Microphone Technique for DJs

By Chris Pointo

Although it sounds strange to you to hear your own voice over the PA, in fact it doesn’t sound any different to the audience than if you were talking to them in normal conversation.

The trick here is to be yourself. If you haven’t got the skill to project a warm friendly personality at the sort of functions where ice breaking is required, then being an entertainer isn’t for you. You need to find a balance.

Most people would simply hire the gear – saving around 50% of a DJ’s booking fee, and throw a NOW CD on – if human input and personality wasn’t important to them.

At some functions, if they pay for an entertainer and get a human jukebox who doesn’t own a mic and just sits there playing music then they occasionally feel cheated!

I can’t stress the “BE YOURSELF”, advice enough; don’t put on a radio style zany DJ voice – that will sound false and doesn’t fool anybody.

If you are lucky enough to have a D.J training you, or you are a young person assisting an older mentor DJ, then DON’T be tempted to become a clone of him or her. Adopt your own mic style (not a false voice), use your own tag lines but don’t rely on the same clichés 20 or 30 times a night – this becomes boring and predictable.

Don’t rely on “that was”, “this is” introductions all night.

At some functions, going out with a Radio Mic and creating banter with your audience is a great way to break the ice at the beginning of difficult, non formal functions – and a good way of encouraging them onto the dance floor early on. You can relax the mic work and the frequency of them once the dance floor is filling.

Of course, there are always going to be functions where you need more mic work than usual, and other functions where it is going to be little mic use, but the key is to develop a style and strength and confidence in your mic working ability and not to rely on non stop music alone to do the work for you.

Just be yourself, and talk normally into the microphone. The thing to work on is to speak confidently and clearly and try to pace yourself. Speaking too fast will make what you are saying sound garbled, speaking too slowly will make you sound like you are addressing a bunch of village idiots.

Pretty soon, with a little time and practice, you’ll develop your own individual skill and style and that’s the most important aspect. Don’t try to copy anybody else or put on a different voice; it will sound false and make learning and maintaining the technique a lot more difficult.

If being funny is not your strength, then avoid the jokes unless you are good at this sort of thing; forced comedy can sound false and you may find yourself laughing alone – after all the client has booked a Mobile Disco and not a stand up comedian!

One of the best pieces of advice I was given by the DJ who trained me, was to “stick at doing what you are good at and have been booked for, and if in any doubt then leave it out”.

Spontaneous one-liners are another matter. If something amusing happens, then share it – use the mic to get requests, make a fuss over other people celebrating birthdays/anniversaries – people like to have their 30 seconds of glory and hearing their name mentioned over the PA system.

My advice to those nervous about public speaking for the first time is not to be frightened of the mic or to avoid using one – it’s your closest and most useful ally at all functions. Don’t talk all over the track, learn to pace yourself over the outtro of the previous track and any intro of the next track – don’t gabble – talk clearly into the microphone as if you were talking to a friend.

With time you should be able to familiarize yourself with how the more popular tracks end and finish. This way you can talk up to the vocal, similar to how they do it on the radio – stopping your banter at the moment the vocal on the next track starts. Don’t rush to perfect this or gabble to do so; it all comes with time and practice. Keep it simple to start off with.

Begin with the easy stuff, just introducing tracks and buffet announcements.

Once you’ve built up a bit of confidence, you can move on from the ‘that was….this is….’ routine. Try to include your audience; invite requests and make them feel welcome. Even if you are having a difficult gig don’t take it out on the audience and try to look like you are enjoying yourself – even if it’s not going to plan.

Don’t worry about making mistakes on the mic, we all do from time to time; but don’t draw attention to it or dwell on it – it’ll just make it worse. Besides, making mistakes shows that you are human and not a pre-programmed jukebox.

Keep key information on the gig, such as the Bride & Grooms’ names, Best Man’s Name etc on a piece of paper on the mixer, so that you can casually glance down if you have a sudden memory blank, but don’t write your links down as a speech, otherwise it will sound like you are reading from a script and less natural.

Remember that once the dance floor is full, you can ease off the mic a little, but keep doing the requests and don’t forget that it exists.

Learn to find the balance; too much talking can bore the pants of your audience; too little mic work can make people think that you aren’t earning your keep! There are functions where you have a full dance floor and it would be obtrusive to chat all over the music when people want to dance.

Equally there are more formal functions where there isn’t the room or inclination to dance, and so a bit of light hearted banter to break the ice and putting more emphasis on the entertainment side of being a DJ is required rather than just continuous music.

All of this will take some time. Don’t expect to develop a mic technique overnight; just take it one gig at a time.

 

Chris Pointon is a UK-based working DJ since 1988 and Administrator of a mobile DJ Forum at http://www.dj-forum.co.uk . Called DJs United our forum is intended for DJs to assist other DJs with advice and assistance and to mentor those who are new to the business and unfamiliar with the entertainment industry .

