MANY VARIABLES AFFECT the sound quality of a show. A sound technician’s job is to minimize those variables as much as possible. 

Microphones are a critical component of the technician’s toolkit. Based on years of experience with live sound production, the best advice I can pass along is consistency, from the preparation and placement of microphones to the care and maintenance they receive. If your process is consistent, your sound quality is more likely to be so too.

The following tips will help technicians produce high quality sound for every production.


Consistent microphone placement leads to a more reliable sound from actors, but keep in mind that the type of microphone element used directly influences placement options. For solid-frame microphones, microphones generally can be worn on either side of the actor’s head. Though flexible, the frames must be molded carefully to fit individual face shapes. I prefer the microphone element be placed in line with the corner of the actor’s mouth, where the top and bottom lips meet. To minimize hearing the actor breathe, be careful not to extend the microphone over their mouth.

The other most common microphone element is a lavalier, which is completely flexible. With this type of element, technicians have more options for placement. If you’re placing a lavalier on the side of the face, I recommend the same location as with solid-frame microphones: the side of the mouth. However, these elements also give you the ability to hide the microphone on the hairline or wig line, keeping the element in the center of the actor’s face or along glasses’ frames. Take care to ensure the element is not placed under the wig or buried in the hair, which can hinder sound quality.


Whether using a solid-frame microphone or a flexible lavalier, it’s imperative the microphone stay attached to the actor’s head. This is most frequently accomplished by taping the microphone to the actor’s face. There are three main ways to tape microphones. The most basic option uses clear, 1-inch medical tape. This is relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and stays on the face well.

The second option holds well but is the most time-consuming, uses the most tape, and takes time for a sound technician to set up. Make a “mic tape sandwich” on the element using a piece of clear medical tape and a piece of super wig tape. Remove one side of the wig tape, place the microphone element on top, then add a piece of clear medical tape. This sandwiches the microphone between the tape and leaves the other side of the wig tape for placement on the face.

Solid-frame microphones are best placed with the microphone element in line with the corner of the actor's mouth, then taped securely to the face.
Solid-frame microphones are best placed with the microphone element in line with the corner of the actor's mouth. Photo from the Rock Ridge High School 2019 International Thespian Festival performance of Bright Star by John Nollendorfs.

When done correctly, the final way to attach the microphone is the most popular with my actors and the most secure. For this option, use a 2-inch transparent, adhesive, roll-style surgical dressing, cut into 2-inch by 1-inch pieces. This tape has a film on both sides, with one side that is sticky while the other features a transparent grid taken off once the tape is placed on the face. It holds extremely well, even when an actor sweats during the show. Additionally, actors with skin allergies tend to have fewer reactions to this solution.

Skin preparation is key with all types of taping. To get the best hold, ensure skin is as clean as possible, using alcohol pads to clean the skin where the tape will be. I suggest actors be fitted for their microphone prior to applying their stage makeup. Actors will also need to place a small piece of tape on their neck, behind their ear, to keep the microphone secure and to control excess cable. Many times, actors prefer a third piece of tape at the base of their neck, in the middle of their back.


Microphones are expensive investments, so all elements should be regularly and consistently maintained after every show run to prolong the life of the microphones. I clean each element with the same type of alcohol pads used for cleaning actors’ skin. This removes any salt leftover from sweat and helps remove tape residue from the cable, preparing the microphone for its next use. Additionally, inspect cables for damage that may have occurred during the run.

It’s important that all microphone elements have proper dust caps or windscreens. They reduce wind noise caused when the actor breathes and prevent dirt or makeup from getting into the end of the microphone element and damaging it. It is easier to replace a $5 windscreen than a $300 microphone. However, windscreens are infamous for falling off the microphone, so spend extra time to secure the windscreen to the element with matching thread.

While microphones are just one piece of a show’s overall sound puzzle, following these basic steps will put you squarely on the path to better sound quality.

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