“Game On!” Organizational Pointers For Square Dance Callers

Verily, all agree there is a strong relationship between being prepared and being organized. Being ready allows for you to be at your best and call the most fun and enjoyable event that the dancers will long remember and truly appreciate. For example, you are prepared to call a square dance party in a few days and you have checked your program list and you have all of your equipment ready to be loaded into your vehicle when the moment arrives. You have reconfirmed the date and time of the event with the party organizer for the party to check if there are any changes that you might need to be aware of. And when you call at the event, you will encounter a lot of things that you will not be able to fully control.

Getting a good grip on what you can is the next best thing!

So what can you focus on to keep everything in good order and keep everything prepared as best you can? Creating to do lists and following an agenda are great starting points. Below I have put together some criteria that you will want to add to your checklists to use whenever you have a dance to call in the future:

  • Equipment check list of everything that you will need to perform at the event.
  • Program plan – spend as much time as you need to put together a well thought out program of choreography and music.
  • Practice Plan – this needs to be an ongoing and well in advance organizational move.
  • Create a song list for the music program.
  • Make a choreography program for every tip that you will call.
  • Contact the party event host/organizer to confirm details
  • Create other essential checklists: what general choreography you will use for all kinds of different dances and different levels, dance level teaching checklists, even a checklist for completing all checklists!
  • Set your computer calendar’s alarm for the week before calling dates you need to remember, from an anniversary dance to regular type dance. Regional and state festivals. National conventions. Everything that you will attend. By doing this, you will have a reminder on making sure that your travel plans are well-planned in advance and that will give you enough time to buy anything you need on your trip.
  • Create an “emergency” box for the car trunk: extra extension cords, extra electrical cords for equipment, spare microphone, an assortment of electrical connectors such as quarter inch jacks, adapters, and any other items you might need like a cheap rain poncho, tape, paper notepad, blank recipe cards, extra pair of dress pants, an umbrella and an extra shirt.
  • Use computer technology to help you to remember things. If you want to remember things, put it in writing, or in a digital notebook like Evernote.
  • Keeping your to-do lists and other information written somewhere allows you to look back at it anytime, especially when you do not have an internet connection (or you have fallen down at the grocery store, hit your head and forgotten your own name!)
  • Create back-ups of everything that you don’t want to lose such as square dance music, choreography and square dance computer files and have a second computer dedicated only to square dance calling that you can count on for a back-up.

Related:  6 Keys to Caller Mastery!

Making the Gig a Success

Leave well in advance of the program’s start time, and give yourself extra time in case of heavy traffic or an accident along your route. Arrive in plenty of time to set up your equipment, test the sound, and relax just a bit before you start. Find the contact person as soon as you arrive. Introduce yourself and others who might have come with you. Take a visual tour of the area to determine the best place to set up for sound and safety of your equipment. Sometimes you might want to visit the place you will call beforehand so you will know what to expect and you can look for any problems that you will want to be able to deal with when you do call the event.

Remember, safety of your equipment is your responsibility. If your equipment gets damaged or if someone gets hurt by your equipment, you are liable. Keep your equipment away from water or excessive heat and position the cables and cords where people will not trip or get tangled up in them. Speakers need to be placed not only where the sound will be good but where they will not get knocked over, damaged, or injure someone. Make sure your table is sturdy enough to hold your equipment and not collapse if you or someone else leans on it. Make sure that you set up all equipment in an organized and safe manner.

Related:  Microphone Tips For Square Dance Calling

The Big Why…

All of these things are your responsibility as a professional modern western square dance caller.  Being organized makes everything simple and more fun for the dancers. Because you will not be stressed out and you will be ready to start on time. You will not forget anything crucial to making the event go extremely well.

“The game is on.” Once you have done a few of these square dance events you will get a better idea on what really works great and what is better left unsaid. Literally.

Whichever of these organizational tasks you decide to do, remember that you can’t completely organize your calling career in one go. It’s a long, never-ending process so be patient. But do make a decision to get organized right now then take small steps until you see some organization that will reduce your worries. Soon enough, you will be making a habit out of it all.

Have a Great Day! Contact me if you have a question about square dance calling!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

 

Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller training, education, and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.

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Microphone Techniques For Modern Square Dance Calling

Improve Sound Quality at Square Dances Through Better Microphone Technique!

Practically all modern western square dance callers don’t practice their microphone technique enough, and for this reason alone, sometimes nice voices do not get the performance exposure that they should. Poor sound quality on a sound system leads to weak communication with the dancers, and bad microphone technique when performing live is a great deal of the problem. The square dance calling art, which is a combination of singing and speaking, must also have a combination of correct microphone technique and a basic knowledge of sound systems that are used in square dance venues and, when combined, will result in clear and beautiful sound that enhances any square dance performance.

In order to entertain, communicate, and teach, every caller has to use their voice. This is an instrument (although some do not see it as such) that is processed through a microphone and an amplifier, then through speakers, and then out to the ears of the dancers so that the communication between caller and dancers becomes complete. Enjoyment and dancer success depends upon this clarity. So how is this accomplished consistently? Through good technique and efficient equipment.

