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7 Basic Mic Stand Techniques

Tom Jackson's Live Music Method BookA fig leaf… or a microphone stand. Which one do you use?

That may sound like a strange question. But I’ve noticed that most artists prefer hiding their nakedness by standing behind a mic stand (unlike Adam and Eve who chose the fig leaf).

You know what I’m talking about: you’re standing on the stage behind a mic stand, a small voice in your head says “take the mic out of the stand and move!” — and panic ensues (in your head, anyway). That small voice is calling you to take a risk and leave the safe spot behind the mic stand.

There’s a feeling of nakedness if you move away from the mic stand. So artists cling to the stand (often literally) and don’t move. But by doing so, they never change pressure on their audience, and they don’t establish their authority onstage. The mic stand becomes the one in charge.

But there is a way to take control over the mic stand! It doesn’t need to be just a “fig leaf.” The stand is a tool for the artist — and the artist needs to learn how to use that tool. Here are some basics you need to know to make the most of the mic stand:

1) Use the Correct Mic Stand

The straight stand with a round base is the one you can control. So if you are a vocalist, that’s the one you need to use all the time. For those of you who play an instrument and sing, you’ll need to have the boom stand (for the times you are playing) and the straight stand (for the times you are just singing).

2) Don’t Make it a “Microphone Holder”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an artist introduced, then watch the lead singer pull the microphone out of the stand, get rid of the stand, and then never use it the rest of the night. What a mistake. Every song looks the same, there is no change visually, and it becomes Chinese water torture for the audience. On the flip side, there’s the artist that never takes the mic out of the stand all night. Same mistake in reverse.

3) Learn to Use the Mic Stand for Expression and Constraint

Using a mic stand will free up your hands so you can be expressive in the delivery of a song. At the same time, it will restrain you. You have a limited space to deliver your song, and that restraint in the proper song may be exactly what you need! The mic stand can help you communicate tenderness, frustration, or intensity.

4) Understand How to Build Visual Intensity with the Mic Stand

Some of your songs will build in intensity. So learn how to use the mic stand to give that intensity visually to the audience. Let’s say, for instance, that you have mastered using the mic stand to visually express yourself with your hands and arms. So one of your songs begins with you singing behind the mic stand doing just that. After the first verse and chorus, the song builds a little in intensity. So you begin the second verse by using a combination of touching the mic and the mic stand, along with your angles, pivots, and expressing yourself with more intensity visually. All of sudden the song peaks in the bridge, so you start pulling on the mic stand to reflect that emotional high. Now your mic stand is becoming a visual tool to communicate with your audience!

5) Woodshed Different Ways to Pull on the Mic Stand

Here are two fundamental ways to pull on the stand: one is a slide step, the other a cross step. If you are slide stepping to the right, grab the mic with your right hand, keeping it in the mic stand, and plant your legs. If you are doing a cross step, this time to the left, grab the mic with your left hand, cross your right leg over the left, and bring your left around, and again plant your legs. For more intensity, you can lean forward or backward.
Be sure to step one way or another. Don’t just pull on the mic stand and lean! If you don’t move the bottom half of your body, it will look and feel awkward.

One other way to pull on the stand is by actually dragging it across the stage with you. 

6) Use the Mic Stand for Visual Percussion and More

Woodshed using a mic stand for musical kicks or cut offs. A stand can be used to express musical, emotional, and lyrical ideas and parts in your songs.

7) Learn How to Get Rid of the Stand

There is a correct time and correct way to get rid of the mic stand. Usually the right time is during a turn around or a musical interlude, not while you are singing. (Remember, you want to “finish the thought.”) And the correct way to get rid of it is to grab the mic in one hand, and the stand in the other. Go back and towards the side you’ve grabbed the stand with, and set the stand down there, maybe by the corner of the drum riser. One of the things I see often is a lead singer taking the mic out of the stand, then leaving it in the most important place onstage — front and center. They spend a huge portion of the evening letting the mic stand upstage them by not getting rid of it and taking control of that space. They leave the mic stand there and walk around it most of the night, giving their authority to a mic stand. (I doubt that’s what you want; after all, it’s your show, not the mic stand’s.)

The microphone stand is an important tool onstage. When used properly, it can go a long way to help communicate a song, change pressure, establish authority onstage, and ignite your audience. With the song being your script, you can use the mic stand to effectively communicate visually the lyrics, character, and emotion of the song.

Spend lots of time woodshedding the right techniques, creating & integrating your unique style, and your mic stand will be much more than a fig leaf!

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. Iggy Pop worked the mic stand tool impressively quite often also

  2. Kathy Crosby says:

    Thanks Tom. This gives some great ideas! I generally only use the mic stad when singing as we play plugged in, which allows me to move away from the mic and give the singer center stage (and also helps me dance around more!). I do, however, sing a couple of ballads that I may change up after reading this.

  3. Great tips as always Tom! Some great examples of using the mic stand as part of the show would be Steven Tyler, Bruce Dickinson (in the early Iron Maiden days as he no longer uses the stand), and Freddie Mercury, although is “half stand” trick was so unique I wouldn’t advise it as people would think someone is jus copying him. Tom Keifer of Cinderella uses it very well also and obviously influenced by Steven Tyler

  4. IMNRTST says:


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