In-ear monitors are often mistaken as headphones, but these devices are monitors that make it possible for musicians and singers that are onstage to be able to hear what their band is playing. They are also crucial for a singer to hear the music playing and for them to listen to themselves singing. It is incredible how such a small piece of technology can be so vital to a musical performance.
When a musician is on stage with their band, most of the noise is channeled into huge speakers that typically face in the opposite direction of the musician. This makes it extremely hard to hear what they are singing, which can affect the quality of the performance. To hear what the audience hears, musicians especially guitarists rely on an in-ear monitor. In-ear monitors make it possible for the musician to hear what they are singing by redirecting the sound. Based on what they hear from the in-ear monitor, the musician can vary their performance to fit their needs. The in-ear monitors typically have the ability to be mixed to meet the specific needs of the musician. For example, if a musician prefers a sound with a bit more bass and drum, they can tweak their monitor to hear just those two sounds more clearly.
How In-Ear Monitors Work for Live Performers
If you are the main vocalist of a rock band, you would surely know that the cacophony of sounds on the stage can drown out your voice and the instruments’ sounds. This makes it difficult for you to follow the groove of your bandmates or sing along with the instrumentals. Moreover, if the crowd is already raucous while singing along with you, you will fail to hear the stage monitors. In such a case, you might as well wear in-ear monitors (IEMs).
In-ear monitors are a relatively new technology that is taking the place of stage monitors. Stage monitors are on stage speakers with a special design and shape that can be found facing up at the musicians. Each musician can get their very own set of instruments and vocals that are customized, which can are usually handled by sound engineers that work off the side of the stage. Musicians and singers who were always performing onstage often encountered the problem of ear fatigue because stage monitors have to accommodate for a crowd that is being exceptionally loud. Stage monitors have the ability to negatively affect your performance by causing problems with the audio. Plus, stage monitors take up a lot of space on stage, which could be used by band members to move around while they perform. It is easy to see why in-ear monitors are a better choice for many different reasons. Ear monitors are much easier to control and provide better results than stage monitors.
Benefits Associated with Using In-Ear Monitors While Performing
Instead of being tied down to one-stop, performers are able to move around. This means that you introduce choreography into a musical performance on any size stage without a worry. There is also less heavy equipment to deal with when musicians use in-ear monitors.
Aside from better monitoring experience, there are other advantages concomitant with the use of in-ear monitors. Here are some of these advantages:
No Audio Feedback
Audio feedback is that terrible squeaky sound when a microphone is accidentally pointed toward a stage monitor. The sound can really put an end to the vibe you were trying to create with your performance. Singers can walk away from wedges without having to worry about their music fading away. The ability to move while on stage can be invaluable to musicians who want to put on an energetic show.
More Normalized Volume Levels
When a show is pumping, and the crowd is going wild, a singer might not be able to hear their voice while singing, which can create problems. Instead of asking a sound manager to crank up the volume and possibly drown out sound in the heavy music, an in-ear monitor can eliminate the problem by delivering sound directly to the ear of the musician. Thus, there will be fewer interferences with the sound.
Better Sound Quality
In-ear monitors are known for providing better sound quality because the mixed sound is being played in the ear directly. This makes it a lot easier for the musicians on stage to complete a quality performance because they are able to hear how they sound clearly. Improved sound quality is just one of the many ways that in-ear monitors can help a musician create better performance for their live audiences.
If you are a vocalist, getting the cues on when to sing or not is important to you. But if the crowd and the cacophony of sounds onstage are drowning out the stage monitors, you would feel at a loss. So, you might as well wear in-hear monitors.
The same case happens if you are one of the instrumentalists of your band. You will also feel at a loss once all the sounds combine to drown your instrument’s sound. Hence, you will need in-ear monitors to hear how you are sounding and how your other bandmates are sounding.
Using IEMs enable you also to avoid the usual problem of feedback. This feedback may prevent you from hearing the onstage monitors. Moreover, these in-ear monitors prevent the usual problems that come with a live audio source. The good thing about the use of IEMs is that they provide you with clearer audio feedback. This allows you to be on cue and go along with the groove of your bandmates.
