Should Everyone Get a Mic?

Measure for Measure

In Measure for Measure, an A Cappella Blog contributor takes a look at both sides of a controversial issue in collegiate a cappella. Please note that the views expressed by columnists do not necessarily represent those of The ACB as an organization, nor do they necessarily represent the view of individual columnists. The purpose of this piece is to explore issues and further civil, intellectual debate.

As technology and services grow more affordable, live sound companies dedicated to a cappella grow their businesses, groups now have more opportunities than ever to have individual microphones for every group member. In this edition of Measure for Measure we take a look at the statement:

Given the opportunity, and taking monetary constraints out of the equation, every group should use individual microphones for live performances.

True: Consider the 2013 Sing Strong DC Aca-Idol competition. A number groups mic’ed each individual group member. A handful opted to use area mics, and only offer individual microphones to the soloist and the beatboxer. The result? Unsurprisingly, the groups that didn’t take the individual mics just couldn’t achieve as big, as clear, or as crisp of a sound. Individual microphones give everyone a chance to be heard. Pair them with a sound technician who is experienced in working with a cappella and who will take care of balance issues, and it’s a no-brainer—the more mics the better.

False: If a group has not had previous experience performing with handheld microphones, they should not make a live performance—particularly a competition—their first experiment. Many groups are accustomed to setting their own volume levels and blending with individual microphones, besides which there’s the physical factor. If a set involves a lot of choreography, you don’t want to throw microphones into the mix without preparation. At minimum, group members should have been practicing with water bottles in hand in place of mics so they know how they’ll maintain their sound when they raise their hands, or link arms with other group members. The bottom line is that when each individual group member holds a microphone, it fundamentally changes how the group will perform. The differences are significant enough that groups should make the choice to take mics lightly.