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How to Sing (to Mic or not to Mic)

Many times, singing students, here at the Park Slope Voice Lessons Studio, have asked me if they can have a microphone (mic.) for a performance and my answer is always no. I saw something this week that made me think more about the subject…… I went to see Romeo Et Juliette at the Metropolitan Opera House on Tuesday night and am contemplating whether the overall performances of the singers could have benefited from having been mic’d. Students, I know you are SHOCKED at reading this but read on….I will explain.

Singing Students:
When learning how to sing it’s best to learn without a microphone. The singing technique (support) that needs to be employed in order to project is the foundation of good singing. If a person learns how to sing always using a microphone, they are most likely missing out on learning how to support the sound in a healthy way. Without support, a singer cannot project without straining. Mic technique can certainly be learned later and it’s fun to learn. Having said that, if a singer is performing with instruments that are mic’d, it is imperative that the singer is also mic’d so the balance between singer and instruments is good (i.e. the instruments are not drowning out the sound of the singer). Most of the time when Grace Music Studio students learn how to sing in recital they don’t use a mic, however, during our winter recital (Feb. 2011) some were mic’d during a song that required a live band and that was really fun for them! (see performances page).

Romeo Et Juliette by Charles Gounod
The opera houses in Europe are not nearly as huge as the Metropolitan Opera House (It has 5 balconies and seats 3,800 people with standing room for another 195 at the back of the lowest level). In Europe, well-trained singers don’t have a problem being heard, when they study how to sing, they learn how to support the sound and how to project in very large spaces. On Tuesday night, it wasn’t that the singing could not be heard but the singers needed to sing very, very loudly in order to make any sort of impact on us. The range of color and subtlety that we (the massive audience of over 3,000) could hear was only LOUD to LOUDEST. When these magnificent singers were singing at their loudest level it was thrilling but when they tried to sing a little less loud, instead of experiencing the subtlety of the music, it seemed we just couldn’t hear them as well. Some of the softer, emotional nuance was missing in this gorgeously, romantic work. I thought it was a little bit of a shame. Perhaps if the singers were mic’d we would have been able to hear all the subtleties that composer Charles Gounod intended. Who knows?

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