Safe to Use And Protect Your Hearing
Another advantage of using IEMs is that they are safe to use. As a band member, for example, I am always bombarded with loud sounds coming from huge speakers onstage. These loud sounds will harm my eardrum. In the long run, if I do not protect my ear from such bombastic sounds, I may end up with a damaged eardrum. Hence, the use of IEMs is valuable to me.
Any person who is exposed to booming sounds like those coming from speakers and monitors will usually experience that ringing sound on their ears after every gig. This ringing sound, of course, will go away after a day or two. Yet, if your ear is always exposed to such booming sounds, you may end up with damaged eardrums. So, it is advisable to use IEMs if you are concerned with the health of your ears.
Most IEMs are designed for noise canceling. Noise-canceling earphones reduce background noise. So, with noise-canceling IEMs, you can assure yourself that the sounds that enter your ears are filtered.
If you wear IEMs, you can better mix your sound output. If you are a vocalist, for example, you will know that the vocals are overpowered by the instruments. Thus, you can tell the person in charge to increase the volume of the vocals. Your drummer can also amplify the sound of the bass if he feels it is not properly amped. Thus, with IEMs, musicians can provide appropriate feedback to the sound engineer.
On the other hand, if you are the lead vocals, you can amble around the stage and even join the crowd without worrying that you would lose connection with your bandmates. With IEMs at hand, you will have a monitor anywhere you would amble around. Moreover, you will not lose track of the right pitch while singing when you are wearing an IEMs.
The good thing about wearing IEMs is that each musician or bandmate can clearly hear his/her instrument. He or she can suggest the type of mixing one would like to have for one’s instrument.
Gone were the days when singers and musicians had limited movements onstage. Because during those days, there were no IEMs. Hence, they tended to limit their movements, wary that if they went too far from the monitors, they may end up singing out of tune or out of tempo. Hence, they made it sure that they are within earshot of the monitors.
Since the introduction of the wireless IEMs, artists can now amble around the stage without hesitation if they are wearing IEMs. Complemented by wireless mics, IEMs offer musicians unlimited movement onstage.
Aside from affording musicians and performers greater mobility, IEMs are also very handy. They are easy to pack and very compact that they could fit easily into your briefcase or bag. This affords you greater mobility while not onstage. Moreover, IEMs greatly reduce your luggage weight, allowing you ease of mobility.
Metronome Monitoring or Use
As a singer, I sometimes get lost in the process of singing, especially if I get carried away. So, occasionally, I lose connection with the groove and tempo of my fellow bandmates. Well, these instances are sometimes forgivable. These instances, however, are preventable if you have a ready metronome at hand. Singers can manage to stay on tempo by simply using a metronome.
Metronome, like that of the click track, can help singers stay in tempo while singing, providing them with that pre-set tempo. You can have this metronome sound delivered to your ear via the use of the IEMs. Moreover, the use of a metronome is crucial for a singer who uses pre-recorded backing tracks. A metronome can keep a singer from getting out of tempo; a metronome may also keep a drummer from getting out of tempo.
Better Sound Consistency
If you always amble around while you play your instrument or sing, you will often hear no sound consistency from the monitors. Moreover, if you are engaged in multiple gigs in different venues, you will feel that each venue has its sounds and monitoring levels. To remedy such issues, you can always rely on your IEMs for sound consistency.
Disadvantages of Wearing In-ear Monitors
Although wearing in-ear monitors come with many advantages; yet, the use of IEMs is not without disadvantages. Some of these disadvantages are the following:
They May Drop Off
If your IEMs are not customized for your ear, they may not fit well into your ear. Chances are, they may drop off your ears while you amble around the stage. If the stage is dark, you may find it hard to find them after they have fallen. Thus, you will lose your source of monitoring and will rely again on the monitors onstage.
It May Cause Lack of Connection With Your Audience
The use of IEMs may disconnect you from your audience. If you are the main vocalist of your band, for example, you may fail to hear your audience if you are focused on the output from the IEMs. Moreover, since the IEMs have noise-isolation property, they tend to isolate the noise that you should be hearing. Hence, you may fail to hear how your audience responds to your music and performance. Failure to hear your fans’ feedback may disconnect you from them. Plus, you will fail to feel the vibes and the reaction of your audience which are necessary for a perfect live performance.
