Amplified Live Music

What do you need to do?

On-stage monitoring

  • Sound engineers can achieve greater control of on-stage levels through careful management of monitor levels, rather than expecting musicians to fight it out in a battle of escalating stage volume
  • High levels of noise lead to temporary hearing loss which leads to higher levels of noise
  • Effective personal monitoring will reduce noise exposure to all performers and workers

The need for musicians to hear their own performance and that of other performers is fundamental, but this can lead to an excessively loud and confusing stage environment if not planned and managed correctly. Monitor systems are often used to overcome high stage noise, but it is better to reduce those levels to achieve clarity rather than boosting other signals.

On a noisy stage it is seldom the answer to turn something up to make it clearer. Always satrt byturning down the overall level and making adjustments in the balance; the human ear just doesn't work well at high noise levels. For example, someone asking to hear more vocal in a mix may well just need to hear less of everything else; especially if that noise is spill from other monitor mixes.

A well-balanced monitor system should allow all the players to hear what they need at a comfortable level while maintaining a reasonable work environment for everyone else on the stage. This needs time and planning, as well as a skilful monitor engineer who understands the needs of musicians.

  • Position speakers to provide effective listening levels to the performer(s) concerned without causing excessive spill, which makes it harder for everyone else to hear what they need.
  • Monitor engineers should use their equipment properly and safely; this means:
    • Resisting the temptation to allow stage levels to creep upwards
    • 'Prepping' the system to place the right equipment in the right place
    • 'Ringing out' or tuning the system to identify problem frequencies which may cause rapid and unexpected feedback
  • All sound checks should be carried out with the minimum practicable number of people present.

Perhaps the most effective way of avoiding monitor spill is to use headphones or in-ear monitors (IEMs). IEMs and headphones allow a very quiet stage environment with benefits for all workers. IEMs have many benefits including clarity, controllability and comfort. The use of limiters with IEMs and with monitor headphones is strongly recommended.


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