Microphone and Speaker Placement for Performance

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Have you ever covered your ears in pain at the sound of high-pitched screeching noise at a live performance?If so, I bet you’re thinking that the horrible sounds were caused by an equipment malfunction or perhaps low quality equipment in general. Truth is, most of the time, it has nothing to do with the quality of your soundboard, microphone, or speakers; It’s the improper placement of your sound equipment that causes feedback.

  Such a nightmare for your production can happen for many reasons that outside of your control. That said, let’s quick go over the biggest mistake – proper speaker placement – to ensure your high quality sound equipment performs as it should and doesn’t end up causing your audience to run for cover. 

Mic and Speaker Set Up for Small Rooms

For rooms that are small in size, two high quality speakers on either side of the stage should work out just right. The best possible way to avoid feedback in rooms that are relatively small in size is to make sure that the speakers are placed as far downstage as possible from anyone that will be wearing a microphone. An easy tip to remember – make sure your microphones are always BEHIND your speakers.  Any knowledgeable sound person will allow feedback to happen first and then adjust the treble, bass, and midrange to get the sound to be its optimal level for the room size.

The next step is to try and get a natural and unamplified sound from the performer’s microphone. The sound mixer will play a large role in getting this perfected as they will again have to adjust bass/midrange/treble to make sure the audience doesn’t get blasted by voices that are higher than they need to be. A good rule of thumb here is that if you can’t tell if a performer is miked but you can still hear them clearly, you’re all set. A great way to judge if the sound is done right for the room size is if you can hear the performer well but can’t tell they’re wearing a microphone.

Mic and Speaker Set Up for Larger Venues

Auditoriums, places of worship and other large rooms utilize more speakers, making it easier for the sound person to keep the volume levels lower. This in turn makes the person wearing the microphone able to be heard naturally. More speakers throughout the venue and lower volume allow the performer to sound more natural.

 The one vital task to perform in larger rooms with spread out speaker placement is to make sure that the speakers are “delayed by microseconds” in order to compensate for the distance from the back of the space to the stage. The reason this is so important is because it makes sure that the sound coming from the stage meets the audience simultaneously, and thus eliminating the chance of creating an undesirable and unnatural sounding echo effect.    

Best Microphone Placement for a Performer

Much like different performance spaces require different speaker placements, different performance types require different types of microphones. If you’re looking for the microphone that delivers the best pick-up, headset mics, are your best option. These are great microphones simply because being so close to the performer’s mouth eliminates the possibility of feedback from the loud band behind them. 

For major roles in plays and for singers that move around a lot, wireless lavaliere microphones are your best option. You can easily conceal one of these behind the performer’s ear or above their hairline. These are a great choice, much like headset mics, because there is little to no chance for feedback thanks to their close proximity to the performer’s mouth. 

Worst Place for a Microphone on a Perfomer

One of the most common but the absolute worst places to set up a microphone on performer is the lapel.} Having the microphone so far from the performer’s mouth forces the sound engineer to increase the volume which will in turn increase the chance for feedback and other sounds  be picked up. The best situations for lapel microphones are when the performer primarily remains stationary. Utilize these few tips on proper microphone and speaker placement to stave off feedback and other sound issues that are generally preventable with a good sound technician. Best of luck to you!  

 

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