When you get to the point where you are playing rooms big enough where you have to actually mic your guitar amp instead of being constantly told to turn it the hell down, you may be faced with an “issue.”
As long as the venue is providing sound or there is a sound company involved, you’re golden. They carry the stuff you need. But, even if you have a basic instrument mic and cable, when you are stuck doing it yourself, you may be lacking an important component: a mic stand. If you have an extra boom stand that can work, but it’s big and looks crappy onstage. You can buy “shorties” but as those are considered pro gear, it’s hard to find them on sale in your local Guitar Center or online and even if you find one, they tend to be a bit expensive. As in at least what you pay for a tripod boom stand for something 80% smaller. And stands take up stage space that is often a precious commodity.
Let’s look at some options.
1) Use a side address mic hanging in front of the speakers.
Make sure you are using the right mic. (i.e., don’t hang a handheld vocal mic in front and expect it to sound okay.) Common examples of affordable side address mics include the Audio-Technica AT2020 and the Sennheiser e609 with a paddle-shaped design that seems custom-made with this application in mind.
A Sennheiser e609 (right) is a side address microphone. A Shure SM-57 is shown on the left.
2) Use a CabGrabber
This is a cool system made by Audix. Basically a giant, spring-loaded clamp that attaches to the amp or speaker cabinet and holds a mic. Pros: While it is easy to attach and remove, once in place it is unlikely to get bumped or otherwise moved during a show. Cons: Cost is about the same as a shorty mic stand and getting certain mics placed just right can be a challenge. The CabGrabber does work great in combination with the Audix i5 instrument mic but has trouble with mics like the ever-more-popular Heil PR 30.
The Audix Cab Grabber in action.
3) Use a Z-Bar
The Z-Bar is the simplest, most affordable and most flexible non-mic-stand solution. It is literally a Z-shaped aluminum bar with a distance-adjustable mic clip. It can be used on pretty much any amp. Between the head and speaker cab. With the arm strung through the handle of a combo amp or with one arm between the bottom of the amp or cabinet and the floor. The only real con is that most music stores don’t carry them so you have to order online, but they cost 1/2 of what a CabGrabber runs. The “Roll Your Own” button to the left brings up a video on how to make your own with stuff you can buy at pretty much any home supply store (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.).
A Z-Bar in use. The Z-Bar can also be inserted between cabinets or beneath the amp’s handle.