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The nuts and bolts of in ear monitoring


NEWS FLASH – It can be done cost effectively AND you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make it happen. When I was growing up, I learned to ask these questions about the subject: who, what, where, when, and why? In that same spirit, I would like to answer the questions related to in-ear monitoring.

1. Who should use in-ear monitors? 

Basically, anyone can use in-ear monitors because there are so many advantages. For the smaller band or solo artist, it enables you to use tracks and make the sound bigger than just a solo. For the growing band, it enables you to lock down 

the tempos and use instruments either as a confidence booster, or in addition to what you are playing. For the sound person, they create a drastically reduced stage volume. For the larger band or event, they enable you to automate lyrics, lighting and video.

2. What should you use? 

The possibilities are endless. You could spend less than a hundred dollars or thousands of dollars. First, decide on what kind of budget you have. Next, determine how many mixes you want. On a lower budget, the musicians would most likely share a mix. When you get into a need for individual mixes, your costs will go up. Lastly, you will want to decide if you want the ability to use them wirelessly or if you are okay being wired to something. My experience with the myriad of artists that I’ve worked with is that being wired is the most cost effective and, frankly, is less problematic. If you travel, using wireless monitors necessitates frequency coordination and can be difficult in major metropolitan areas. Most worship groups are not “entertainment-driven,” so the need to move around a stage and dance is minimized. From a Salvation Army point of view, space is usually a premium so the ability to move in general is limited.

3. Where would you use in-ear monitors? 

Honestly, the sky is the limit. We have used them in corporate settings for less than 60 people and we have used them in arena settings for thousands. The ability to make your sound bigger is appealing, but the ability to practice with tracks and really “sharpen your sword” is priceless. Even if you choose not to use in-ear monitoring and tracks for worship, the ability to practice and prepare with them can create some big dividends. I love the proven adage that you’ll only get out of something what you are willing to put into it. That’s why rehearsals and personal practice are important. In the same way, if in-ear monitoring enables you to practice more or perform better, then to God be the Glory!

4. When should you use in-ear monitors? 

This answer is similar to the previous because they can be used anywhere. Is a campfire circle the best place for them? Probably not. But if your desire is to give an offering that is pleasing to God and excellent, then in-ear monitoring certainly enables that ideal.

5. Why should you use in-ear monitors? 

I’m not sure if everyone understands all of the benefits of them, but first and foremost, they protect your hearing when used properly. Secondly, they make it much easier to hear yourself and others. As mentioned previously, they drastically reduce the sound on your stage which makes it easier for a sound person to do their job. This is not a phenomenon of any sort, it just eliminates the monitors on stage needing volume that cuts through the other instruments, particularly drums and guitar amps. A third reason for using them is the ability to play with a click (metronome) and backing tracks. This isn’t cheating, but it is enabling. For instance, when we have brass players with us who are sight-reading, we can give them the previously recorded tracks in their monitors, so they feel more confident about the roadmap and their performance. We can also choose to use the backing tracks in the house speakers which creates a bigger and often more refined sound. With in-ear monitors, there can also be pre-programmed cues for the musicians which keeps everyone on the same page.

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