The mighty mic stand

So this weekend I observed a mic stand in use… (crowd goes ooohhh)

It seems to be becoming a trend for me to see something in use, and being used wrong, and I am inspired to write about it… so today, its the mic stand!

If you don’t know what a mic stand is, then check out the Wikipedia article, in this post i’ll be talking about how it should be used, and going into a few details that you may not know about.

In a great book i’m reading at the moment, there is a section on choosing mic stands, and the writer says this:

“When choosing a mic stand, ask yourself… if someone broke into my house, could i defend myself with this mic stand?”
Its actually a great way to determine if the mic stand is any good. Mic stands (and drum hardware) take a serious beating in live sound and if you buy cheap ones, they won’t last. We have used a few brands over the years, and I’ve discovered that the samson ones that we have a lot of, aren’t great! So… I look for something else, like the on-stage stands

Ok so now that I have been completely un-biased on brands, i’ll let you know that there are different types of mic stands.
The most common one is probably the boom stand:

These are popular because they can be used for pretty much every application. They work great for vocals, at least for people who have been educated on them! They work OK on drums, but if all the stands are booms it can look a little like there are more mic stands than drums, and in most cases you want to get the kick drum mic inside the drum near the beater and these stands don’t work for that. Possibly they are best used by musicians with an instrument, especially guitarists because they give them room to have a guitar sticking out in front of them!!

There are a few other types, goose neck, desktop stands, short booms, tall booms, stands on wheels! etc… but I’m only going to talk about the boom stand today!

Just a few points I want to mention to hopefully educate sound guys, band guys and anyone else who might use a microphone.

Treat the stand with respect. Although I have mentioned that when looking for a mic stand try to find a solid, good quality one, even the toughest stand will wear out if treated badly. The most basic thing to remember is: Don’t over tighten anything! On a standard boom stand there are 4 bits that can be tightened as shown in the image below:

Loosening the boom knob will allow you to move the boom forwards or backwards. I usually don’t extend it all the way out. If its roughly half way out, it usually reaches far enough for most applications and the weight of the mic is partially balanced out by the boom, and therefore the barbell does not need severe tightening to keep the boom in place.
Loosening the barbell t-nut  will allow you to change the angle of the boom.. pretty self explanatory!
Loosening the height adjusting clutch will allow you to adjust the height of the stand, this function of the stand is most often ignored resulting in frustration by the user. I suggest giving it a try, you might be surprised at how clever the designers were to put it there!
Lastly the Leg housing knob, the abuse of this is what led me to write this article!
When the stand is packed up, you can fold the legs down and then loosen this knob and move the housing up the centre bar so that the legs don’t stick out, therefore reducing the length of the stand (Usually necessary to make it fit in the hardware bag!)
As I said… DON’T OVER TIGHTEN any of these, just turn enough to keep the stand in place and that’ll do!!!
This brings me to my gripe! In the image you will notice that I have labelled the bits that shouldn’t be OVER tightened (can I stress it enough!) and, I’ve labelled the rubber foot…
I will now quote from the spec sheet for the stand, and from the features sheet for an SM58 mic:
“Folding legs w/ rubber end caps for durability and reduced floor vibrations.”
“Advanced pneumatic shock mount system that minimises transmission of mechanical noise and vibration”
OK so now lets ponder on why these features are important…
Even a concrete stage will vibrate if something is powerful enough to move it, it really doesn’t take that much. In our band practice room, which has a concrete floor, if you pay careful attention you can feel the floor bouncing with the kick drum… and thats without it going through any PA at all! on wooden stages, or platforms, the stage vibrates a lot more, the drums, people jumping up and down or even just tapping their feet will cause vibrations that will be picked up by a mic unless something is done to prevent it.
SO, the mic manufacturer goes to great lengths to place shock absorbers in the mic itself to reduce stage vibrations, AND the mic stand manufacturer jumps on the band wagon and puts shock absorbers on the stand (rubber feet)
PLEASE, please make sure you don’t nullify this function of the mic stand by not moving the leg housing all the way to the bottom of the centre bar and allowing the bar to rest on the floor. Not only does this couple the stand to the floor and transmit stage vibrations to the mic, but it can also make the mic stand unstable and more likely to fall over… there, i said it… over and out!
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