Choose your weapon.
Choose your weapon.
Wireless or not to wireless; that is a question.
Whether it is nobler in the performer’s eye to endure the potential pitfalls of technology and potential battery failure for the freedom of unfettered movement within the range of your unit. (Author’s note: my apologies to William Shakespeare and his fans, of which I am one, for borrowing and subsequently butchering this line from Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1.)
I’ve gone wireless a couple of times in my career with mixed results. I’ve tried vocal only, instrument only and both combined. Some of the units that I’ve used suffered from interference issues and varied battery life. There was also a slight delay as I moved further from the receiver and sound degradation. Other units eliminate the issues with poor reception and delay. I also got better range and higher gain, but the price was a bit steep. I’ve tried different battery types, including rechargeable. I’ve tried them in different venues for different types of shows. I’ve loved them and hated them sometimes during the same show.
But, the question remains unanswered. Wired or wireless?
In the end, it comes down to personal choice for the performer. Think about why it is you want to go wireless. Are the venues where you perform conducive to a wireless setup? Does it change your stage show and is it a change you are comfortable with? If you’re going to be outdoors, what’s the weather forecast? Can you afford the cost? You’ll need to answer these questions before you reach into your wallet and plunk down some coin.
If you do decide to go for it, then take the time to do the research. Go online and check out different models, performance reviews and ask people in chat rooms and message boards. Head to your favorite music store and see if they’ll let you try some out. Ask if they can let you set up something akin to your normal set up so you can see how it’s going to sound.
A few of things to look for when deciding; Signal clarity, effective range, battery life, noise filtering, ease of use and, of course, price. If you are playing a venue with a sound man, make sure you spend a couple of extra seconds with him regarding your wireless. In some places I’ve played, the building can give you problems, depending on your system. Test it out before you hit the stage. If there’s a problem, you’ll have time to find solutions. Also make sure you carry extra batteries and a back up hard wire set up (mic and instrument cables, etc.) just in case there’s a problem you can’t overcome. Wireless setups have made a lot of advances over the last few years so don’t shy away just because you’re worried about the technology.
A lot of performers are going with the in-ear monitors. There are definitely some advantages to using them. Every performer can have their own personalized mix. You can keep the noise level on stage lower and, if that’s not possible for whatever (or whoever) the reason, some provide ear protection and noise cancellation. With many more people listening to music through their headphones, hearing loss and hearing damage is on the rise. There are several levels of damage from tinnitus to ruptured ear drum. Continual exposure to noise over 85 decibels can cause gradual hear loss (just ask Pete Townshend, but speak really loudly). The average concert is in the 80-100+ decibel range, depending on the band and the venue. That’s just 30 decibels shy of a jet engine from 100 feet away. That’ll do more than muss your hair. So, what’s a hard rockin’ group of hell raisers supposed to do? Well, regardless of your genre, take some steps to protect your ears. Here are a few pointers;
1. Wear protective earplugs. These will bring down the decibel level to something a little less mind scrambling. DO NOT use cotton balls or clipped off Q-Tip ends (don’t laugh. I’ve seen it done). These provide no real protection and can get stuck in your ear.
2. Have your hearing tested. Early detection, just like with most ailments, can prevent further damage.
3. Find ways to reduce your on stage volume. This may require a heart to heart, grown up discussion with your fellow band mates. Probably shouldn’t split up the band over it, but it does need to be taken seriously.
4. Keep your hearing in mind away from the stage. Practice rooms, concerts, IPods and recreational activities can all have an effect. If you’re a hunter, remember that a shotgun blast is about 140 decibels. And watch where you point that thing.
5. Check your meds. Some medications (over the counter, prescribed and recreational) can affect the ears as well. Too much caffeine, aspirin, nicotine or alcohol can cause tinnitus. If it’s persistent, see your doctor. As a rule the over the counter/ as seen on T.V. remedies do not work. If accompanied by dizziness or fever, see your doctor right away.
And, no, I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the internet.
Winter is slowly creeping into to Florida and soon it’ll be getting cold (those of you up north, keep in mind cold is a relative term. And after you’re done laughing, come see us when you’re digging your car out of 4 feet of snow. We’ll have plenty of sunshine and daiquiris waiting for ya).
Singers and instrumentalist alike have to protect their instrument. Right now, I’m going to focus on the voice. In future articles, I’ll delve into the other instruments.
A sore throat can be a symptom of something else going on with your body. It can be some as simple and still incurable as a common cold or something a little more complicated like tonsillitis or laryngitis. Whatever the reason, don’t ignore it. Your body is trying to tell you something. If you won’t listen to your body, maybe you’ll listen to me…
1. Warm up before singing. Especially on colder days.
2. Increase fluid intake. *See below for exception.
3. Gargle with warm salt water. Helps to relieve sore throats.
4. Suck on a hard candy, lozenge or chew sugarless gum.
5. Humidify the air. Works well when you’re sleeping.
6. Avoid smoking. You should quit anyway. And that means ALL smoking….
7. Limit your talking and rest your voice. This includes whispering which is just as hard on your throat as talking.
8. Try to avoid clearing your throat.
9. Stop drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks. *I told you there was an exception.
If you are still having problems after two weeks, then see your doctor. It could save your voice.
Big thanks to the all of the authors and editors of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Self Care, 4th Edition book which I used for this article and personally use frequently, because I really hate going to the doctor (nothing personal Doctors).