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The Importance of Gear

When I was a new aspiring singer, I was completely clueless about gear. I started a band with other musicians who, fortunately, had a PA. But I showed up for my early gigs with some no-name junky mic that someone had gifted me when I was still a teenager. And I hadn’t developed my singing chops back then. Glad I don’t have any live recordings of all that! But a better mic wouldn’t have been a plus only for those gigs. Mic’s are a plus for practicing.

When I was in college, there was a certain amount of snobbery toward singers who practiced with amplification.

Actually, there is all kinds of snobbery regarding all kinds of categories of music education. But I’ll refrain from going off about that for now.

The argument was that a singer should learn to project without needing amplification. That it was a crutch. But this was just another excuse for some musicians to thumb their noses at other musicians. Nose-thumbing is rampant in music ed circles. But wait, I’m not going to go off about that now. Singing with gear is not a crutch. It’s a tool for success. And one I highly recommend.

Being that I recently moved out of a three-bedroom house and into a two-section RV, I am no longer as gear-rich as I once was. Practicing without my PA and mic has reminded me of how important and useful gear is, even for practice. Here’s why:

  1. Without amplification, singers are more likely to oversing when they practice. I recently shared a quick video about what I call the Two Volume Equations. In that video, I recommend switching your mindset from being “louder” to creating a “thicker” sound. This is much easier to accomplish with amplification.
  2. You can’t practice mic technique if you’re not practicing with a mic. Adjusting your distance from the mic to fit the mood of a line or to not blast out the audience on certain words is a must. As well as something as basic as keeping the mic in front of your mouth, which many new performers don’t do. Also how you hold the mic, taking it in and out of the mic stand, etc… are all performance skills you want to grow comfortable with.
  3. Amplification desensitizes you to the sound of your voice. Most singers who are new to singing with a mic don’t like hearing themselves back so clearly. If you ever hope to share your voice with the world, even if it’s just friends around the campfire, you have get accustomed to the sound of your voice. You will begin to like it, even! But you have to get to know it first.
  4. Want to expand your upper chest voice? Practice with a mic and PA. There’s a reason why singers who regularly gig in louder bands tend to grow stronger and stronger upper chest voices. The combination of the volume of music that you can let loose inside, and the ability to sing “thickly” instead of “loudly” because of amplification, makes chest voices grow. It just does. No matter how many of the snobs, I mean faculty, from my old college say it shouldn’t be the case, it is. 
  5. Fun. Singing with gear is fun and reminds you to enjoy singing. That’s it. No need to further explain, correct?
This is Leonard, a fellow member (who could be reading this at this very moment). Leonard recently purchased a new portable PA and mic (he is showing me in the pic), which he now practices with all the time. It made a huge difference in both his singing, his performance skills, and his confidence.

So, what does all this mean for those of you who don’t have gear? Put it on your Things To Save Up For list. Or write a letter to Santa, if that works for you. It doesn’t matter if you ever plan to sing out. Gear will help you experience the joy of singing progress.