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in-ear monitoring - it's groovy

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  • in-ear monitoring - it's groovy

    Just thought I'd let you know how well my new monitor solution worked out. I find I play an awful lot better if I'm sort of "in" the music, so that there's nothing going on in the world but what we're playing, and the only real way to do that usually is to have my monitor really far too loud. I know that all sounds a tad pretentious, and it's not like we're making great art or something - we're just a covers band - but it just somehow always feels better if it's, you know, loud.

    Obviously, loud is bad, and sometimes it's just not possible anyway, so I thought I'd try what a lot of people have suggested over the years and use in-ear earphones. I have a pair of Shure E3Cs which sound fantastic but which are also the least comfortable earphones I've ever worn no matter which of the many supplied sleeves I tried, so I did some research and discovered that Advanced Communication Solutions (ACS) make custom sleeves for an assortment of earphones, including mine. I made an appointment with a local audiologist from their list and after a bewildering four-week wait (I suppose quality takes time) I got a pair of silicone sleeves. It took a few goes to get them properly comfortable, but once I'd sussed it out they turned out to be fantastic. They fitted as though they'd been made for me. Which they had. So that explains that, then.

    So, I had the earphones and the plan, but what about the practicalities? We use a Mackie desk with an assortment of outputs but the two available for monitoring are mono while the mix-in on the TD-20 is stereo. It was important to me to use the mix-in so that I had a volume control within easy reach, so that I could listen to the metronome if I wanted, and so that I could take a drum-free feed from the desk and create my own mix without having to keep asking people to turn me up/down. I used a stereo lead with a stereo-mono converter at one end and it worked a treat (I'll probably make my own stereo-mono lead at some point).

    We arrived at the pub in plenty of time but the place was packed and there was nowhere to put our gear until the band who were on before us had cleared the stage. The drummer had a really nice Pearl fusion kit, but his cymbals sounded a bit weak and his snare was atrocious. I mentioned it to a friend of mine who also uses a Pearl kit and he said, "Yeah, my snare sounds bloody awful, too," so clearly it's a known problem. But I digress.

    So, we set up (surprisingly swiftly - I remembered to mark the rack with some gaffer tape to show how wide to open each side) and after a small amount of faffing about with my mix, we were off. I'd run the earphone cables down my back, inside my t-shirt, with the Y-junction bit taped to the back of my neck with Micropore which was surprisingly comfortable and looked suitably professional. Obviously I had a lengthy extension lead so I could move about if I needed to.

    The first song was a bit of a mess, monitor-wise, and more faffing about was required, but by about the fourth or fifth number everything was sorted out. I was listening at sane volume levels, but I couldn't hear anything other than us, and my concentration was better than ever before. I did miss a couple of questions from our bassist, and I missed an offer of a drink from our backing singer who made a trip to the bar during a song where she wasn't needed, but I was so pleased with the way we sounded in my earphones that I didn't really mind.

    So, um, in-ear monitoring: it's recommended.

  • #2
    Our set-up is a modest one, so we usually only use one monitor on stage (near me) and rely on being able to hear the backline and the main FoH speakers. We were all wedged into such a tight space this time that there was no monitoring on stage at all except mine which I took from the monitor out on the desk. If we needed more actual monitors on stage, though, could we not daisy-chain them - it's not like they all need wildly different mixes. That would still leave the effects send free for me to have my drum-free mix.

    I'm sure we'll develop a better solution (or run into insurmountable problems) as time passes.


    • #3
      So to reiterate, you run the monitor mix into the td20 then listen through your headphone outs?

      With a small set up do you ever have feedback problems from the singer's monitor (when you use a stage monitor)? I'd be worried about not having a limiter between your headphones and the monitor. Our venues are so small, and our singer NEEDS a monitor so we often have problems getting his monitor loud enough without feedback.

      Your solution sounds sweet. I often use a small acoustic set and recently considered acoustic triggers on them. So far, I was reluctant to unhook all the cables to my practice/studio e-kit, haul my TD20 module (and risk it at a gig) to trigger my acoustics...especially in a small bar that doesn't necessarily need it. However, if the TD20 can double as a headphone amp for a monitor mix in, it seems way more worth the effort to incorporate the TD with the acoustic setup! It would take up less room than a personal monitor and cut back on feedback potential.

      Easy Cheapo gig set:
      Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz, Mahogany; ultra portable 4 piece in custom DIY flame sparkle wrap.


      • #4
        Originally posted by thebaron View Post
        So to reiterate, you run the monitor mix into the td20 then listen through your headphone outs?
        That's exactly what I tried. It gave me control over how much drums there was in the mix (remember that for this to work the output from the desk has to be drum-free) and the volume (using the TD-20's headphone volume). I'd set up the outputs from the TD-20 so that the mix-in and click went only to the headphone bus and not to the master output - this is why I was never able to try it with my old TD-6 which just sent everything to the master output so that the mix-in (ie, the monitor feed from the desk) would have been sent back out to the desk mixed with the drums - I imagine feedback and unpleasantness would have ensued.

        With a small set up do you ever have feedback problems from the singer's monitor (when you use a stage monitor)?
        No, never. As long as our singer/rhythm guitarist can hear his guitar (and his amp is usually right behind him) he's pretty much got everything he needs. Everyone would like to be able to hear more drums, but life's like that sometimes. I can hear them fine


        • #5
          Originally posted by drbeat
          Number of reasons for the feedback:

          * Band is too loud for such a small stage area
          * A-kit is forcing the others to "turn up the volume", singer can't hear himself so increases the gain on monitor.
          * Monitor positioning is incorrect - should be in the mic's dead zone...usually directly in front of the mic
          * Monitor is at the side or pointing at the singers knees
          * Singer is deaf - so needs to get an in-ear solution.

          The usual catalyst for feedback is the a-kit. For such a venue as you describe you should use your e-kit.

          Since the demise of my a-kit at gigs - in favour of the TD-9 - our feedback issues have vanished...funny that? And we do all sorts of venues that are huge to bloody well small...too small in fact!

          Although I like the benefits of the E kit out and volume control, I like playing my A kit occasionally. It's not an option for me to banish the A for ease of monitoring. I like both worlds

          I've also found it's always the dang guitarist that drives up the volume

          You're right, our stages are usually so small that the monitors are too close and hitting the singer's knees. I think a 2x4 under it to increase the angle would do.

          Sounds like groovycat came up with a good setup, in general, though! Good job!

          Easy Cheapo gig set:
          Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz, Mahogany; ultra portable 4 piece in custom DIY flame sparkle wrap.