Preventing feedback and mic shock

[This article was written by Alex Andrews of Ten Kettles Inc. It originally appeared HERE. Check out the  new music theory app from Ten Kettles — “Waay: Music theory that matters.” Click here to learn about its video lessons, interactive exercises, progress-tracking tools, and more.]

Fixing feedback

You get up on stage, pick up a microphone, start to sing and then—SCREEEEEECH. Feedback. It’s very common, but thankfully very avoidable. Why does feedback happen at a live show or rehearsal? Most of the time, feedback happens when a mic points at a speaker.

When you stand with your back to a speaker, what you’re actually doing is pointing your microphone directly into the speaker. And that means trouble. The simple solution? Move the speaker or move the singer. Sure, you can also tweak the singer’s EQ (e.g., turning down the frequency band that matches the feedback) or invest in a feedback eliminator device, but if you want to keep your sound quality high and your budget low, start with speaker (and singer!) placement.

Stop shocks

Alright, so you’ve eliminated the feedback—nice work. You then strap on your electric guitar, lean toward the mic to start singing, and then—!!*&!*&!*&!!. Your face gets a big electric shock from the microphone. If you’ve ever been repeatedly electrocuted in the face during a live show, you know how unpleasant this is.

When mic shocks happen, look at the soundboard and speakers that your mic and instrument are plugged into. Follow the power cables to the outlets and make sure all plugs have three prongs. If anything is plugged into a power bar, check the power bar’s plug as well. If you only see a two prong plug (or the third prong has been snapped off), there’s your problem: one of the signals isn’t grounded. Whenever you touch your face to the mic and your hand to the guitar strings, you are completing a circuit and the result is pretty rough.

The solution? Ditch any two-prong cords and replace them with grounded (three prong) cables at every outlet. Not an option? Use a pop screen on the mic as a quick fix (a coat-hanger and tights can do the trick in a pinch).

Once you’ve mastered the art of fixing feedback and stopping shocks, it’s time to focus on getting some great sound. Start with sound checking your rehearsals, and then learn to make your shows shine with some EQ tips.