Using Mics at Recitals?

Caitlin said: Feb 28, 2013
Caitlin HunsuckViolin
Merced, CA
41 posts

This last Monday I had a very successful studio recital. I thought my students overall did a very good job playing with good tone and projecting on their violins. When the recital was over, my dad (who taped the whole thing for me) insisted that I should start using a mic on my students…. Which lead into a huge family post-recital musical discussion on why that would in the long run make the kids not learn how to project using their instruments, etc. And of course he countered that I have always fought using a mic for my own performances (which I do, unless playing in a situation that demands it) and that the little kid’s little-violins would sound much better!

So it got me thinking, what are other teachers thoughts on mics? Do you ever start having your students learn how to work with them? Have you ever used them to make the performance sound better? Any other thoughts on the subject?

Heather Reichgott said: Feb 28, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
95 posts

Having strained to hear kids perform on lamentable upright pianos in elementary school cafeterias, I think that instrument and room have a lot to do with the amount of sound you get. It’s not fair to put a student on a quiet instrument in an unforgiving room and expect parents 30 rows back to hear well. On the other hand, if you’ve got decent instruments and a decent room, you really don’t need a mic, at least not for the sake of the audience’s enjoyment. Sound for videorecording is a separate issue and depends more on the quality of the video camera’s mic.

Even as a performer, I think I’ve only ever used amplification when I was playing (a) on a digital piano, (b) at a party where people were talking and eating while I was playing, AND (c) outside.

Sue Hunt said: Mar 1, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

The Suzuki Method is all about producing a beautiful tone. Using a mike for a performance gives the wrong sensory input to a performer. You can’t expect a little one on a 1/16th violin to sound like one of the big kids. It’s all part of the wonder of growing up.

Concerts are for learning how to project this tone to an audience of attentive and appreciative listeners. Using a mike to amplify the sound actually enables more off task participation from the audience, “Isn’t she cute?” “Shame about the dress.” “That’s my granddaughter you’re talking about!” etc. etc.

Children, and many adults need to learn how to sit quietly to listen. We are too used to a high level of background noise, and amplification to compete with it. Let’s not add to the cacophony.

Focussing on a quiet performance can be a magical experience.

However, if you are recording a performance, a mike is essential, but please don’t wire the kids for sound!

Melanie Drake said: Mar 1, 2013
Melanie Drake25 posts

It’s sometimes difficult to hear guitarists in a large auditorium even with amplification; I can’t imagine going without, in that situation.

Merietta Oviatt said: Mar 1, 2013
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

As a violist, we come across this question quite a bit. I can honestly say that, with the exception of some outdoor venues (which carries the sound away), I have only performed once with a mic and that was for the Mozart Concertante. I completely agree with Sue, it is very important for students to learn to project with good tone. For recitals I try to choose a venue that is smaller or has good acoustics. I would also encourage the dad, or other parents to put their cameras to the side of the stage if the sound is their biggest concern. I know that amongst a lot of my friends it’s really important to have a great camera. As professional musicians we spend hundreds of dollars on recording devices. One thing you could do is address it in a newsletter and give some examples of really good recording devices. I would even share with the parents that you went on here and share all of the thoughts we have given you. Let them know that teachers and professionals alike, in general, do not use amplification (that does not include guitar, of course).

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
[javascript protected email address]

Barb said: Mar 3, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

I heartily agree with Sue and Merietta. I’ve been fortunate to have found acoustically good venues for our recitals, other than when we play at care homes. Great idea to share sound recording advice with parents!

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