A Guide to First Night Microphone Setup for Musical Theatre

By Scott Johnson.

1. Neutralize all console controls, because the last guy never, ever zeroes the console properly. Even when the last guy was YOU.

2. Choose a test subject. Ideally this should be the director in row five, but there is no need to be particular here. If no expendable test subjects are available, use of the lighting designer is permissible.

3. Identify the actor who just stepped onstage for mic check. Greet him or her in a friendly manner.

4. CORRECTLY identify the actor and apologize, repeat step 3 using the correct name.

5. Arrange the equalization controls on the channel into a visually pleasing and eye-catching pattern. Raise the fader to unity, or trinity, or solidarity, or any other convenient position. Unmute the channel.

6. Note that you cannot hear the actor at all. Ask the A2 to turn on the actor’s microphone pack. At this point it is also a good idea to ensure the actor is wearing a microphone, but this is entirely optional.

7. Increase microphone gain slowly until feedback is achieved. Note the level and reduce slightly until the actresses stop screaming. Think of Jimi Hendrix and take a moment to feel like a real rockstar.

8. Ask the actor to sing typical material from the show.

9. Remind the actor that this is a musical, not The Voice, and repeat step 8.

10. Observe the test subject. Note that he is holding his hands over his ears and is probably also rocking in his seat and moaning. If he is not, do not panic. You have chosen a deaf test subject. Choose again, being careful to avoid drummers, electric guitarists. and judges on The Voice.

11. Rapidly and randomly rearrange the equalization controls on the console channel until the subject’s moaning diminishes, rocking ceases, and hands drop. If your test subject loses consciousness or his ears bleed, reduce the channel gain very slightly.

12. Repeat step 11 until the test subject sits comfortably and does not appear visibly distressed, or in the case of a director, any more distressed than usual.

11. Thank the actor, close the channel, and resume at step 3. Continue this process until all microphones have been checked or your beard has grown one inch, whichever comes first, then report “mic checks complete” to the director.

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