Microphone Technique Basics

By David A. Barber
Author of Gigging, Everything You Need to Know About Playing Gigs (Except How to Play Your Axe)

Microphone technique: How do you hold a microphone properly while singing into it? In short, you grip the mic by the handle and then place the bulbous end right up close to your mouth, even touching it with your lips.  Keep it that close at all times, unless you desire a volume lowering effect, which you can create by moving it away from your mouth.  If you are using a mic stand, place your mouth up close to the mic and keep it there.

Here’s some things you should NOT do with a microphone:

Don’t cup the mic: We’ve all seen this done, usually by artists on MTV.  This can cause feedback problems for the sound engineer and marks you as a total amateur.  The truth behind why you see this being done by huge artists on TV so often is because they are trying to hide the fact that they are actually lip-syncing.  This is done by artists of all genres on TV because they can use a pre-recorded track, with perfect sound, and lip-sync along concentrating on their dancing or theatrics. Also, since their mics are not on, they don’t have to worry about feedback.

Don't cup the microphone

Watch where you move the mic: Don’t squat down in front of a monitor with a mic in your hand.  That’s asking for feedback.  Similarly, never place the mic directly in front of a speaker cabinet or amplifier.  Again, that’s just asking for feedback and can cause headaches for the sound guy.  It’s Ok to dance or strut around the stage with the mic but watch the other instruments and mic cords.  You don’t want to trip and fall or tangle up the cords and accidentally unplug something or knock something over.  Oh, if we had a dollar for every time we watched a mic cord knock over a beer!  We’ve seen drinks knocked over directly onto pedals, amps and pretty much everything else on the stage.  If you are one of those artists who loves to roam all over the stage, it might be worth investing in a wireless microphone system.

Don't swing the microphone

Don’t swing the mic around by the cord: Yes, it’s cool when Roger Daltrey, of The Who, does this, but he can afford new mics.  We’ve seen a variety of perfectly good microphones smashed to bits by over-enthusiastic vocalists trying to be cool.  If you really think this kind of stunt will help your show, buy your own SM-58 (or better) mic and bring it to use at the show.  If you do ruin a microphone, be prepared to pay for a new one.

Don't swing the mic stand

Don’t swing the mic stand around: Yeah, it’s cool to watch Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones, swing his mic stand all over the place, but he can afford to buy new stands all day long.  If we had a dollar for every mic stand we’ve seen destroyed on stage… we wouldn’t have to write books like this one. If you bust it, you will probably have to pay to replace it.  It will likely come out of your pay at the end of the night, too.  If you want to play around with the mic stands, bring your own.  We’ve seen local bands bring it custom mic stands so sturdy they had steps built into them.  The singer could climb up on the stand for… whatever reason.  But it’s his own stand, so he can do whatever he wants with it.  Don’t try that kind of stuff with the house gear.