A PSA on behalf of live vocal microphones around the world
By Vanessa Hundley, aka DJ Audioprism
Entertainment and Life Scrivener
It’s your moment to step into the spotlight. It’s time for that school presentation. The work anniversary speech. Your favorite karaoke night. That neighborhood open mic night where you’ve been meaning to try out your new comedy routine or a new jam you’ve spent weeks composing and practicing in front of the mirror, in your car and anywhere else you can manage to find the time. It is time to express your message or talent loud and clear, with the aid of that all-common, sometimes intimidating, always crucial harbinger of voice – the cardioid vocal microphone.
It could be your very first time coming face to face with this humble yet powerful piece of equipment. Or maybe you have found yourself in its presence on multiple occasions but have yet to master a consistent delivery. In either case, this quick and simple breakdown of this often-used microphone type and the proper ways to use it will enhance you and your audience’s experience (and you may be more assured they will actually hear you)!
The cardioid microphone is the type most often used in live performances because it is designed to focus directly towards a sound source and cut out surrounding noise*. For the best results, aim the microphone directly at your mouth. How far away you should hold the microphone depends on the set volume of the microphone, how loud you naturally are, or how well you project. A good general guideline is holding it 2-3 inches away and adjusts a bit closer or farther as needed. Don’t be afraid to move it towards or away from your mouth as you talk or sing if different parts warrant it – your audience (and your Event Host or Sound Tech) will thank you if you aren’t going from a whisper to a scream because you aren’t monitoring your delivery!
It is important to repeat that you must keep this microphone pointed at your mouth as you perform! All too often during karaoke shows and speeches I have watched people step up, take the microphone and proceed to hold it anywhere and everywhere except where their voice is coming from. Because these microphones are designed to prevent surrounding noise from intruding on the performance, it will not pick up your voice if you try to sing or talk into the sides.
To all my whisperers out there – the ability to project your voice comes in part from your natural tonal level but is also strongly influenced by how well you incorporate using your diaphragm in supporting your speech. Stand or sit up straight, keep your shoulders pulled down and as you talk or sing, focus on breathing out and not up. As your breath support becomes stronger, you should find your “presentation voice” becoming stronger and even more. And don’t be afraid to let your DJ, KJ or Sound Tech know you may need more volume beforehand. They will appreciate the advance input versus scrambling to turn up your microphone at the last minute because no one can hear you. But bear in mind – there is often only so far a microphone can be turned up in a live situation before there is a possibility of feedback. If you really and truly are “the quiet one”, try your best to arrive early for a sound check if it is an option.
And if you have a natural or cultivated powerful set of pipes – don’t “eat” the microphone! You may have seen the enthusiastic Emcee or singer bounce up in front of their audience, promptly mash the microphone tightly against their lips and let it rip at the highest level they can manage. Pressing your lips directly against the microphone is not only unsanitary but restricts the airflow around the microphone. Thus, your voice is no longer carried, but forced, into the microphone. And then everyone gets to enjoy the none too pleasant grinding and crackling roaring out of the speakers as your microphone attendant cringes and desperately yanks down the volume.
A couple of extra Dos:
*Do wash your hands before taking the microphone. There are few things more immediately disgusting than going up to sing or speak after someone only to discover they left behind a greasy or sticky film of… something.
*Do vocal practices to help with enunciation and commonly mispronounced or run-together sounds. Forming your words in a more defined way helps others to understand you more clearly. You can find tons of practices for free on the internet. Record a practice occasionally, but not the same practice over and over. You may find yourself trapping yourself in speech patterns by doing the same practice repeatedly.
A couple of extra Don’ts:
*Don’t tap pound on the microphone to see if it is on. Use your voice! The sensitive electronics in the head of a microphone are not meant to withstand repeated impact (that would be a drumstick, everyone), and it could be in the middle of YOUR song/speech that it decides to give out due to abuse.
*Don’t drop the mic! I know it looks all cool when actors, singers, etc. do it on stage, but for the same reasons outlined above, this could be fatal to the microphone. And it’s a pretty good chance you don’t own that microphone, and the owner needs that equipment to continue making a living at their next event. Microphone replacement costs can be anywhere from tens to hundreds to even thousands of dollars – if you aren’t ready to shell out the funds right then and there, don’t do the dirty deed.
This has been a PSA on behalf of the beloved microphones that serve their masters faithfully through events of many kinds. Go forward and spread the word, and maybe save a mic in the process!
*For an excellent diagram and deeper, more technical explanation of cardioid and other types of live performance microphones, check out this article on GeaRank at https://www.gearank.com/articles/types-of-mics
Vanessa Hundley aka DJ Audioprism is the owner of Audioprism Entertainment, are a full-time DJ/VJ/KJ/MC, Web and TV Personality, and Wonder Woman who incorporates her love of music and everything entertainment into all facets of her life. She resides in Atlanta, GA, with her amazing daughter, fabulous partner and a variety of fuzzy friends intent on taking over the world one clump of fur at a time. Follow her on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Mixcloud for everything
Social Media LInks:
FB business page: https://www.facebook.com/audioprismentertainment/
FB fan page: https://www.facebook.com/djaudioprism/
Sources: Personal Experience 🙂