A few thoughts on microphones….and things connected to them!
This photo montage of me performing in Sedona was created by the mega talented photographer Bob Chttp://www.bcphotography.com
One of the best friends that a performer has is his microphone armed with a microphone you are suddenly not one of the audience, but somebody of authority. The easiest way to invite heckling is to work with no microphone and the best way to overcome a heckler is to have volume on your side.
The best thing about a good microphone is that it allows you to use a much more conversational tone with the crowd and not sound strained or awkward. That mic, however, is only as useful as the sound system it is hooked up to and the monitors that let you hear what the audience is hearing. Often speakers need to be ‘re-angled’ pointing away from the stage so that you avoid feedback.
There is a tiny borderline when you have to decide whether there are enough people in your audience to justify/necessitate the use of amplification. This is actually the exact spot that draws the distinction between a close-up and stand-up show. I usually work much larger shows but I would say the dividing line is at around forty people—there are no fixed rules though.
Contemporary microphones divide into three basic flavors
1 Handheld (wireless or wired)
2 Lavalier (or body mic)
3 Head Set.
In a perfect world, a headset gives the best over all performance and is the least likely to feedback at the crowd. If you are used to working with a headset then you pretty much forget you are wearing it. The key element is just to make sure that you have a brand new battery installed in the unit immediately before show time.
One really nice thing about a headset is that it should position the microphone in exactly the right place to ensure it sounding good—this sweet spot is just below and to one side of the corner of your mouth. Make sure you have some band-aids or flesh colored sticky tape on hand to help secure the mic in this position.
Lavelier microphones are a little more temperamental about their sound quality and picking up your vocal. Generally speaking the actual microphone is either attached to the lapel of your jacket or the front/center of your shirt. The more central the mic is situated the better the sound because it fluctuates less when your head is turned to side.
If you are going to use a wired hand held microphone it is a good thing to make sure in advance that there is plenty of lead attached to it. You don’t want to discover there isn’t enough cord during the performance. You should make sure this is taken care of when you have your sound check. You can also set the height of the microphone stand.
A hand held wireless microphone is generally a pretty solid mic to use and keeps death defying feedback screams to a minimum. If you use any hand held unit then you will need a microphone holder to wear the mic in the correct position. This position, incidentally, is approximately one hands width below your chin.
I always have a microphone holder in my pocket even if I am using a head set, in case there is a problem with your main unit. I always stipulate that a back-up microphone is available (and turned on) at the side of the stage. This is a wise move that will make you look like an ‘uber-pro’ on the occasions when disaster hits the soundboard. You not only look prepared but you are prepared.
I talked about the correct style and usage of microphone holders in my recent book on the ‘Himber Linking Finger Rings’ and was surprised at how many people commented that they didn’t own a really good microphone holder—to me it is one of the most inexpensive but vital utilities that a performer can own.
I have been using a microphone holder for many years, which is based on the classic Johnny Paul design. I have adapted it and added some great touches that result in making it totally adjustable in every manner. I am just releasing the holder through my online magic store and via my blog site. It is available in a variety of colors and has a very cool silk carrying pouch. I am already getting raves about the effectiveness of the holder.
For a very modest fee you can obtain the ultimate microphone holder and be prepared when you plan to use it, and sometimes more importantly when you don’t! It is lightweight, sturdy, fits any microphone and works perfectly. If you need one then let me know, it could become one of your favorite purchases—even if you own a $2000 headset!