Let me begin by being painfully blunt. Most singers drive me absolutely nuts when they use a microphone. The majority of them don’t know how to hold it or use it. Many look like they just stepped out of a kiddie choir to sing a kiddie solo.

I have seen singers hold the microphone with their thumbs on top of the windscreen. I have seen them hold it so high it covered their faces. I have seen them beating time on the microphone with their fingers. I once had a student who put such a chokehold on the microphone, her hand went to sleep and she dropped the mic. She finished the program with the microphone in the other hand.

But the most frightening of all was a southern gospel quartet singer. He would take the stage with his group and, while they waited, he would systematically loop the microphone cord a total of four times and would heft that mass of electrified cable to the front of his face, and then the quartet would sing. It was unbelievable! Please, don’t try this at home.

To improve your microphone technique, or in most cases, create a technique, make a few simple adjustments to what you are doing presently. Never, ever play with the mic cord. Nothing is more distracting.  Well, with the exception of that irritating singer who beats time with the fingers that hold the mic. Many singers who do this can’t seem to get the beat correct, because the muscles in the hand are also trying to hold the mic. It’s a coordination thing.

I know what you are thinking right now. “I don’t have to worry about a microphone cord, because I use a wireless mic.” But beware! If your battery hasn’t gone dead during a performance, just wait a while, because it will!

For example, several years ago I attended a major Christian concert tour during the Christmas season. Right in the middle of the show, the microphone being used by the soloist, a multiple Grammy award winner, went dead. The battery failed. This artist was visibly upset. So much so that I thought this person was going to chuck the mic into the upper deck. (For those less initiated “chuck it” means to throw or heave an item in disgust.) A sound man was close at hand with a fresh mic and saved the day. Considering how quick the bad mic was replaced it makes one wonder whether this happens more than the sound guys would like to admit. Oh well, it’s just something to consider.

Another way to improve your technique is to keep the microphone out of your face. Point the mic at your chin just below the mouth. Then sing over the top of it. The audience can now see your face and hear you properly. What a concept! Another point to consider is to fight the urge to place the microphone too close to your mouth. Sing into it, don’t eat it.

Let me have your undivided attention now! Develop a warm and intimate relationship with your microphone stand. It is so misunderstood and maligned, but it has so many uses. Don’t sell the stand short. Some singers I have worked with have actually been afraid to use one. One group of people that I have encountered, who are split down the middle on the subject, are praise leaders. Some leaders shun the use of the microphone stand and cry out “You’ll never use one in my worship service!” While others swear by its use and say, “It frees your hands for expression during worship.” Who’s right? It is your call, not mine.

A microphone stand is a very useful tool. Its basic function, obviously, is to hold the microphone. But it can also be used as a prop. A singer can use it as a tool of communication by placing a hand on top of it, placing a hand below the mic, or putting both hands below or above the microphone. One could even lean the stand slightly to the side or back, depending on the song choice. Don’t sell its use short. It can be an extremely useful tool.

Let us consider a second horror story. We have all seen, at one time or another, a performer who attempts to remove the microphone from its holder on top of the mic stand while it is stuck. The singer at this point begins to pull on it, causing a tremendous noise in the sound system, and the microphone never unsticks or releases itself. The singer now, after much embarrassment, must sing with it still in its holder. This just killed his whole presentation. The way to avoid such a mishap is to spend about $5.00 on a butterfly-clip mic holder. As a soloist, this is the only way to go. It is the quickest and quietest way to remove a mic from the stand, and it will not get stuck. I went to a jazz concert several years ago and observed the great Cleo Lane use one of these, and I was sold. If it’s good enough for Cleo, it’s good enough for me.

Now go sing well!

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Roger Beale has been writing the Vocal Coach’s Corner for over sixteen years. He is one of the nation’s foremost vocal coaches. He presently works with professional singers in all areas of musical performance. His teaching and coaching facility, The Voice House, is involved in the management and care of the professional voice. Many of his students have won prestigious vocal competitions and scholarships. In addition, he has worked with Grammy and Dove award winners and nominees. He also offers vocal clinics and seminars, as well as assistance in recording sessions. Roger is an adjunct professor in the Fine Arts Department at Point University, website: www.point.edu. Roger can be contacted at rbeale251@gmail.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. I enjoyed reading this article, but it spent the majority of the time talking about how microphones have been improperly used and gave two suggestions (butterfly clip and pointing it at your chin) in helping solve the issue. I would have appreciated more advice on proper technique.

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