Microphone Selection

Some callers have their own personal preference for a microphone, but uni-directional microphones are the most commonly used in the square dance realm. They are more sensitive than omni-directional microphones and they work quite dynamically in response to vocal sounds from your mouth. Another great thing about uni-directional microphones is they are less susceptible to feedback and “bleed” from outside noises such as music emanating from the speakers as you call. For this reason uni-directional mics are superior in calling in larger venues or at larger festivals in local regions.

Here is more information about different types of microphones

There are also normal wired microphones and wireless versions, both kinds can be hand-held or placed in a stand. The freedom to move around more is the advantage of using a head-set microphone, and they are useful for callers who need to dance and call at the same time. For singing call performance, however, the head-set is restricting in allowing for many singing microphone techniques.

Microphone Techniques

Clear communication is the most desired result of great microphone technique. Teaching and hoedown calling require smooth enunciation and clear projection. There are moments when you will be using less or more volume with your voice, singing higher or lower notes, or even whispering. Practice using different distances and positions to see how using the mic creates different effects. The most common mistake made by newer callers is when they hold the microphone too close or too far from their mouth. This results in all calling sounding muffled and distorted, too distant, or no audible recognition for everyone on the dance floor.

Since most square dance callers use uni-directional mics, the most primary rule is to hold the microphone horizontally at a 45 degree angle in relation to the ground and point the head at their mouth about an inch away. Any other way will lead to a thin and nasally sound that is not desirable. Practice working on this correct technique in your rehearsal time in front of a mirror to see and, of course, hear the  improvement.

Volume levels can be tricky, for if the sound is not loud enough, and then the volume knob is turned up, then there is a risk of both feedback and distortion. Pointing the microphone towards a speaker when you are too close causes a high pitched noise called feedback. Overdriving a microphone with your own voice or too much volume set on the amplifier will cause distortion. Clarity is the number one thing that dancers need above all else. How can they perform the dance moves for the calls if they cannot understand you?

To avoid distortion, ensure the mic is held no closer than 1 to 3 inches from your mouth during normal calling.  Every caller will have to experiment a little as this distance varies with individuals and their natural power and ability to project their voice.

To find the comfortable distance that you can move the microphone away from your mouth, try this. Gradually pull the microphone away as you continue to call and listen to the difference – at what point does the vocal sound start to fade too much?  By doing this, you will learn just how far you can move the microphone away. The optimum distance for clarity is between the closest and furthest points. All callers should avoid moving the microphone closer to their mouth when hitting high or more powerful notes and practice using the proximity of the microphone to enhance or lessen certain vocal effects until it becomes very comfortable and then the distance does not even have to be thought about too much.

Tips on Purchasing a Microphone

Before anyone ever purchases a microphone a little time should be invested in researching and trying out several types. A mic that makes one entertainer sound fantastic can make another one sound weak or thin and, although this can be adjusted in the tone controls using bass and treble knobs, the problem can be avoided altogether. Sometimes the problem can be in the microphone response. Finding a microphone with good bottom-end response and clarity that suits your deeper voice will be a much better long term solution than making tonal adjustments, particularly if you are at a festival somewhere and you end up using a sound system that is much different than what you are used to. A consistent sounding microphone that is dependable is essential.

In the recording studio, calling on a piece of square dance music might require that you carry several microphones to cater to all possible variables that change from studio to studio. In addition, owning a microphone for ‘live’ performance and one for ‘recording’ solves a few quality and clarity problems. Very often more experienced callers will give or loan used equipment to newer callers, but I still recommend that every caller purchase their own microphone that meets their individual needs and they can become really familiar with.

One great way to find an efficient microphone is to look on ebay and some online square dance shop websites to find inexpensive sound equipment. Both old and new amplifiers and microphones and speakers can be purchased in this way. Be aware that sometimes old and used equipment may have problems with the integrity of their sound quality. Contact the seller and ask some questions about the equipment and what the condition is for the item you are interested in. Be careful. Ask about a guarantee – will you will be satisfied with the working state and quality and the condition? Find out about the equipment’s history if it is used.

No one would be happy if they purchased a pair of square dance speakers and they were “spanked.”

Newer callers should get help in selecting a microphone from a more experienced square dance caller who can give them an objective and experienced viewpoint. If the newer caller has not purchased an amplifier, this is an area that they can use some help in, not only in paying a fair price for equipment that will last for years, but also in getting technical help from a mentor for the newer caller to familiarize himself with the technical aspects – proper use of the controls of an amplifier, speaker placement, and microphone technique. Coaching a student caller in many areas such as managing good sound quality (by demonstrating and explaining) is key in having effective guidance that will drive a student caller to improve.

It’s a Wrap…

A microphone is a very personal piece of sound equipment and the proper use of one is a fundamental principle of great sound quality. Bad sound in a hall can obliterate an otherwise well planned and called square dance. How do you prevent sound problems without the aid of a sound engineer or years of experience? Practice adjusting sound whenever you can. The more you do this the better you will become. And the easier it will become. And a microphone should be one of a new caller’s first investments.

Read more about using a square dance microphone here:

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/square-dance-callers-using-your-microphone-effectively/

Have a Great Day! Contact me if you have a question about square dance calling!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

 

Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller training, education, and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.