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Photo by Kristina Clemens
Ready, Headset, Go!
What you’re saying is valuable. Are you audible? Enhance your practice and move with ease by mastering the headset mic.
By Lis Addison
I was performing a singer/songwriter gig at “The Comeback Inn” in Venice Beach in the ’80s when I realized I was stuck. I was playing behind a keyboard and singing into a stationary mic, so I could barely move—if I raised my head or swayed my torso the sound of my voice might not be picked up. I felt trapped and decided to walk away from the keyboard to the front of the stage. Once I got there, I remember telling the audience, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Then I put on a CD I’d composed and did an improv song and dance. I got a standing ovation.
Since that time, my work has evolved. I now compose music specifically for dance, yoga, and vocalizing and have created a vocal/movement practice called KiVo: The Kinetic Voice.
KiVo has turned me into a facilitator as well as a composer/performer who likes to move freely. One of the best liberators for movement facilitators, who need to be free to move their own bodies, hold space, run music, and manage the tears that fall, is the headset mic, especially a cordless one (which I now use for performance, too).
It’s important to feel comfortable using a headset mic, and this is a challenge because they can slide around and must be adjusted frequently. Good mic technique is crucial in and of itself so that volume is as consistent as possible and participants can easily tune in to what you are saying. It is also a metaphor for the kind of person you are: Are you timid and barely audible? Are you overpowering and forceful? Are you on and off? Are you completely lost or always in control?
Before you strap on a headset, I recommend that facilitators spend some time experimenting with and becoming familiar with the sound and strength of their own voice. In KiVo, we work with breath, vocal production, and projection and learn to direct the sound through various energy and physical centers in the body. We learn to harness the powerful vibrations our voices create and we also move these vibrations with choreography in order to feel the vocal vibration on a somatic level.
As I facilitate KiVo sessions, I always appreciate the freedom to move that comes with a headset mic. For all types of dance facilitators, I recommend taking the time to learn to use your mic with skill and confidence.
Tips for headset success:
• It’s ideal for the facilitator to have his or her own mic and get to know how it responds. Headsets are great because you have your hands free so you can dance and also support participants by doing hands-on work.
• It’s essential to have an equalizer so the bass can be boosted or attenuated. Increasing bass response allows female facilitators to add some heft to their voice while also increasing volume. A little bit of reverb helps to add warmth to the vocal pattern and engage the listener.
• Mics pick up in a series of different “pick-up patterns” such as cardioid, hyper-cardiod, and omni-directional. Generally, the cardioid is chosen, which means that the sound is picked up in a heart-shaped pattern directly in front of the mic.
• Experiment with your mic. If it’s a headset, place the mic directly in front of your mouth for optimal pick-up. Move the head of the mic manually to be sure it’s in front of the mouth. You do not want to have your mouth off to one side or above the mic, but directly in front of the pick-up source. Look inside the mic to find where the pick-up is.
• Use EQ. EQ means equalize, which is increasing or decreasing various pitch frequencies to get the sound quality you like and provide your voice with the most presence. Experiment by increasing or decreasing various frequencies until you find the sound you like.
• Use a wind screen, which literally screens extraneous air from your voice, removing hiss or sibilance. If you become winded from moving or facilitating, bend the headset mic away from your cheek. This prevents the audience from hearing you puff.
• Become familiar with fading the volume down while putting the mic on and taking it off. Make adjustments with the volume down so people don’t hear scratching and fiddling, which can be distracting.
• Listen to yourself! Don’t be afraid to adjust either the mic placement or the EQ. Be mindful of being too soft or too loud in the mic.