Something I’ve read rather often on music gear forums is that a particular mic (doesn’t seem to matter which one, call it Mic X) is prone to feedback, or picking up noise. I don’t buy that for a second. What this tells me is that “I always use these particular settings for whatever I attach to my mixer board, and this mic doesn’t sound right and gives feedback.” In other words the person doesn’t really understand that each mic is different and needs to be set up on the mixer separately. It can also mean that the person doesn’t know about proper placement of stage monitors or speakers.
I posted a while back about how to choose a mic, and about well-meaning people that should not ever touch a mixer board because they really don’t understand what they are doing, and who tend to go with “I’ve done it this way for years – everyone knows you’re supposed to do it this way – you’re stupid for not knowing that”.
EVERY MIC MODEL IS DIFFERENT AND REQUIRES YOU TO KNOW WHAT THE KNOBS ON THE MIXER DO TO GET THE BEST SOUND FOR THAT MIC AND FOR THAT SINGER FOR THAT VENUE!
Read that over and over again.
1. For a basic mic/mixer/powered-speaker setup that most singers use, start each mic with gain set to mid-way or less, all EQ knobs in the neutral position.
2. Most of the time, you should engage the “low-cut” filter on that channel to remove the very low sounds that make a singer sound “boomy” or muddy.
3. Have a singer actually sing normally into the mic and start adjusting the volume slider. Then adjust the EQ knobs to get a nice clear sound, typically adding a bit of treble and seeing if that helps, perhaps cutting or adding a bit of the low EQ.
At a recent outdoor gig, one mic needed rather a lot of low EQ added to give the singer presence, while another mic needed quite a bit of treble added to prevent a muddy sound.
It is always best to do your sound check prior to the public showing up (by actually singing normally), but being able to tweak the settings during a performance is also critical as more bodies in the room change the sound.
Speakers should almost always be placed in front of the singers and facing forward to avoid feedback. I did a gig last night where the speaker had to be placed behind and to the left of me and the keyboard, so I aimed the speaker over the head of the keyboard player so it wouldn’t be facing my mic. This made the speaker act as a monitor for us as well, since the venue was small. But remember where the speaker is located so you don’t wander in front of it with the mic.
Monitors are typically on the floor aimed towards the singers, but not necessarily directly at the singers. Some mics like the Shure Beta 58 (super-cardioid) have a small rear-lobe instead of rear-rejection and may pick up the monitor and create feed-back if the monitor is aimed directly at the singer. Aim them a bit off-axis for best results. Usually a standard cardioid mic won’t have that issue.
Singers may be used to a particular model of mic, and other models will be different. Different isn’t necessarily BAD. But if someone has been using a Shure Beta 58 for many years, handing that singer a Heil PR35 is a bad idea since the Heil is a lot more sensitive and has a completely different proximity effect. But just because that singer won’t handle that mic well does not mean the mic has a problem, it is simply different than the singer’s expectations. I’ve had to fend off a LOT of comments and suggestions about mic technique when using my Heil because the other singers are used to their Shure mics.