Thursday, September 8, 2011

Check Check One Two

I received a message from a performer named Peter this week, who asked me what my theory was behind using a corded microphone on a stand during my performances. I had to ask myself if I had a ‘theory’ at all and why it’s been something I’ve been doing for such a long time. So here are my thoughts.

In my performance experience I have used every type of microphone under the sun. Wired, wireless, lavaliere, headset, countryman, handheld and even (heaven forbid) those microphones permanently attached to the podium/lectern. If you have the luxury of performing in the same environment with a dedicated sound engineer on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, it stands to reason that you have the ability to pick and choose your microphone options. The reasons I always went back to a corded microphone on a stand over the years and why it’s all I use today for my everyday performances are listed below.

  • I never get feedback. Ever. I can walk into any banquet hall stick my cord into any P.A. system (and my cord has been in them all...whoa), and it will work.
  • There is never any cutting out, radio frequency interruptions or blackout moments.
  • I don’t have to find the “right” place to put the receiver. I never have to worry that I’m not on the right channel. And I don’t have to replace batteries. Ever.
  • I don’t look like Garth Brooks or Madonna circa 1996. I believe that those big wrap around headsets with the black muppet ball on the end is a HUGE eye sore and takes away from a TON of human interaction via the performer’s facial expressions.
  • I have incredible vocal control due to the distance I can have from the mic, I can deliver cues to my on stage volunteers without the audience hearing them and have more flexibility than a headset or lavaliere microphone. The depth of sound created by the mic I use is unparalleled with any cordless or headset mic currently available. Don’t believe me? Ask an informed sound engineer for their honest opinion.
  • The picture above is of my Shure 55SH Series II Mic replica of a vintage 1950’s microphone but with all of the modern “insides” that gives me great performance after great performance. It’s rugged die cast casing is designed to withstand rigorous use in any environment. And after about 11 years of still looks fantastic. Beyond its performance, I bought it because it’s a prop unto itself. I can remove it from the stand and hold it in my hand for mobility and to interview onstage and offstage audience members.
  • I have performed a version of the cut and restored mic cord for several years (thanks to Wayne Dobson) using this mic, as there is a feature about it that makes the method a lot easier. I have also used it for the silk through mic stand effect in the past to great response. What a killer that is!
  • I have become incredibly comfortable in using a corded mic on a straight stick stand, to the point where to use something else would be uncomfortable at this point.
  • No cords go down my shirt, pants or get clipped to my belt, creating an obstacle for any potential steals or deposits.

I realize I may sound like I’m trying to convert performers to my practices and preferences in the ways of the microphone. I’m not. But I challenge you to think about how much anxiety is created from your sound system situation. Do you have a bullet proof no-fail microphone that works in most any environment? Are you comfortable with it? Is it flexible enough for your show and the routines you use?

If you answered yes to these last three questions you probably have all the info you need.


  1. Re-thinking everything now after reading this!

  2. I think it's a matter of style preference. Speaking as the Peter from the post, for corporate I use a Countryman E6. It is almost invisible and allows me to move freely around the stage and audience.

    For kids I use a larger headworn mic but keep it away from my face. Same reason - more freedom to move.

    When I have to stage whisper I hit the mute button on the mic pack.

    It's personal preference. Bill's style with the vintage mic fits him very well. For me, I don't want the stand.

  3. Yeah, for me a stand wouldn't work, either as I'm short and since I walk with crutches I need the space in front of me to move around. A headset mic works the best in my particular situation.