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Author Topic: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?  (Read 8789 times)

Kevin McDonough

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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #20 on: March 27, 2016, 07:58:12 am »

Having worked in quite a lot of these same kids theatre shows over the years, I have to concur with most of the opinions here, it's always a bit of a nightmare and there is no easy solution.

An actual theatre group is a little better, as the kids have chosen to be there and generally sing a little louder and better.

School performances and the like are usually a nightmare as half the kids don't sing, half sing really badly, and there is always one kid who wants to be on x-factor when (usually she!) grows upp, and manages to find their way right in front of a mic (usually by pushing everyone else out the way) and drowns everyone else out with a terrible voice forcing you to hit mute!

In terms of talking, we normally give the main 3 or 4 speaking characters a headset so most of their lines come through fine and they have the freedom to move around the stage a bit and act.  We then put 3 mics along the front of the stage and all the other kids who have a line or two to say come up to these and one at a time step forward and say their line into a microphone. It's not exactly broadway but it's kind of expected at this level, and the parent's just want to hear their precious little one's voice on stage, so the fact it's a little mechanical looking the way they all step up to the mic one by one is far less of a concern.

There will always be a few who won't come up close to the mic no matter how many times you encourage them, and so you struggle to hear them. Then as a nice surprise there will be the opposite one who comes right up to eat the mic with their big booming voice and blows everyone way, much to everyone's amusement. And the point where someone way shorter than everyone else comes up to the mic and has to be on tiptoes to get heard also gets a laugh. This is all seen as cute and part of the fun of working with kids, no one really expects a polished performance and a few humorous moments add to the fun.

In terms of singing, we try and get as much volume out of the three down stage fixed mics as possible for the main group, and then blend in the headsets (who we hope are decent singers) subtly to bring the volume up a bit.

Choice of mic helps, something hype like an e945 or better makes a difference and gives you a little more gain before feedback without being SO narrow that it misses a lot of the kids. There was also a thread a couple of years ago where people discussed mic choices for exactly this purpose, but kind of veered off into some very expensive mics to really begin to see good results.

For the singing, it never really works to be honest, and is always right on the edge of feedback trying to get as much as possible, to the point where every shuffle of feet and jingle of jewellery is picked up loud and clear, but there's still no singing, because the kinds simply never sing loud enough, but there's not much else you can do.

I've never really found boundary mics to be any good, tend to just pick up more feet noise and rumble than anything else. Directors and non-sound people always ask to hang mics in the roof above the kids, but never want them actually hanging down where people could see, always want them way up in the roof. Trying to explain that if a kid who isn't the loudest even to start with stands 15 feet away from a mic it isn't gonna pick up much useful, whether that 15 feet is horizontal or vertical, never seems to quite sink in, and you can always tell that although they drop the subject and kind of accept your answer, they never actually quite believe you and always think it would have helped!

When we've really struggled, we've had other people with handheld mics or headsets in the wings singing along, and mixed that into the sound to get more volume, or for one show we actually recorded the kids singing at a rehearsal and mixed it onto the backing tracks so they had their own voices giving them some "help" on show nights.


However as a side note, and as someone else said, specifically for this room pictured if money was being spent then I kinda think that some love for the PA would make a big difference here more than expensive microphones. 

I assume the speakers have been turned out to the side quite a bit because they're not the best quality (just judging by looks, I may be wrong) and are causing a bit of feedback. A better quality set of speakers that could be pointed more at the audience without causing feedback on stage would make a big difference, maybe even a set of delays half way up the walls for the back half of the audience.  Seems to me this would be the place to start.




k
« Last Edit: March 28, 2016, 09:39:42 am by Kevin McDonough »
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MikeHarris

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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2016, 06:16:19 am »

Are we not looking for professional solutions ?
Hanging mics DO work if they're not cheap junk.
For both a church choir and school theatrical productions we have supplied Earthworks Hanging mics and their Flex-wand series as the solution.
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g'bye, Dick Rees

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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #22 on: March 28, 2016, 09:11:43 am »

Are we not looking for professional solutions ?
Hanging mics DO work if they're not cheap junk.
For both a church choir and school theatrical productions we have supplied Earthworks Hanging mics and their Flex-wand series as the solution.

No, we're looking at a situation where hanging mics don't/won't work due to lack of professional speaking levels, budget constraints, logistics (see posted pic) and tech op experience limitations.  This is a specific situation not limited to "the way the pros do it".
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Kevin McDonough

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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #23 on: March 28, 2016, 09:32:08 am »

Are we not looking for professional solutions ?
Hanging mics DO work if they're not cheap junk.
For both a church choir and school theatrical productions we have supplied Earthworks Hanging mics and their Flex-wand series as the solution.

Well yeah, in an ideal world all school shows would have the budget to cover the stage in earthworks microphones (and have dpa headsets for all characters and have nice big steered beam line arrays to focus the sound at the audience and provide loads of gain before feedback).

But certainly I've never been asked to work one like that. 

The OP has already described it as similar to what most of us have all experienced: a small performance on a limited budget, but with the biggest problem being simply that large groups of school kids who are stuck on stage by their teachers and don't all necessary want to be there just don't sing very loud.

« Last Edit: March 28, 2016, 09:43:11 am by Kevin McDonough »
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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #24 on: March 28, 2016, 10:22:59 am »

This is likely in the realm of technical solution sought for TOTAL lack of effective staging and direction. 
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Brian Jojade

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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #25 on: March 28, 2016, 11:49:42 am »

This is likely in the realm of technical solution sought for TOTAL lack of effective staging and direction.

Exactly.  Fixing the problem at the source is the only solution that likely will fit within the budget constraints of this production.  Even with the best equipment in the world, you can't completely overcome that problem.

If you use distant mics, and the noise of shuffling feet and papers is louder than the noise coming out of the kid's mouths, you are not going to be able to solve your problem. You'll just make it worse.
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #26 on: March 28, 2016, 01:00:08 pm »

Depending on the purpose of the children's programs, one could argue that fixing it at the source IS the professional solution regardless of the available budget.

Is the purpose of the program to entertain mom and dad, or to teach Johnny and Susie?  A technical crutch adds nothing to teaching.  Even though I had the latest calculator that gave perfectly fine solutions to problems, my math teacher dad refused to allow me to use it when studying.

Of course, that is easier to preach to the teachers if you are the administrator rather than the tech.
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Steve Swaffer

Lyle Williams

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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #27 on: March 28, 2016, 05:49:36 pm »

The educational outcome being sought isn't singing, but confidence and teamwork.

"Fixing it at the source" isn't free, quick, or easy.
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Re: What microphones to use for children in plays and singing performances?
« Reply #27 on: March 28, 2016, 05:49:36 pm »


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