IEMs Are Prone To Interference
Since most IEMs are wireless, they are prone to interference. IEMs transmit audio signals using radio waves. Yet, the transmissions of these radio waves make use of radiofrequency. If other people are broadcasting using that specific radio frequency, chances are, the transmissions of signals of the IEMs may be disrupted. This leads to intermittent signals or a decline in the quality of the audio outputs of your IEMs.
In-Ear Monitoring Live Mixing Tips
Switching to a silent stage or adding in-ear monitors to your live gigs can be a tough feat to accomplish because musicians forget to adjust their approach to mixing. Instruments that usually get lost in the sound are mixed up in live mixing. Mixing changes thoroughly when an in-ear monitor is incorporated into a live performance. Consider the following in-ear monitoring live mixing tips if you are new to using in ear monitors. While they can be great, in-ear monitors can be difficult to get used to after using traditional methods for so long.
Studio Mic Approach
In-ear monitors have the potential to offer 24dB of acoustic isolation, which means that even the loudest elements won’t be clear on the monitor mix. This means you are going to have to place mics on all sound, which is what you would do if you were in a studio. Although you don’t need top-quality mics, you will need to have more mixer channels. You need to make sure that you have enough mics to cover the whole kit.
In-ear monitors are great for creating ambiance because they can help a musician connect with their audience in a way that they were not able to enjoy before. In-ear monitors take away the barrier that can be created between the musician and the audience. A musician that is connected with their audience will put on a better live show, and an in-ear monitor can significantly help with that. It should be noted that in-ear monitors can’t fix every technical sound issue and are not an all in one solution.
Frequently Asked Questions
To further understand the pros and cons of using IEMs, you should at least be cognizant of the frequently asked questions of those who intend to buy and use IEMs. Here are some of these FAQs:
Do The Advantages of Using IEMs Far Outweigh The Disadvantages of Wearing Them?
The advantages of using IEMs for musicians far outweigh the disadvantages that come with their use. A cursory look at the advantages of using IEMs shows that there are more advantages than disadvantages in using IEMs. Moreover, you can always remedy the disadvantages that come with the use of IEMs.
Interference in the transmission of audio signals seldom happens during a performance. Plus, you can easily remove the IEMs to feel the vibes of the audience, and then wear it again once you feel that you have gotten the vibes of the audience. You can have the IEMs securely inserted in your ear without worrying about them falling off your ear.
Why Do Singers Remove Their IEMs?
There are several reasons why singers remove their IEMs at a certain part of their performance. One reason is poor audio signals coming from the earpieces. Moreover, sometimes IEMs malfunction and become faulty midway through the performance. Lastly, performers usually remove their IEMs during a performance to ensure that they stay connected with your audience.
A lot of musicians are turning to the use of in-ear monitors because they can control their tastes and hear themselves sing. Being able to listen to themselves sing is a considerable benefit for musicians because it can allow them to improve their performance and connect with their audience on a deeper level. In-ear monitors allow for better sound quality and have the potential to help increase a musical performance by leaps and bounds. They allow for easy movement on the stage and don’t take up a lot of space. While many people prefer the use of in-ear monitors, there are still some musicians that prefer old school methods.
Using in-ear monitors can provide a long list of benefits to enjoy, but there are a few cons to consider. One of the most prominent complaints musicians have about in-ear monitors is that performing in an empty room sounds a lot different than performing in a room packed with people. There aren’t any ambient sounds, which means that there is not any room noise. This can make it difficult to determine how you sound while you are performing to a live audience. Being able to hear how the audience hears you allows you to make improvements and adjustments to your techniques. You will also know which areas you need to make improvements.
All in all, in-ear monitors can be very beneficial to providing musicians the tools they need to rock a live show without being stuck in one place while on the stage. These small devices make the jobs of many musical technicians a lot easier because they provide a clearer and more ambient sound.