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Monitor Feedback

Sonic Cuisine with Wes MaebeLet’s talk about one of the most important ingredients of your live performance: monitors -says Wes Maebe

Hey all. Great to have you back for my next rant.

Some of you may have spent the entire budget on a killer studio mic (I would, but then again, I’m a GearSlut).  

Some of you may have gotten fed up with smelly, half destroyed vocal mics at the venue and rehearsal rooms and have purchased a personal road worthy performance microphone.

Now I invite you to join me and crawl out from our studio hidey-hole, catch some daylight and go out on the road.

Let’s talk about one of the most important ingredients of your live performance … monitors.

The Basics of Bad Feedback

When you’re having to deal with your own P.A. set up at smaller gigs, corporate events, weddings, bar mitzvahs and birthday parties, there’s a few little things you can do the make things a lot more fun.

Always make sure that your main P.A. speaker cabs are set up in front of your microphones.

At all costs, you want to avoid the main speakers feeding sound straight into the microphones. That will generate feedback.

Another one to look out for is hyper-cardioid microphones, like the Shure β58; mics like these do pick up a little sound from the back.

If you have positioned your monitor right behind it, the mic will start to feedback at some point.

The place to put the monitors with mics like these, is slightly off-axis. In this situation you’ll generally see two monitors on either side of the mic stand.

Should You EQ Out the Feedback?

In the monitor world we tend to EQ out the problem frequencies with parametric and graphic EQs.

I’ll explain briefly what these are. The graphic does what it says on the tin. On the front panel of this EQ you will see a bunch of mini faders, graphically representing the frequencies from Low to High. Slide them down to cut that particular frequency and push them up to boost.

The parametric EQ has rotary pots instead of the little faders to cut and boost, set the bandwidth and sweep through the various frequencies.

In small set ups, you’d be tempted to reach for the EQ on your vocal channel and EQ it out like that.

Obviously, this will alter the sound and the character of what’s going to come out of the main P.A. compromising what you want your audience to hear.

In this instance I suggest you strap a graphic EQ across your monitor send and use that to EQ only the monitor mix.

Basically, what I am suggesting here is that you take the output of the console’s Aux send you’re using to feed your monitors, plug it into the input of your EQ and then feed the EQ’s output to your monitor wedges or in-ear monitoring system.

There are apps available for the various smart phones that display an audio spectrum analysis.

(Check out Studio Six Digital’s JL Audio app for example.)

This will show you a rough guide as which frequencies are feeding back in the monitors and then you can simply pull them out on your graphic EQ.

And if you’re on in-ear monitors, none of this will be an issue. (Yes, we’ll debate monitor types in an upcoming post).

Have fun, communicate and show the audience what you’re made of.

That way they’ll give you the kind of feedback you want.

Here’s to great monitor mixes.


  • Anonymous


    I enjoyed the article.  Why two monitors off to the side when using hyper-cardioid mics?  It would seem one monitor off to the side at a higher volume would do the same thing.  Or do the two monitors cancel each other out and cause less feedback?


  • Wes

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your comment.
    No real reason for the two monitors other than that the Hyper-Cardioid has two zero-spots at the back. So when carefully positioned these two monitors can give you a nice spread and it also means you don’t have to run one single one so hard.
    Aesthetics also come into play I suppose. Two looks nicer and that way you have two boxes to put your foot on and look cool :-)
    You obviously could wire those two out of phase to reduce feedback, but I do not recommend that as it will provide a very weird sound for you to perform with and in certain cases make you feel physically sick!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Wes!