Dear, Dear Mike
As promised, this month's is dedicated to the topic of such microphonic fundamentals as usage and etiquette. Perhaps we will also gain insight into the various types of users, thus furthering our abilities to pre-determine another's character before officially meeting him or her.
The scenario: one vocalist, one microphone and one audience. The audience is observing an open stage or "jam" session, karaoke, or possibly even a public speaking engagement. A live band situation should not necessarily be included as an example, because said band members can do what they damn well please, if they own the equipment and the mike user is working out for them. You can include whatever you want to, though.
There are several potential turn-offs that can accompany mike wielding. Hopefully, the following tips will help fine-tune your skills as a considerate vocalist.
When receiving the mike, avoid belaboring how sick you are, especially if it's strep throat. Just don't mention it at all and maybe no one else will get your germs. You can, however, make your point by simply holding your throat and grimacing while reaching for high notes. This will notify the audience that you usually can sing better. Belching in the mike is no longer funny or purposeful. It was for a short time in the `70s, but it's been done too much now. For similar reasoning, don't rub the mike on your buttocks or crotch, and don't share body fluids (spit, sweat, etc.) in this way.
If you accidentally drop the mike, don't try to play it off by blaming someone else, staring at it as if it jumped away from you, or comically tossing it down again. We all make clumsy mistakes, so own up. If you do it twice, though, you could be in trouble. They dent and falter, as does human tolerance.
Never point the mike directly at a speaker. You'll hear that loud screeching honk that gets everyone so pissed off -they'll glare and hold an ear for quite a bit. Once might be an accident, but if you do it to be funny, somebody's gonna knock you upside the head. You, personally, can bust a tweeter and possibly stop the show for the rest of the night if you fool around like this. Problems such as feedback and distortion can occur when "cupping" the mike or yelling violently into it. Depending on the PA system, essential equipment damage may occur. Today's young men tend to cover the mike with one hand while, in some cases, throwing made-up sign language with the other. Granted, this stance may look cool to some, but you need a sound person who is dedicated to you and your passion. The mike wants to do its job, which is picking up your distinctive vocal timbre, not just the CB radio frequency. You probably sound like s**t, so be aware of this.
There are better way to say "rock star!" than by awkwardly twirling your microphone around by the cord. It looks stupid in a throwback kind of way, no one does it well and, most importantly, the mike might easily fly across the room. It's hard on the cord, too. Instead, try looking moody, mysterious and somewhat disinterested at the same time. If you're just a fun lovin' goofball, do a little dance as you see fit.
While many males are "cuppers," females are often "spacers". They leave a lot of air between mouth and mike. Interestingly, this lack of technique can cause feedback as well, if the sound person falls for it. Overcompensating for a mousy spacer by raising levels on the board is just asking for trouble. If the levels have been working well so far, the mike level has been raised reasonably and the singer still cannot be heard, she has the problem, not you. She might be faking. Get her closer to the mike, tell her to sing louder, and, geez!! Make all the know-it-alls quit motioning with thumbs to turn up the vocals! As if you weren't aware or something! Do they think they could handle your job for more than a few minutes, dealing with all those drunks and inconsiderate vocalists!?
Every so often, a singer will brag about how good he or she is going to be. Ninety eight percent of the time, that person is in deep denial. Alternately, a certain personality likes to grovel and spinelessly whine about how bad he or she is going to be. This person is indeed likely to be mediocre but secretly thinks the crowd will go wild with pleasure. The best-sounding vocalists usually just sing.
If your sound is being attended to sensitively, proper microphone handling is a beautifully simple craft. Hold your mike firmly yet comfortably, one to two inches from your LIPS. (Not your chin or ears, a common faux pas!) This is your "real voice" area. Now, imagine a rubberband, if you will, connecting the volume/intensity of your voice to your mike hand. As your vocal output increases, the band stretches and your mike pulls away to equalize the tones you present. In turn, as you soften (or deepen, you may discover) your melodic message, the band tightens, and the mike is almost brushing your lips. In all stages, you are at ease, trusting the tool to project you in an honest, authentic and complementary light.
Yes, the microphone, often beaten worn and sticky, is truly a complex companion. Trust the tool, expect quality and demand the respect you will gain as a considerate vocalist.
See ya later!!