How to Mix In-Ear Monitors 

by | Audio, Production

Welcome back everyone, I received a few questions regarding moving away from stage monitors and going to In Ear Monitors, so I have laid out a basic plan to get that transition moving forward. As your musicians and worship teams gear up to take the stage, a question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is: how can I keep my monitors sounding great while keeping my team equipment footprint as small as possible? 

Slimming down doesn’t mean bringing on a dedicated monitor engineer, With a wireless in-ear system and a little preparation, you’ll have the tools you need to create great-sounding monitor mixes from venue to venue. 

“Why In-Ears? Can’t I Just Use My Monitor Wedges?”

It’s a Great question and one of the questions I’m asked the most. In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) will ensure all performers on your stage or platform get a consistent monitor mix night after night, Sunday after Sunday, and playing in unfamiliar settings.  If a monitor mix is a priority, invest in IEMs and a full wireless in-ear system of your choice and make sure everyone on your team knows to re-create their custom mixes every time you play out. This will prove a key ingredient in creating a quiet stage wherever has the freedom to play at their peak.

Know the Gear You’ll Need

First importance in creating solid in-ear mixes is knowing the tools for the job. Your custom-molded in-ears are just the tip of the iceberg. You’re also going to need the following:

  1. A wireless bodypack receiver for every performer onstage. Bodypack receivers receive audio being sent from a mixing board to the performer for monitoring. Premixed audio is fed from the bodypack to the performer’s in-ears by way of a slim, discreet cable. The bodypack clips onto the performer’s belt or slips into their pocket to keep in-ears from yanking and tugging through movement. Options come as simple as the Xvive U4 wireless system (which can send up to six bodypacks a shared mix from a single XLR output) or as sophisticated as a fleet of Sennheiser Evolution Wireless bodypacks, each with their own mix.
  2. A ready-to-rock rack of wireless transmitters. In order to receive a monitor mix on your in-ears, your bodypack must first be transmitted an audio signal from the board. This is called a transmitter. Most times these devices will need to be tethered to a stage box or soundboard. You can also streamline your setup by putting together a pre-wired rack with all your receivers tooled up, labeled, and ready to go.
  3. Cables and accessories. Whether it’s XLRs for wireless receivers, BNC cables for wireless antennae, or Ethernet cables for personal monitoring devices, don’t assume the church will have the accessories you need for your wireless systems. Always bring these in abundance. That goes double for power supplies!
  4. Behringer/Midas/Presonus board? You’re in luck! If your church uses an X32, M32, or X-Air digital mixer—and many do today—you’re in luck. Behringer’s PowerPlay distribution systems and P16-M personal monitor mixers give stationary players (drummers, keyboardists, etc.) studio-like control of every sound source sent to their ears directly from their stations onstage. No wireless transmitters or receivers are required here. Your IEMs plug directly into the P16-M boxes like a standard set of headphones.

Understanding the Lingo

“I need more me!” is the battle cry of every stage performer fighting for real estate in a bustling mix. Unfortunately, it does little to clue in the sound person what’s keeping you from hearing yourself in your in-ears.  Learning how to communicate with your engineer will give you the best chance of being able to hear yourself clearly onstage. Try to be as descriptive as possible, like:

  • “Stage-left vocal needs less bass guitar in her monitor mix.”
  • “Keyboard player needs more kick drum in his ears.”
  • “Guitar player’s amp sounds too dry in the monitor. Can I get a little monitor reverb?”
  • “Horn section only needs backing tracks. Mute everything else.”
  • “Lead vocalist’s voice sounds muddy onstage. Can you use a high-pass filter?”

Naturally, there’s a level of diplomacy and grace that’s needed when communicating with your engineer. Be willing to roll with the challanges, but also learn to speak up when poor monitoring is putting a damper on your best performance.

Know the Software

With a little pre-planning and a couple hours logged in front of an iPad, you’ll be set to start creating custom in-ear mixes for your next performance from the comfort of the stage. Most digital mixers on the market today have companion apps that’ll give any device with Wi-Fi direct access to their essential functions – including monitor sends, channel panning, and more. Just find out in advance what soundboard the club you’re playing uses and make arrangements necessary to connect. You’ll probably need to know the venue’s Wi-Fi password and mixer’s IP address to get started. 

Sound complicated? Don’t worry. Once you’ve got a mix or two under your belt, you’ll be flying through soundchecks.  

Here are the major mixers and companion apps to know today:

  • Behringer X32 and X32 Compact – X32-Mix (iOS) and X32-Q (Android) apps
  • Behringer XR12, XR16, and XR18 – X AIR app (iOS/Android)
  • Midas M32 and M32R LIVE – M32-Mix (iOS) and M32-Q (Android) apps
  • Yamaha QL1 and QL5 – QL StageMix (iOS) and MonitorMix (Android) apps
  • PreSonus StudioLive Series – UC Surface app (iOS/Android)

Don’t know where to start? YouTube tutorials are a great way to learn the ins and outs of each app!

How to Mix In-ear Monitors (IEMs) Without a Dedicated Tour Engineer

Understand What Makes a Great In-ear Mix 

As the honorary mix engineer for your group, your bandmates will rely on you to help them set up their own in-ear monitor mixes. This means you’ll want to learn each member’s personal preferences and have some handle on what makes for a workable in-ear mix. Some good rules of thumb are as follows:

How to Mix In-ear Monitors (IEMs) Without a Dedicated Tour Engineer
  • Keep an eye on input gain as you build monitor mixes. In an ideal world, you’ll want the meters of the console, transmitters, and receivers all peaking just below “0”.
  • Use each player’s instrument/voice as the foundation of their personal monitor mix, then blend complementary sources to taste. Every player will most likely want to hear themselves loudest in their mix at all times.
  • Decide to mix in stereo or mono. Stereo in-ear feeds sound great, but they may double the number of aux outputs you need from the board. If you can get by with mono mixes for most performers, aim for simplicity. 
  • Learn which players key into which sources. It’s common practice that a drummer will want to listen to the lead vocalist for cues, the bass player will need to hear the kick drum for rhythmic tightness, and the keys player will want to hear the bass to build walking lines.
  • Trim the fat where you can. Too many sound sources in every players’ ears can cause clutter. Only feed performers the sound sources they need. 
  • Bring your own ambient mic. Molded in-ears can be disorienting to greenhorn live players. You can help free them from their mix prison by routing a dedicated crowd or stage mic to everyone’s ears. 
  • Check in often. Make visual contact with your bandmates after the first song to make sure everyone’s happy with their mix. If a bandmate is urgently vying for attention, you can be sure they’re having trouble hearing themselves.

You are on your way to making your House of Worship Sound better, it will take some work and investment but in the long run your worship team, musicians, and singers will be much happier with the In Ear Sound and that will make for a better delivered message to your congregation. if you have any questions please email me at bdipaolo@worshipfacility.com, talk to you next month!

 

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