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Music Etiquette 101: Microphone Etiquette

“Turn on my microphone!”

“Turn the music down!”

“Turn it on!”

“Turn it back!”

“I can’t hear myself!”

How many of you have heard these phrases from an artist performing on stage? Here’s an even better question: How many of you have found yourself saying these things before/during a performance? I have, and I’m not afraid to admit it. In some cases, this could be the DJ or whoever is running the sound system. In other cases, it may be the sound system itself. But for the most part—and this is in no way meant to disparage any up-and-coming artist, whether they sing, rap, or play an instrument—it may not be any of those things.

Yes, that’s right: it might just be YOU.

I’ve seen a lot of artists get fired up because they feel like the audience can’t hear them, or they can’t hear themselves, and they automatically blame whoever is running the sound. But there is nothing wrong with the system; the mics are brand new, the speakers are in great tune, and the EQ is spot on. The problem is the way the microphone is held. If you are a professional and/or major artist – C’MON SON. (Although some big artists these days don’t know how to perform on stage, but that’s another topic. *cough*) But if you’re just starting out, I understand. At the same time, I feel sorry for most of you because you were just jumping and ready to make it big, yet you didn’t have the proper training in the music industry. There are methods that lead to success and you have to be willing to learn them. If you want people to hear you on stage, you have to learn how to use a microphone.

HOLDING THE MICROPHONE

You can sing and/or rap as loud as you want, but the audience won’t hear you clearly if the microphone is too far from your mouth. No one should watch you perform near your chest. For best results, the microphone should be at least 1-2 inches away from your mouth while performing. If you’re a singer, you should only move away when you’re projecting your voice so it’s not too loud in the speakers, at least a foot away.

“SECURE” THE MICROPHONE.

Rappers, this is ESPECIALLY for you. We’ve heard the phrase before: “Don’t cuff the mic.” For those unfamiliar with the meaning of this term, “handcuffing” is when a person wraps their hands around the mic ball while speaking or rapping. In my own experience, it hurts an artist because it blocks the sound field. It also muffles and distorts a person’s voice to such an extent that they cannot understand what they are saying.

Your hand should grip the handle just below the ball. This allows the microphone to pick up the sound better so the audience can hear you more clearly. Now I admit that some people have a different opinion about this; There are artists (rather rappers) who believe that handcuffing the mic actually increases the volume so they can be heard better. Shoot, I’m actually guilty of doing it now and then, but more out of habit than anything else. If you’ve “cuffed the mic” (and be honest with yourself), I suggest you do what I did until I got the hang of it: Practice leaving at least enough space on top of the ball to have a better chance of not sounding muffled .

KEEPING THE MICROPHONE CLOSE

How you hold the microphone when you’re not playing is just as important. Never allow yourself to hang sideways between verses (this goes for backups and hypemen as well). If you let it dangle as if you’re trying to drop it on the floor, you’ll only make more effort to bring it back to your mouth when it’s time to perform or say your adlib. It’s not the only thing that causes the jarring sound we call “feedback” when you get close to a speaker or monitor. It literally puts the mic into the monitor when you let it hang.

So to prevent this from happening, keep your arms bent and close to your body when you’re not talking/rapping/singing. This will make it much easier to get the mic back to your mouth and avoid putting it in the monitors.

CLOSED…

Performing on stage is all about making a lasting first impression on your target audience. People who see you—fans, other artists, A&Rs, and industry executives alike—pay attention. They pay attention to your stage presence and energy and decide if you can move the crowd. But most importantly, they pay attention to your delivery. And in my opinion, delivery starts with the microphone.

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