What Is A God Microphone? (Theatre & Other Live Performance)


Does God really use a microphone? Though this proposition seems unlikely, the term “God microphone” is pretty standard in the audio industry.

What is a God microphone? The term God microphone refers to an unseen performer using an unseen microphone to make announcements or deliver omnipresent lines. The voice is heard through the public address system throughout the venue but no one can see who is talking.

In this article, we’ll talk a bit more about the God microphone and other go-to microphones in live sound reinforcement.


What Is A God Microphone?

As discussed above, the God microphone is a live sound mic that is unseen but heard by all when in use.

Essentially, a God microphone is any live mic in a sound reinforcement situation that all of the audience can hear but none can see. The hidden microphone’s audio signal is sent through the public address system.

God microphones are typically used in the following scenarios:

  • Stage manager and/or director during theatre rehearsal.
  • Narrator and/or another omnipresent character during live theatre.
  • Announcer during live events.

Theatre Rehearsal

In the world of theatre, God microphones are often set up toward the back of theatre during rehersals. This can be in the seats, the control room, or another space where the director can see everything that’s happening on stage. Alternatively, the God mic could be set up somewhere in back-of-house where the stage director could call out directions from behind the scenes.

With a God mic, the director shouldn’t have to shout from his or her viewing position in order to make an announcement or call for a specific scene or action.

Similarly, the stage director shouldn’t have to yell across the stage to get his or her point heard if a God mic is set up.

Note that these God microphones are really only effective in rehearsal. The mics are obviously not used during the actual performance in front of a paying audience.

Narrator Or Omnipresent Character

Speaking of live performances, some productions may have an unseen narrator and/or an omnipresent character.

In these cases, a God mic can be positioned off-stage to allow the lines of the narrator or omnipresent character to be performed live.

Announcer

Perhaps the most common use of a God mic is to make live announcements during performances. This is done in ceremonies, musical and theatrical performances, in schools (think of morning announcements from the principal’s office), and many more situations.


What Kind Of Microphones Are Used As God Microphones?

Any microphone can be used as a God microphone. However, like in most live sound reinforcement situations, it is typically a moving-coil dynamic mic.

Dynamic microphones are generally inexpensive and are popular in live sound situations for their durability, gain-before-feedback, and overall quality.

To learn more about moving-coil dynamic microphones, check out my article Moving-Coil Dynamic Microphones: The In-Depth Guide.

Common examples of God microphones (with links to check the price on Amazon) include:

Although these microphones are common for live performances, they are obviously not the only options to choose from for your God mic.


Other Live Sound Reinforcement Microphones

There are many different types of microphones that go into live sound reinforcement. The God microphone is but one. Let’s look at other common live sound microphone applications and the mic types that work best in these applications.

The general mic applications for live sound reinforcement include:

  • Vocal/voice
  • Instruments
  • Body
  • Stage
  • Communications/technical crew

Vocal/Voice Microphones

The most popular mic setup for live sound reinforcement in the vocal or voice microphone. Whether a performer is speaking or singing, a microphone will often help tremendously in live events.

Live vocal/voice microphones can be:

  • Wired or wireless.
  • Handheld; on mic stand, or podium-mounted (gooseneck).
  • Dynamic or condenser.

For tips on holding vocal microphones, check out my articles How To Hold A Microphone When Public Speaking And Presenting and How To Hold A Microphone When Singing Live.

For better gain-before-feedback with foldback monitoring, unidirectional vocal/voice mics are preferred. Other factors to take into account with live vocal/voice microphone are:

  • Handling/mechanical noise.
  • Proximity to vocalist/speaker.
  • Position to live fold back monitors.
  • Isolation from other sound sources.

For the My New Microphone recommendations on voice/vocal microphones, feel free to click the following links:

Best Microphones For Live Vocal Performances.
Best Handheld Microphones For Live Speaking.
Best Podium Microphones For Live Speaking
.
Best Lavalier Microphones For Interviews/News/Presentations.
Best Lavalier Microphones For Actors.

Instrument Microphones

Whether acoustic or electric, many instruments benefit from additional amplification via being miked up and sent through the public address system.

The range of microphones for live instrument reinforcement is nearly as wide as the range of instruments used in live performances.

Some key things to keep in mind with instrument microphone are:

  • Mechanical isolation (especially when the mic position is close to the ground).
  • Non-intended sound source isolation.
  • Frequency response in order to accentuate the intended instrument.

For more info on frequency response, check out my article Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples).

These mics apply not only to live musical performances but also to the pit bands in theatrical performances.

For all of the My New Microphone instrument mic recommendations, please check out the page Recommended Microphones And Accessories where you’ll find further links to specific instruments.

Body Microphones

Body mics are miniature lavalier microphones that attach directly to actors’ costumes (or directly to the actors’ bodies) and send their signals wirelessly.

Body mics are easily concealable on an actor. Common hiding spots include:

  • Inside the collar or shirt.
  • Sewn into the costume elsewhere.
  • Underneath the brim of a hat (so long as the hat is not removed during the performance).
  • In the hair (with the cable running down the back).
  • Against the skin near the face.

These mics are common (and nearly necessary) in bigger theatrical productions. Miking each actor directly drastically improves the sound quality and consistency of the entire performance.

The issue with body mics is that they are very expensive. In particular, the wireless systems cost the most money.

To read about the My New Microphone body mic recommendations, click through to Best Lavalier Microphones For Actors.

Stage Microphones

Stage microphones are mics that are set up (and preferably hidden) at various spots on the stage. These mics help to reinforce certain positions on the stage.

Stage mics are sometimes used in theatrical performances, especially those with lower budgets that cannot mic every actor with a body mic.

These microphones are generally positioned in one of three ways:

  • Just above the floor: these mics are usually directional and point away from any monitors. They point upward toward the actors’ position that requires extra sound reinforcement.
  • On the floor: these boundary mics are generally only used when no monitoring is done on stage. They are hemispherical, which means they pick up sound equally from every direction at the expense of having very poor gain-before-feedback.
  • Overhead: these mics are hidden in set design so that they are positioned above the actors’ heads.

Communication/Technical Microphones

Finally, the technical crew members need microphones to communicate amongst themselves. These mics are often wireless unless the crew member is in a stationary position.

This could be as simple as a walky-talky system.

The goal of the communication/technical microphones is not pristine audio quality but rather for effective and timely communication between members of the technical crew and between the team of stage directors.


Related Questions

What kind of microphones do actors wear? In modern professional productions (theatre, film, television, etc.) it’s nearly always the case that actors wear miniature wireless “lavalier” microphones. Wearing these mics provides a clean and consistent audio pickup while allowing the actors to move about freely.

For more information on actors and microphones, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

Do Actors Wear Microphones? (Film, Theatre, And Other Performances).
How And Where To Attach A Lavalier/Lapel Microphone.
Best Lavalier Microphones For Actors.
What Is A Boom Microphone? (Applications + Mic Examples).
How To Properly Hold A Boom Pole And Microphone.
Best Boom Microphones For Film.

Are microphones used on broadway? Yes, microphones are used on Broadway. A Broadway show will often use over $100,000 worth of mics for both sound reinforcement and off-stage production and cues. These mics include lavaliers, headsets, overheads, PZMs, and other auxiliary types of mics.

To read more about broadway and microphones, check out my article Are Microphones Used On Broadway And In Other Theatres?

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