Reader Adam writes. “I’m doing a few under-age events with this company and they have also asked me to MC the gig, which I’m a bit nervous about to be honest! Do you have any advice on how to do that? In my case, mixing and making mashups will more then likely take up most of my time, so I want to make it as pain-free as possible. Also it raises the general question about DJs using a mic at all. Should they?”
Digital DJ Tips says:
Mobile DJs use the microphone extensively, so for them it’s part of what they do. In this instance, there’s a world of difference between the true microphone pros and the amateurs. For mobile, good MCing skills are as important part of the skillset as any other.
But even DJs who “don’t use the microphone” sometimes have to – it’s unavoidable. You may have to issue some kind of urgent instruction, or be asked to introduce the next DJ, or want to advertise the next event at the end of the night. Even in 100% club-style beatmixed dance sets, a bit of MCing can raise energy levels instantly and considerably (of course, it can also get annoying just as quickly).
So you may be asked to use a microphone at some point, and what’s worse, it may happen without warning. At least in your case, Adam, you have warning, so you can practise much of the following before the night begins. But other readers may be comforted to know that it’s still possible to make a good job of talking on the mic without a “test run”.
Our 10 tips on how to use a microphone
- Make sure you duck out the music by at least a third before trying to talk – You want the overall volume to remain the same or just a bit higher, no more. Some systems have “ducking” or “talkover”, but it’s easy enough to do it with a fader
- Turn your monitor speaker down in the DJ booth – This will help to prevent feedback through the mic
- Turn the microphone’s volume up gradually – There’s nothing wrong with a “hello?” or a cliched “1-2” as you set the volume right, and you don’t want to start out with it too high which can lead to feedback or deafening your audience. It should only take you a word or two and a quick bit of tweaking to get it right. Get a friend at the back to give you the thumbs up to say it’s loud enough if you like. (With some systems you can cue the mic in your headphones like a record, so you can check it’s the right volume there)
- Make sure the microphone is switched on! – Some microphones have an on/off switch. Check it before you start trying to talk…
- Hold the microphone close, but not too close – This depends on the microphone itself, but what you want to try and avoid is “popping” with your “p” sounds into the mic, while at the same time having it close enough to work well without increasing its level to the point where there’s feedback. Speaking slightly “over” instead of “into” the microphone can help with popping
- Take a deep breath, and speak slowly and clearly – You can’t really speak too slowly on a microphone. If you’re speaking so slowly that you feel a bit stupid, that’ll be about right. No point doing it unless everyone in the room can clearly understand you
- Make eye contract with the room, and use your body too – You’ll feel uncomfortable, but people use body language and eye contact subliminally to help them understand. They’ll watch you, and if your body reflects what you’re saying and your eyes are focused on the crowd, your meaning will come across better. Point to things, use your arms, smile, put your arm around people you’re introducing… that type of thing
- If it helps, focus on just one person – Find someone (get someone you know involved and explain to them that this is what you’re going to do if you want), and speak “just” to them. This is a great way of calming microphone nerves
- Turn the microphone volume down before switching it off or putting it down – This will avoid a thud, bang or click sound over the PA
- At a push, you can use your headphones – I’ve done this loads of times. Your headphones will work as a perfectly good microphone. Plug them in to the microphone socket, and you’re off! Bear in mind that only one of the headphone cups will work – the other one will just be dead, so make sure you speak into the correct one
When to use the microphone
If the venue just wants you to “MC” the event, it totally depends on what they’re used to. It may just mean welcoming the room, signalling changes in DJs, music styles and so on, announcing promotions at the bar, announcing final orders, thanking everyone at the end, signalling the last record – that kind of thing. Or they may want you to go the whole hog and introduce every tune!
Best bet is to visit the venue when another DJ who MCs is on, or just asking them outright.
Do you DJ with a microphone? Got any tips to add to this list? Got any microphone nightmare stories? Let us know in the comments!