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What Is Microphone Bleed or Spill? (Answered)

Microphone bleeding and spilling can be a big issue for singers, musicians, and other performers. If your microphone is not placed properly, it can cause unwanted noise in your recordings or onstage performances. This article will teach you how to avoid microphone bleeding and spilling and how to fix any problems that may occur.

Unfortunately, not knowing about microphone bleed can lead to serious damage to your microphone.

Image of a black microphone on a white surface. Source: public domain pictures, pexels
Image of a black microphone on a white surface. Source: Public Domain Pictures, Pexels

This article covers all about microphone bleeding and spilling and gives you tips on how to fix them. So if you’re a musician who experiences this problem, this post is for you!

What is a microphone bleed or spill? Microphone bleed or spill is when audio from one source bleeds into another. This can happen when a microphone is placed too close to a sound source other than the one it is intended to capture. For example, if a microphone is picking up the sound of a drum set while it is supposed to be capturing the vocals of a singer, it is experiencing bleed.

What is a microphone bleed or spill?

Microphone bleed/spill is best characterized as the sound a microphone takes up from non-intended sound sources. That is an external sound source that is not the mic’s primary focus.

While other noise sources, such as EMI, handling noise, and self-noise, might affect a microphone’s output signal, “bleed” or “spill” does not apply to these other sources. Instead, “noise” from other sources that leaks into a microphone meant to pick up a certain sound is known as “microphone bleed.”

Microphone bleed is not an issue with room microphones or ambient microphones, for instance, since their design makes it possible for them to record every sound in a given space.

Spot microphones, on the other hand, are susceptible to microphone bleed in non-soundproof spaces and/or when there are other sound sources present.

The most typical scenarios for microphone leakage to occur are:

  • Vocal mic leaking from headphones during overdubs
  • Drums/cymbals drum mic leak when using separate microphones for drums and cymbals
  • Bleed from other instruments at a selected instruments’ mic in a live studio space or on a stage

What are the causes of microphone bleed or spills?

There are a few common causes of microphone bleed or spill:

Incorrect microphone placement: One of the main causes of microphone bleed is placing the microphone too close to a sound source other than the one it is intended to capture. For example, if a vocal microphone is placed too close to a drum set, it may pick up the sound of the drums as well as the vocals.

Poor microphone technique: Poor microphone technique can also contribute to microphone bleed. For example, if a performer moves too close to or too far away from the microphone, it can cause the sound level to fluctuate and lead to spill from other sources. Similarly, hard plosives and sibilance can cause the microphone to pick up unwanted sounds from the performer’s mouth.

Poorly designed microphone: In some cases, microphone bleed can be caused by a poorly designed microphone that has a high proximity effect or a wide pickup pattern. This can cause the microphone to pick up more sound from the sides and back, leading to spill from other sources.

Poorly designed room or venue: The design of the room or venue can also contribute to microphone bleed. For example, a room with hard surfaces or poor acoustics can cause sound to reflect and bounce, leading to spill from other sources.

Faulty or damaged microphone: Finally, microphone bleed can be caused by a faulty or damaged microphone that is not functioning properly. This can lead to the microphone picking up unwanted sounds or signals.

Tips on how to fix microphone bleed or spill

Here are a few tips for fixing microphone bleed spill:

Use directional microphones

Directional microphones, such as cardioid or supercardioid microphones, are designed to pick up sound from a specific direction and reject sound from the sides and back. This can be helpful for reducing microphone bleed, as it allows the microphone to focus on a specific source and reject sound from other sources.

Position the microphone correctly.

Proper microphone placement is key to reducing microphone bleed. This means placing the microphone as close as possible to the sound source you want to capture and positioning it in such a way that it is less likely to pick up sound from other sources.

Use a pop filter or windshield.

A pop filter or windshield can help reduce microphone bleed from wind and breath noise. These devices are designed to break up the airflow from the performer’s mouth and reduce the impact of hard plosives and sibilance.

Use the proper microphone technique.

Proper microphone technique can also help reduce microphone bleed. This includes maintaining a consistent distance from the microphone, speaking or singing directly into the microphone, and avoiding hard plosives and sibilance.

Check the microphone and room or venue design.

If you are experiencing persistent microphone bleed, it may be worth checking the design of the microphone and the room or venue. In some cases, a poorly designed microphone or a room with poor acoustics can contribute to a microphone bleed.

Repair or replace a faulty or damaged microphone

If you suspect that the microphone itself is faulty or damaged, it may be necessary to repair or replace it in order to fix the microphone’s bleed.

Image of a woman holding a microphone near her lips. Source: cottonbro studio, pexels
Image of a woman holding a microphone near her lips. Source: Cottonbro Studio, Pexels

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “How to reduce MIC BLEED in your recordings” from the Pete Johns – Studio Live Today YouTube channel.

A video called “How to reduce MIC BLEED in your recordings” from the Pete Johns – Studio Live Today YouTube channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about microphone bleed or spill. 

What does it mean when sound bleeds?

In sound recording (especially near miking) and live sound mixing, spill (also known as bleed and leakage) occurs when a microphone picks up sound from a source other than the one intended.

How do you mic a snare?

There are several techniques when it comes to miking a snare. The quickest way to fix the problem of bleeding from the other drums in the set is to close-mic the snare. Put the mic such that it is directly above the center of the top of the snare, out of the way of the drumsticks. It’s also a good idea to use a phase-flipped mic to record the snare’s underside.

When & why is bleeding problematic?

A sound that is just an out-of-sync duplicate of already-existing material, such as music, may detract from the overall quality of a mix. When I say “slightly,” I’m referring to a period of time between 5 and 10 milliseconds (which, given the speed of sound, equates to a distance of about 1.7 to 3.4 meters). This problem is most noticeable when recording instruments or vocals in a compact room with many microphones placed close together.

Conclusion

To sum it up, if you have been noticing microphone spillage in your recordings, just make sure that the mic is placed properly and not too far away from the source. You can also try using a pop shield to stop any noise or spilling effects. When handling this issue, be extra careful and follow the steps mentioned above so that you don’t ruin your recording or stage performance.

However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great music artist by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.

This article covered what a microphone bleed or spill is, what causes a microphone to bleed or spill, and how to fix them. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Microphone bleed/spill is best characterized as the sound a microphone takes up from non-intended sound sources.
  • There are a few common causes of microphone bleed or spilling.
  • There are a few tips for fixing microphone bleed spill.
  • Bass is an important part of any music and bleeding, or spilling can ruin the sound. It is important to be aware of this when recording and to take measures to avoid it.
  • Leakage is the occurrence of sound being picked up by a microphone from an unintended source. It is usually seen as a problem, and various steps are taken to reduce or avoid it.
  • When recording with more than one microphone, the easiest technique to eliminate background noise is to utilize a great mixer to cancel out any mic bleed or crosstalk.
  • Microphone bleed occurs most often when headphones are placed too close to a vocal mic or when sound from one drum kit instrument leaks into a microphone meant for a different drum.

So, do you experience a microphone bleed or spill? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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