3 Monitor Types Every Singer Should Know

Georgia Murray from the electronic music group LIINKS discusses how to get the best from your vocal monitors.

What should a singer be doing with their monitors before and during the show? Georgia Murray reveals her own learning journey with monitors, monitor types and how to have them enhance your performance.

Next video: Essential Tech Terms Every Singer Should Know and Use


LIINKS Bio

Georgia Murray is a recording artist with LIINKS along with DWHIZ. Her Just A Dream EP earned her a 2012 Western Canadian Music Award nomination for Urban Recording of the Year and she was named one of the Top 20 artists in the 2012 Peak Performance Project.

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  • scredly

    Using a single ear monitor is NOT recommended. There is a phenomenon call binaural summation. When you take one earpiece out, you lose 6db of perceived loudness. To compensate, most musicians will turn the volume up by about 6db (twice the loudness), which can be fatiguing and damaging to the ear. Furthermore, the “open” ear is also subjected to dangerous sound levels. As you can see this is a lose-lose situation.

    Here are some suggestions how to avoid the “one-ear-out” situation:

    Make sure you have a stereo mix. Most performers feel disconnected and isolated with a mono mix.

    Use panning to create a spacious, realistic mix. Panning instruments as they are naturally found on stage will help you forget you’re wearing IEMs.

    Incorporate FX or ambience. Our brain is used to hearing ambience. Don’t be afraid to put a little reverb on sources or blend ambience mics to put “dimension” into your mix. Note: FX must be stereo. Ambience mics downstage left and right can be used to incorporate crowd noise into the mix so you can hear when someone screams “Free Bird!”

    Of course a great ears mix is more complicated than these three factors, but they can help in making mixes that will help you feel comfortable on stage and keep both earpieces in. This is the only way IEMs will truly protect your hearing while you enjoy great audio fidelity.

  • johnonthespot

    IEMs are a cheat for singers without a real sense of their own voices and are backed by bands that don’t understand what proper “stage volume” means. The human brain needs to hear the world how it naturally occurs with all frequencies in their proper placements (low, medium, high); IEMs take that away.

    The ONLY time an open ear is subject to “dangerous sound levels” is if you are playing selfish musicians who feel they need to be loud to be good.

    Feedback only occurs because of an incompetent sound engineer who doesn’t know frequency response in relation to the instruments within the mic’s sphere of influence.

    If you watch many live performances where a old school singers starts with two IEMs, not long into the set they pull one out. Why? Because the singers brain signaled that it needed to hear naturally occurring frequency response in a natural environment; it’s how we are designed to place ourselves within a three dimensional space. I have known singers to become disoriented with IEMs because their brains couldn’t judge their bodies overall placement in the world around them.

    All the details you gave about how the mix needs to be for an IEM i.e. stereo effects, panning, ambience etc. are just digital attempts to recreate the natural world. Why not just go with the natural world? Your brain needs to hear sound in its natural environment.

    The solution is not stuffing tiny speakers into your ears, but having a decent stage monitor mix and a band that understands that “louder isn’t better”.

  • Rodger Reed

    Amen.

  • Jay

    For any dynamic front man.. IEM’s are nearly essential.. the problem with stationary monitors.. especially on smaller stages.. is that each musician has different requirements for what they personally need to hear on stage.. As a dynamic front man.. you are moving around all over the stage.. and who’s to say that your bass player.. or guitar player are going to have your vocals as a focus in their mix? I understand where you are coming from.. and I always prefer to practice without IEM’s.. but this is in a studio jam space with excellent acoustics.. and I am much more stationary. But when Im on stage.. that is a different story all together.. I’m all over the place… even in the crowd.. or out on the street.. How the hell will I hear the mix from there? Your advice is sound for a singer that stands still.. not so much for the dynamic types though..

  • johnonthespot

    I have been a “dynamic” lead singer for the past 25 years. Toured the world in 1996 performing to over 50,000 people. I have never used IEMs and have NEVER had a problem hearing what I was doing.

    If you go into the crowd, you have the house mix to hear what’s happening. As for what the other players have in their mix – the solution is simple – create a “mix cue sheet” for the sound engineer who handles the monitor mix. Most times at bigger venues there is a dedicated monitor mix engineer, but some times its the FOH engineer running the monitor and main mixes.

    This sheet tells them what each mix should have. Break it down from a 4/5 way mix to a one way mix. This way the engineer has an idea what to mix and where. Discuss with the band that your voice needs to be everywhere so as you move about the stage area you will always have a little of your voice.

    The SIMPLEST, CHEAPEST SOLUTION? Wear ONE silicone ear plug in one ear (namely “Hearos”). This creates an inner ear sympathetic vibration that you can hear no matter how loud the band is, how poor the monitor mix usually is or where you are stage wise.

    Think about this: The Beatles would sing in front of 50,000 screaming girls without ANY monitors and using the ballpark’s announcement house system. They managed to sing in tune, harmonize and not have any musical train wrecks.

    IEMs are an expensive, unneeded solution instead of doing your homework.

  • Suz

    I was born with one ear (literally). I am a pro vocalist singing live and studio for over 30 years, with perfect pitch. I’ve always struggled with monitor placement and feedback.
    So I want to get an in ear monitor but need stereo in one bud. I’m concerned I won’t be able to hear the outside environment, as well as the mix.
    Any suggestions?….. I’m not sure where I can get one customized or if this a good option.

  • Alixandrea Corvyn

    I partially agree with you, but I’m afraid only partially! It depends a lot on the venue you’re playing, whether or not you have a competent sound engineer, and who you are playing with…

    I use one ear piece of my IEMs to just give me a little bit of extra boost, just so I can hear myself better, and have complete control over the volume of my voice in my ear. Just this little bit extra is all I need to be certain I’m giving my audience the best version of my voice, as I can hear the more subtle nuances which get lost in a floor monitor mix shared with other instruments.

    I wear a silicone ear plug in the other ear which helps to dampen the sound of the over-enthusiastic drummer in one of my bands, the over-enthusiastic guitarists in another band, and generally protects that ear from the loud stage environment in all my bands (I currently rehearse with five, and perform live with three).

    This set-up works perfectly for me, wasn’t hellishly expensive, and has been worth every single penny I did pay. However, I do think that monitoring for any instrument is completely personal, and each person has their own favourite way of doing things. I know one guitarist who likes to be almost completely isolated from the ‘real’ on-stage sound, and gets everything through a set of custom moulded IEMs. A singer who can’t get the spacial ‘realness’ right in IEMs and thus prefers to hear himself from the on-stage monitors. A keyboard player who loves his IEMs in principle but feels isolated in practice… It really does depend on the musician.