In this day of electronic everything, it is assumed that microphones will be used for most musical presentations. I find that sometimes the microphones seems excessive and create a sound that is hard on the ears. I have had to leave some venues because the music seems assaultive rather than pleasant.
So when are microphones appropriate? Let's see.
1. Outdoors - When we sang at the recent Relay for Life, the sound technicians did use 3 microphones for our performance. They used omni-directional microphones so they picked up a range of sound. Because we were outdoors and the sound would just disappear into the air, the microphones helped a lot. We also got to hear ourselves with the speakers they reflected the sound. Often, when you sing outdoors, the sound disappears and it is very hard to tell whether you are in tune or not. Blending is almost impossible. With the help of the microphones, we made some of the best outdoor sound yet.
It does take good equipment and techs. who know their stuff.
2. Large Venue - Sometimes, you can perform in a huge space that has wonderful acoustics. The sound hits the walls and comes back blended and beautiful. Other times, not so much.
There is a large hall built in London, Ontario in honour of our Canadian Centennial in 1967. It has some of the most difficult acoustics anywhere. They have made changes over the years but it is really not great. Here, microphones are necessary. Again, correct placement and VOLUME are really important.
I once left a Sylvia Tyson concert because the sound was so loud it hurt my head. The theatre had great acoustics and the sound became augmented by the electronics. That loudness drowned out the music. What a disappointment. This is not a good example of helpful technology. Loud is not always good.
I did attend a Jon Bon Jovi concert at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and it was spectacular. It was loud but correctly so. You could h ear the music during the ballads and the faster music. i enjoyed it tremendously. Good technicians!!
3. Saving Voices - A number of years ago, I took our daughter to see Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat with Donny Osmond at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto. This is a beautifully refurbished theatre complex with terrific seating & acoustics. However, they had everyone miked. I really found it hard to get my ears around. It seemed too loud. After the first couple of numbers, I became acclimated and the performance went on beautifully. So why in this amazing venue would they use microphones. It is to save the voices of the singers apparently. These professionals sing so much they need the support to keep from straining the voice. In that case, they need to make certain the sound is more realistic, in my view.
Yes, microphones for performances can be great. If you don't have the correct mike for the situation then it can be a negative. There are great products out there. Find out what is best for your group and rent it if necessary rather than buying if you feel you need it. Maybe, like us you sing in venues where microphones are seldom needed. Whew!