Playing Live – The 20 things you need to know

By Lynn Monk

As a “performing artist”, you want to come across to your audience and other music business professionals as being reliable, and professional in your work.

To do this, it is important to maintain a business ATTITUDE throughout all your stage shows, and when communicating with venue owners and staff.

1. Where possible, issue written contracts or letters of agreement in advance. Check with your employer or agent the week before the show, to make sure no details have changed.

2. If you are booked to play at a venue that you’ve not been to before, try and visit on another band night before your gig. This will enable you to check access for the equipment; where the stage or playing area is located; where to position your mixing desk and speakers; whether your cables need to be flown over fire exits; what volume levels are tolerated, and what kinds of music the regulars enjoy most.

3. Always arrive at the venue in plenty of time to complete a full sound check BEFORE the public arrive.

4. Always carry spares of things like fuses, cables, backing tracks, strings, or any other small item that could mean the difference between doing the gig or not.

5. Always take along an extra long mains cable in case the nearest socket is broken.

6. Safety first! – Buy yourself a mains power polarity checker (such as a “Martindale” Ring main tester) and a set of circuit breakers for all your backline amps. No matter how badly your guitarist played tonight, he didn’t deserve to die!

7. Always create a “set list” for every show. This can be tailored to the type of audience that you now know frequent this venue (See tip no. 2). If you have rehearsed well, you will know exactly how long your set will last. Don’t go on stage late and overrun your contracted time. The venue owner’s licence will depend on all music ceasing at a certain time. You don’t want to be the one who gets the venue closed down!

8. Play your set without long gaps between songs. Only communicate to the audience what REALLY needs to be said. A slick presentation and tight performance shows how well rehearsed you are, and keeps your audience on the dance floor.

9. Rehearse a polished entrance and exit. There is nothing more unprofessional than a bunch of musicians meandering onto a stage carrying the remains of a sandwich or pint, then spending several minutes chatting to each other, tuning up, playing along with the record on the disco, jamming, smoking, adjusting their clothing, answering a call on their mobile…. The list goes on! Believe me, I’ve seen it all!

Use the dressing room to apply your stage clothes and make-up. Wait for your performance to be announced, then march briskly onto the stage and launch straight into your first number.

At the end of your performance, the reverse should be observed. Don’t hang around trying to encourage the audience to shout for an encore. Leave the stage as quickly as possible and wait in your dressing room to hear whether the audience wants more.

10. Never be seen on stage in the same clothes as you were wearing in the sound check, or whilst mingling with the crowd.

11. If you are hiring a PA system, take your own can of telephone cleaner/sanitizer. Rented microphones are rarely cleaned!

12. Rehearse in your own time, not in the sound check!

13. Practise the show thoroughly, but always leave a “breathing space” of a few days between the last rehearsal and the gig. Over-familiarity can make you complacent.

14. Always be pleasant and business-like when dealing with staff at the venue. Especially with the person who is paying you! Don’t automatically expect gratuities such as free food and drink. These are bonuses unless stipulated in your contract, where they then become part of your “fee”.

15. Respect the venue’s fixtures and fittings. Don’t damage their furniture or wall coverings with your speakers and gaffer tape. Ask permission first! They will often be glad to fetch you some beer crates to stack your speakers on, rather than using their tables.

16. Don’t get drunk or high on illegal substances before, or during, the show.

17. Don’t hang around the venue for longer than is necessary after the show.

18. Don’t stop playing a number whenever a small problem occurs. Never re-start a number if someone in your band makes a mistake. You should be sufficiently well rehearsed for these mistakes to go unnoticed by your audience.

19. Don’t play any louder than you absolutely need to. Not everyone in an average venue will be there to listen to you. Don’t try to fill the whole venue with loud music. Just the area or dance floor immediately in front of the stage will do! People will want to be able to hold a conversation in other areas, such as at the bar.

20. If you know you have a good mix and a member of the audience wants you to turn down, pretend to turn a knob in order to please. The chances are he/she just doesn’t like that particular song.

On the other hand, if the venue owner or bar staff tell you to turn down … DO IT!! They know when it is too loud; after all, they are there every night!

Finally… Your bonus tip No. 21. If you have released CDs, make sure they are on sale at every gig you do. Employ a friend, or one of your fans to set up a table with your merchandise. It is also a good excuse to get new people to sign up to your mailing list. After the show, you can even go out front and sign a few autographs!

Lynn Monk has experienced over 30 years in the music business as a musician, concert sound & lighting engineer, DJ and record producer; and is now the proprietor of Wobbly Music. An indie record company dedicated to supporting the “Mature Independent Artist”. Find out more about our artist services and recording contracts at http://www.WobblyMusic.net