It’s true that singers don’t need to have a lot of musical equipment. We are unique in that our bodies are our instruments. In the world of classical singing, many singers never encounter the use of electronic equipment during live performance. However in the world of contemporary singing we do.

While you may not need a lot of gear, there are a few key pieces that you should have and some key things that you should know. This will not only make your live performances more enjoyable but could also save your voice!

Did you know that one of the leading causes of vocal fatigue and damage is inadequate, incorrect, or improper use of electronic equipment?

Maybe this has happened to you….You’re onstage with your band, the instruments are loud and you simply can’t hear yourself! Or maybe you can hear yourself, but your voice sounds strange – muffled or thin – not like YOU at all! As a result you are very likely to push for volume or otherwise manipulate your voice in an attempt to make it sound more like YOUR voice. You may not even be aware that you’re doing these things however you’ll know it at the end of the night! Even singers with excellent vocal technique can run into vocal problems when the sound isn’t right.

So what can you do?

Bring your own microphone. I highly recommend that you buy and use your own microphone. Not all microphones are created equal and some (even the very expensive or most popular ones) may simply not be right for your voice.  Dynamic microphones are the type most commonly used for live performance and within that category there are many to choose from. Each possesses it’s own unique sound quality and as I mentioned, some will be better for your voice than others. It’s a good idea to test out several microphones to see which one you like best. Most music stores (such as Guitar Center) will let you test out several microphones in the store. Sing through each one and you’ll see what I mean about differing sound quality. Select the one that makes your voice sound the most natural, provides you with adequate volume, and allows your voice to really project!

Use a high quality microphone cable. Be sure to get a high quality microphone cable and carry an extra one in your gig bag. Often the source of poor sound quality can be traced to a bad mic cable.

Get the most from the monitors. Make sure there are adequate monitors on stage and that they are positioned correctly,  understand how they work and communicate your needs to the person running sound.  If you can’t hear yourself, say something! If you can hear yourself but your voice sounds weird, say something! Even if you don’t know all the technical jargon, you can simply tell the sound person what it is that you’re missing in the sound. For example “my voice sounds weak and thin in the monitors, I’m not hearing enough of the fullness of my sound”, OR “my voice sounds really muffled, not clear”, OR simply “hey can you please turn my vocals up in the monitors?”.  Work with the sound person and ask nicely for what you need.

If you are consistently running into problems with the monitor mix, you may want to invest in in-ear monitors. These often provide a much clearer sound quality than floor monitors and give you the opportunity to control your own volume. Be advised however that in-ear monitors vary widely in terms of cost and quality, so do your homework!

Ask your band-mates to turn down. Yup, it’s quite possible that your band mates simply need to turn down. I know, I know, this can be a really touchy subject and you don’t need to be a diva about it, however, if everyone is being miked through the house speakers, you really don’t need all that much stage volume.  Play around with different levels of stage volume until you find a level that makes everyone happy. Years ago I played with a drummer who used plexi-glass screens around his drum kit for live performances. He knew that he liked to hit hard, but he was also mindful of maintaining a comfortable stage volume.

So while we singers don’t need to invest in a lot of gear, a few key pieces of equipment, and a lot of knowledge will go a long way!

What’s your favorite live performance microphone?