Your songs are polished. Your voice is strong. Your chord transitions are working. You’re nervous, but you step up to the microphone, great the crowd and bare your soul.
At that moment, you realize that the singer before you was apologizing to the crowd ahead of time that she might not be at her best – complaining about some sickness she’d been fighting.
A public microphone is a germ paradise. Add a foam cover over the microphone’s grill and germs like flu viruses can last up to 48 hours, especially in the warm, moist environment typical in those foam windscreens.
With COVID 19 and the responsibilities we all share for slowing the spread, a little planning goes a long way.
Germ transmission is easy enough. Performers not only put their hands all over the mic but eject saliva through what I call, “SPIT-MISTING” directly into the microphone grill or foam windscreen. These types of live performance microphones require that you get close to the surface to get great tone.
Windscreens and Microphone Adjustments
Touch the windscreen with your mouth or more likely, just the air pressure from your voice will detach and disperse a past performer’s eager little bugs directly into your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Or, have you ever seen a performer NOT grab the microphone and stand and adjust its position?
When you make your adjustments to the microphone and stand, the previously deposited bugs can hop a ride onto your hands with the eager expectation of you rubbing your nose or eyes or worse, passing it to someone else.
There are a few famous performers that bring their own personal microphones to a performance for health reasons. But you don’t have to be a germaphobe to pack your own microphone to your neighborhood open mic. It’s really common sense and a sign of intelligence with an important added benefit: predictable sound quality and knowing the mic-to-mouth distance sweet spots for your different vocal styles.
From the Mayo Clinic
“The length of time that cold and flu viruses can survive outside the body on an environmental surface varies greatly. But the suspected range is from a few seconds up to 48 hours, depending on the specific virus and the type of surface.”
We Are Social Creatures
Open mic venues are intimate environments. The social connection in the performance space creates a lot of handshaking and hugging. We are always reminded to wash our hands, not rub our faces and not get too close to someone who is coughing or sneezing a little too much. But what about the microphone? What can we do to protect ourselves from the lurking pathogens on this vital piece of vocal technology so close to our faces?
Here are the options:
Bring Your Own Microphone and Windscreens
“What? That’s expensive and I’m not a professional.” A really good, professional microphone can be purchased for under $100. Go for the Sure SM58 or if you can spend a little more, the Sure SM58 Beta.
If a microphone is outside your budget, bring your own windscreens. This is not a bad option, and very affordable.
Microphone Pop Screen or Windscreen
You can get a pack of five for under $7.00 USD!
Typically, venues will provide a “Ball” or “Capsule” type microphone. These foam windscreens will fit most hand-held microphones. There are other types of microphones with odd shapes, but these are rarely found in the open mic venues.
A word of caution: if you pull off the venue’s existing windscreen, use a paper towel, napkin or even disinfectant wipe (or Purell on hands if you have it) so you don’t transfer the germs of the previous windscreen to your hands.
For Those On A Tight Budget
If you’ve borrowed bus fare to get to the venue, you may still have some options for free to almost free. If the microphones do not have foam windscreens, you can ask the host if you can use a disinfectant hand wipe on the microphone grill, body, and stand. Most hosts do this anyway as part of the COVID mandates. Many people carry extras if the event is low on disinfecting supplies. To be extra prepared, purchase some inexpensive antibacterial wipes before you arrive.
**Once you explain what you’re doing, you will have many followers**
Some Closing Thoughts
I personally don’t like foam windscreens on my live vocal microphone. I feel like they reduce microphone fidelity a little. But I always bring along extra windscreens in case my personal microphone is needed. After the performance, I pull off the windscreen with a disinfectant hand wipe and store with the hand wipe around the windscreen and tucked the excess in the microphone opening. I also wipe the entire microphone with another disinfectant wipe, before stowing.
Click on the links below for more on Open Mic performing!
Lessons for the Open Mic Performer