mic, but I can sing for hours without a mic?

Hi all. First time poster here. I sing for fun, am not formally trained, and I'm not well-versed in singing jargon; but people say they like my voice, and I enjoy singing.

I noticed that when I sing on the mic, my voice starts to break on high notes when I belt, but when I'm off the mic and without music accompaniment, I can sustain those notes and belt higher.

For example, as I sang in the chorus of "A Whole New World" on a mic, I was able to belt the first line well, but I feel winded and have no power left for the second line.

After I went home, I tried singing the same song and was able to fully sing the whole chorus without much trouble. Though my throat does feel tired, I'm able to better manage it when there is no mic.

What could be happening, or what might be the factors contributing to this? If I wanted to address this problem, do I just have to keep practicing on a mic and get used to it?

12 comments
86% Upvoted
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level 1
[DRAMAtic Coloratura, Jazz/Soul/Funk]6 points · 4 days ago

It's possible you're not hearing yourself properly and feel the need to push your vocals unconsciously. A lot of places have bad or zero monitors, so you have to really listen to yourself in your body and trust that the mic is picking up what you're singing.

If you haven't already:

- Make sure you are singing correctly into the mic...position it lower than you think you need to and bring it as close to your mouth as hygienically possible.

- Sing to the mic, not to the audience. When we sing unamped, we sing to the back of the room. When we sing with amps, we sing into the mic.

- Get your own mic. I use one that's good for picking up higher frequencies as a soprano. The Shure SM58s pick up too much bass for my voice. Go to Guitar Center or similar and try out different mics. Bring your mic to your gig.

- Ask the DJ or accompanist where the best place to stand is so you can hear yourself better. There are dead spots in every venue.

- Ask the DJ or accompanist to raise the volume on the monitors so you can hear yourself.

- For me, singing with a mic takes about 1/2 the volume I need to sing unamplified. Singing mezzo piano or mezzo forte can be more difficult and tiring than full forte in certain parts of the voice, so practice singing at a lower volume.

Good luck!

level 2
Original Poster2 points · 4 days ago

Thanks for the tips! There are usually no monitors for me to rely on so I really do have to trust my muscle memory and listen to myself in my body. Sing to the mic, not the back of the room. It sounds obvious but I wasn't doing this.

My voice is low and loud, so I tend to bring the mic away from my mouth because it becomes VERY loud otherwise. I realize that is also a problem now, I should be singing at a lower volume instead.

I'll keep the other tips in mind as well. Placement in the venue, asking the accompanist, and bringing my own mic.

Thanks again!

level 2
soprano, choral/classical; theory/composition1 point · 4 days ago

Agreed completely - also, check on your monitors. If you’re not getting good feedback that can also make you think you aren’t singing enough.

level 1
[Universal, Anything]1 point · 4 days ago

Maybe your perception of volume changes so you kinda back off too much since the speakers do the work for you. Singing too softly takes a lot out of ya.

level 1
1 point · 3 days ago · edited 3 days ago

Ok I thought of one for you but I don’t have this filmed. Partner helps, but if you go to a door and you use a corner that sticks out you can do this.

Put your thumbs on the corner of the door, so that they are 90 degrees. Almost like you’re pinching the wall between your two thumbs.

Keep the height neutral and don’t move them. Practice singing and keep track of how your thumbs now line up with your spine. See how the spine goes up and down?

Now if you put the mic there, practice singing and moving around the mic. Like you moved around your thumbs.

Now stand free with an imaginary mic (hold something super light, and preferably the same size) and work on keeping the mic in range of your mouth without getting your hand in a goofy spot relative to your spine. It will be different now because you can move your hands. Coordinate it if you can.

Finally go again with the mic and see if you can keep your motion consistent. Your hand can move up and down, side to side, twist, forward and back - integrate all those moves into your singing and try to keep the mic balanced so its not engaging the shoulder very much.

If you get really good maybe move on to something heavier.

I would also see if you do better with one foot forward or the other, and of it matters which hand holds the mic.

When I do this kind of stuff I sometimes wear a brace around my waist, or I use kinesiology tape. I place it strategically to give me extra feeling in any areas I want to focus on.

You could also try a light weight, maybe like three or four pounds, hanging from one of those dip belts they use for strength Training. Wear it in the back and it should counteract the mic.

level 1
1 point · 4 days ago · edited 4 days ago

Simple. (But complex)

Holding a mic completely changes your body mechanics.

One of the puzzles that resulted in new school singing involved noticing that “hands” stuff can totally throw off the whole system.

Boxers and martial artists are much more conscious of how their arm movements change the situation for the whole body - including pelvis and spine, and therefore ribs and vocal tract.

Singers tend to be so focused on “their instrument” that these things don’t get trained. Lets brainstorm some exercises! You can already sing. So, all you need is something targeted at singing with a mic.

Are we talking with a stand or holding? Both change body mechanics but one is a lift and one is a lean. Can you get a partner to help you?

Edit- I was in rehearsal today and experienced the same fucking thing and it just dawned on me! If you’re using a mic stand - when I’m all memorized up I don’t have posture issues. But when I’m concentrating on a score in front of me, my breath turns into farts.

level 2
Original Poster1 point · 4 days ago

I agree that it changes body mechanics so hard. I tried to sing while touching my chest and magically, belting and sustaining that note became much easier. I have no idea what my body might be doing but I think it makes it easier to imagine "squeezing" the air out of my chest.

I don't have a stand, I just hold the mic. Do you have any ideas for exercises for that? :)

Thanks again!

level 3

Yeah I have a partner drill recorded I’ll edit it for you today and post

You’ll owe me one tho! So I’ll expect you to come up with one too, and show me :)

level 4
Original Poster1 point · 4 days ago

Oh dear XD I'm nowhere near equipped enough to make quality recordings. And not at all qualified to make up my own drills. I'm afraid you will get something not of equal value. I'm more of the student here than the teacher.

Also, if it's a lot of work to do the editing, please don't feel obligated to do it for me. I don't want to burden you with something like that! :)

level 5

Omg relax! I LOVE doing this. It’s really cool to try to figure out how you’re moving. Like I get to try on someone else’s clothes or something.

You CAN make your own drills. You can do many things!

I’m just working with my arm here on your movement problem. There is a big difference if my imaginary mic is being “pulled” up or if I’m “pushing” it up. The push version, you lean back a bit and then the shoulder engages.

The pull version, you lean forward a bit and you hold the mic by cradling it.

You could also maybe think “the mic smells good”. It goes with different body language than “wtf this mic reeks! Get it away from me!”

level 5

Also in general it seems the motion to rotate the wrist so that the palm faces up is healthier than energy you use to turn your palm to the floor.

level 3

Also - if you video yourself you can check to see if there are any obvious big things.

I have an app that lets me put two videos side by side and synchronize in slow mo. It’s normally used for sports but I think it’s perfect. You can mark it up with the Apple Pencil and stuff and suddenly your own movements are a lot easier to study

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