In a perfect world, all equipment you use at a venue is pristine and in reliable working condition. You sound phenomenal through it because the perfect world is a rad place to exist. You also can fly, and you will win the lottery daily. Unfortunately, I have some bad news: ours isn’t a perfect world.
If you play live, you may know this all too well. You’ll often see faulty cables, microphone stands decorated in duct tape, and mixers that shoot sparks all over the place (this happened once at a show I played). One of the most important pieces of equipment to you as a singer is usually the most sketchy: the house microphone.
One way to avoid this situation is to own your own microphone and bring it to all your gigs.
Why Own Your Own Microphone?
There are many reasons to own a mic, but these are the first four that leap to mind.
The first and most important reason why I own a microphone is hygiene. After years of smelling the bad breath of musicians on dive bar microphones, I was done with the odor. Owning my own microphone means I only deal with my own breath (which is usually fresh, thank you).
Sharing a vocal microphone is not only unpleasant. It’s also unhealthy. Being a Midwestern musician who performs during the winter, I’ve gotten sick from cold germs on a house microphone. I’ve also seen a couple of SM58s that looked highly suspect. Some live performance establishments may clean their microphones, but you can’t count on it. I can clean my microphone myself whenever I need to.
Another reason why I own a microphone: reliability. Sometimes, I play gigs at smaller venues or in DIY spaces that don’t have a steady schedule of music. This usually means the venue doesn’t have a big audio budget. The equipment may not be reliable and could lead to an unreliable performance, which is the last thing anyone wants.
Bringing my own microphone eliminates this problem because I can at least know that what I’m singing through is going to work (even if it’s connected to the worst PA system of all time). While there is a charm in playing fringe events and unusual gigs in strange places, a vocal performance needs to connect with the audience and be consistent.
Environmental factors aside, professionalism is another reason to own your own microphone. I know in certain genres of music, people scoff at displays of professionalism. Think of it this way, though: professionalism can be as simple as taking what you do seriously and learning the etiquette of performing. Showing that you’re serious about your craft by considering a personal microphone is just as essential as a guitar, tuner, extra strings, etc. When you have your own microphone, you communicate to the audience and sound engineer that you take what you do seriously. That isn’t a negative message to convey.
Bringing your own microphone also can be helpful if a house microphone bites the dust. I don’t have an issue with providing my microphone for fellow musicians to use at a gig. It’s an opportunity to extend a helping hand to others if things go south (which is rare but does happen). It feels great to provide the solution if microphone problems arise. Plus, if you’re concerned about germs, you can always clean your microphone as aforementioned.
Finally, one of the most rewarding things about owning my own microphone is simply that it’s mine. I know how I sound on it. I rely on it just like I do the other equipment I have on stage. This gives me the confidence that no matter where I perform, I will have optimal sound quality and reliability. That improves both my performance and the experience for the listening audience. That’s a win/win if you ask me.
How to Choose a Microphone
Now that you know why it’s a good idea to own your own microphone, you should check out these resources for help in finding the right mic for you.
Our blog post Choosing the Right Mic has recommendations for vocals, drums, guitar and bass amps, and acoustic guitar.
In our Mic Listening Lab, you can hear and compare the sound of different Shure microphones for many applications. Recently, this resource was improved and expanded, so we shared some tips for making the most of your Mic Listening Lab experience in our post called The Mic Listening Lab Gets an Upgrade.