1. Drop the mic
It may be funny, but I don’t think I need to explain why this is bad. It can break the microphone (even the classic SM58, which according to legend can take a bullet, and generally does well on drop tests), and if the sound operator isn’t ready for it, will DEFINITELY make a loud “thunk” in the speakers. People will hate you. Similarly, never put it somewhere that it can roll off and hit the ground.
2. Cup the mic
If you’ve seen a rapper or hardcore singer, you’ve seen this. The singer puts their hand around the ball of the microphone, creating a sort of “tunnel” that they then sing into. Not only does this change the sound of the mic (usually making it HARDER to understand the words), but it actually ruins a really important part of the microphone design: directionality. A vocal mic is usually directional: it only picks up sound from the front of it, blocking out sound from the audience, other instruments, and monitors. This means less unwanted sound, less feedback, and the ability to make the mic louder without problems. But when you cup the mic, you block the ports in the microphone that make directionality work, eliminating that effect.
3. Blow or tap on the mic to see if it’s on
Stepping up to a mic can be awkward – you don’t know if it’s on or not, and wouldn’t it be so awkward if you started talking and it wasn’t? Most people, instead of trying some words like “hello?” or “testing,” will choose to blow or tap on the mic instead. This is terrible because 1) depending on the mic, that might damage it, and then it DEFINITELY won’t work, 2) if there’s a sound operator, they don’t want the tapping sound to go through the speakers, so they’ll mute it, and 3) it looks incredibly unprofessional to the audience. Most of the time, the mic will work. Seriously. Just trust that. More importantly, if you start talking and don’t hear anything, that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t work – it might just be that you’re talking quietly, and the sound operator needs to turn it up…which won’t happen unless you talk.
4. If the mic isn’t working, act like you can fix it
There is precisely one thing that the typical user is capable of doing to fix a microphone that isn’t working: IF it has a switch (most mics don’t!), flip the switch to the ON position. Otherwise, it’s going to be up to someone else to make it work. And yet, whenever something goes wrong, the speaker always looks around at the mic and wires as if they’re suddenly going to fix it. If it’s broken, look at the sound operator. They’ll already know, and will probably be working on getting you another one. All you can do is either go on without the mic or wait until it’s fixed.
5. Speak quietly
A lot more about this on a previous post, but in short – microphones can make things louder, but only to a point before you get feedback. Don’t yell, but if you’re too quiet or standing far from the mic, you’ll probably still be quiet to the audience. Speak a little louder than conversational volume, and if you know how to project properly, do it.