The rise of the in-ear monitor
Is the ear monitor to blame for some of the bad sound coming from the gospel stage? Some commenters think so. Thus Thom:
Another thing that may have contributed to the poor house mixes the last couple of years is the IN EAR monitor that so many groups are using. I understand the appeal: No big monitors to lug around, (sometimes platforms are too small to accomodate big monitors anyway), each singer can control his own monitor volume etc, etc. BUT, if you are only mixing your sound to sound right in your own monitor then you are often neglecting your sound quality in the house mix. And if you are wearing an ear monitor, please try not to fool with it all night long. Someone asked me why a certain singer was always “scratching his back” “he must have dry skin!” I laughed and said “no, he was trying to get his ear monitor adjusted!” LOL. plus I’ve heard people ask..”is he wearing a hearing aid?” etc. Just get the thing set right before the concert begins or take it out.
Reader MM likes the in-ear monitor he uses, but with an important caveat:
I have just started using an in ear monitor as I direct our church choir. they are fantastic. But the first thing i noticed is that wearing an ear bud in each ear, you are totally detached from the audience. You cannot hear anything but the monitor in your ear. I still kept one bud in, and could hear the mix fine, as well as listen to the choir and the house sound. I recommend the in ear only if you have a sound man mixing for you, and you only use one ear bud.
What MM says about being detached from the audience lines up with something Libbi Perry Stuff writes in a comment as well:
I wouldn’t wear them if I didn’t have too, due to the fact that it does take away the live feel. We have a crowd mike but sometimes it just isn’t the same effects. We have a sound man, and he worked hard in Fort Myers, but that’s just a hard building to get good sound in.
I asked her later in a follow-up exchange to elaborate on in-ear monitors. She says that she and Tracy Stuffle have to use in-ear monitors in order to hear properly, while Nick Trammel and Joseph Habedank use floor monitors:
I think [ear monitors are] why singers sometimes look as if they are singing to a brick wall. You just don’t have the live presence in ear monitors.
I must say, all this is a pretty convincing, if not air-tight, case that the in-ear monitor at least contributes to bad sound (even if it isn’t a direct cause of it) by disconnecting artists from too many of the externals that would otherewise help them notice problems with and ask for adjustments to the house mix. So with all this lined up against ear monitors, is the portability and compactness worth it? Is there a way to use in-ear monitors that don’t cut artists off from the live experience?
Update: Commenter T-Bone writes:
The other thing that should be noted is that a “good house mix” is a subjective thing in the first place. Just because you may think the “piano was buried in the tracks” doesn’t mean that the group performing would necessarily agree. Everyone seems to assume if the house mix isn’t to their liking that it’s because the artist is unaware of how it sounds. In many cases that may be true, but I also believe that many times the artists are fully aware of what the house mix sounds like and perfectly satisfied with it as such.
I find this both persuasive and a bit dubious. Yes, good house mix is subjective, but not entirely relative. The kind of sound, for instance, that I heard at the Perrys/BFA thing last week couldn’t have possibly been esteemed “good” by any acceptable professional standard. Could it have been better and still not suited me? Yup. But it seems likely that the disconnectedness universally attributed to ear monitors must be contributing at least in part to bad house mixes that go uncorrected.Email this Post