Singing on Stage – Microphone Types

Weekly Teaching Tip – Sep. 29, 2014
by Dominika Plonka

My young (teenage) students often sing on different kinds of city holidays, picnic parties, etc. So I go to first few concerts and help them to find themselves on the stage. The clue is a good cooperation with the sound engineer.

Ask the sound engineer what kind of microphones does he have. Young singer is not experienced enough to be careful with keeping the microphone out of the monitors and can provoque some problems with feedback. So your student should get a dynamic microphone. The best for the beginners will be supercardioid (see picture 1) or hypercardioid, because this microphone “doesn’t hear” the monitors.

(Hypercardioid has nulls at 109.5, and supercardioid – at 126.9)

The most popular supercardioid is Shure Beta 58, with characteristic blue belt. Shure SM 58 doesn’t have this characteristic, it’s “normal” cardioid (see picture 2), so theoretically it might be a bit more susceptible to monitors feedback. But I never had any problems with it on stage, so when I was buying my own microphone – I have chosen this one (it’s cheaper than Beta).

So: till your student gets dynamic microphone it’s OK. He should sing to to the mic from distance about 2,5 cm (1 inch). The dynamic microphone will not transmit the signal given from too far. Remember that dynamic mics have a proximity effect – it’s an increase in low frequency response when a sound source is close to a microphone. So the voice of the singer has more low frequencies when he sings on stage than when he records in studio to a special condenser mic of a good quality.

There are some other kinds of good mics: Shure Beta 87 is an electret condenser microphone with supercardioid characteristic (see picture 3). But I see it very rarely on stages, it’s not popular. However it’s great for singers who yell, because as condenser microphone, it supports big accoustic pressures (sound pressure, caused by a sound wave).

The opposite situation is when you have a group of students- e.g.a small choir. In a choir there are always some persons who don’t sing good enough, but usually we can hear from a distance only these ones who have a good vocal production. And it can happen that the sound engineer doesn’t have enough microphones for each person.

The best way would be to give them some condenser mics with stands – usually we give one mic for one voice (soprano, alto, tenor, etc.) But it will be much more difficult to accomplish a good sound if the choir sings with some bacground: condenser mics love to catch feedbacks… That’s why I usually choose singers for a concert and I don’t let every student sing during the concert (sometimes I do some testing for the members of the group). Then, when I’m sure that I have a good singers in the group, I ask for separate dynamic microphone for each one of them.

If you have a soundcheck – you should go on stage with your student and check out if he hears himself in the monitors. In case when you don’t have a possibility for the soundcheck before the concert – you should try to go on stage in a discret way and verify if your student has good conditions for singing. The worst thing in singing concerts is that the artists are totally depending on sound engineers.

So without a good preparation (soundcheck) or good experience of yours – your student may have a bad show – that is what every teacher wants to avoid….

Related Articles