[Callers] Proper use of vocal mic by caller

Dan Pearl daniel_pearl at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 25 13:24:00 PST 2012

1.    What is the proper distance to the mic?  I have been told that
several inches is best, and I have seen one caller who is always clear
measure that distance by placing her fist, with thumb and  pinky extended,
between her mouth and the mic. I have also seen other highly respected
callers rest it on their chin.  What are your feelings?

The kind of mics seen at contra dances ("dynamic") suffer from "proximity effect". The bass frequencies are boosted the closer you get.  Some callers work too close to the mic, and it makes for uncorrectable boominess in the hall.  

A span (thumb tip to pinky tip), about 6 to 7 inches or so, might be a bit too far away, as it will pick up some measure of stage/hall noise.

Tony Parkes recommends grasping the mic around the barrel, and extend the thumb above the windscreen and nestle the tip in the hollow between your lower lip and chin. This keeps the mic locked at a consistent distance (which is a good thing) about an inch or two from the mouth. 

2.    I have been taught to speak down the axis of the mic and not hold it
like an ice cream cone, yet many prominent callers do not seem to do this.
How important do you think that this is?

In general, talking down the axis is a good thing. If you work an inch or two from the mic, doing the "ice cream cone" thing will probably be OK, and in fact, may be desirable if you tend to pop your Ps ; the plosive force will bypass the mic element.  If you work 6 inches from the mic, the "ice cream cone" will definitely be out of the pick-up pattern of virtually all mics you'll see contra sound engineers use.

3.    I have a good wireless mic (a Sennheiser Evolution G3), which I like
to put on its stand when I can. When I scan the room, sometimes turning my
head from side to side, how important is it to move the mic so I do not
change the angle between me and the axis of the mic?

Whatever you can do to keep the mic in the same position relative to your mouth, the better. I would recommend either a headset mic for you, or go handheld.  If you work 1 to 2 inches from the mic, you can probably get away with not fiddling with the mic as you move your head. 

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