Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
Does in-ear monitoring help the live sound engineer?
In-ear monitoring has come a long way since it first started cropping up in the tour arsenal of a ##sel## few artists back in the 1980s. Does it help the Live Sound Engineer?
How does In-Ear Monitoring Impact the Workload of Live Sound Engineers?
In-ear monitoring has come a long way since it first started cropping up in the tour arsenal of a select few artists back in the 1980s.
Back then, the use of IEMs was a bold -not to mention expensive- experiment as to whether a band could perform just as well, if not better, without cumbersome monitors and side fills cluttering the stage. It was an experiment that produced positive results for those with the luxury of affording to carry it out.
Benefits of IEM
Freeing up the onstage talent to make the most of the space around them whilst retaining a consistent sound whether they rocked out with the drummer at the back of the stage or lurched over the front to sing in unison with the crowd, few artists who left the monitors behind when they went out on the road would ever go back to collect them once they discovered the benefits of in-ear.
Combine their benefits with the increasing affordability of kits like Shure In Ears, and it should come as little a surprise to find that IEMs have become commonplace on stages over the past decade or so.
No longer needing a rock star’s bank balance to afford them, more and more artists at all levels are hitting the stage with in-ear monitoring in tow, and never looking back.
Yet the artists themselves aren’t the only ones affected by the universal shift towards in-ear monitoring.
Consider the role of the live sound engineer, a role that has seen increasing demands thrust upon it in recent times.
Indeed, though advances in technology worked wonders in making things easier and less time consuming for most of us, for our engineers, there’s the argument that those same advances have only added to the engineer’s workload.
Take live recordings. Until the widespread growth of the Internet, recording a full live show was something that happened maybe once or twice in the proverbial blue moon for any given artist. Today, partly as a counter-attack against bootleggers, but mostly as an opportunity to make the most of the technology available to them, artists/engineers are moving to the approach of recording most -if not all- of their live performances.
Though some big budget artists can afford to bring somebody on board for the specific purpose of recording what is essentially an entirely new live album every night of tour, for everybody else, that task seems to be falling to the live engineer, adding a whole new load of responsibility on top of their already heavy workload.
Still, at least in-ear monitoring is there to lend them a hand. Whether they’re recording for post-show download sales or mixing for the live crowd only, even an entry-level model ##lke## the Shure In-Ear Personal Monitoring system can take much of the hassle out of ensuring that performers hear a clear, consistent sound no matter ##whr##, or how often, the talent leaps around the stage.
Likewise, when the band launch into their performance with in-ears in tow, engineers are able to eliminate much of the hard work that used to come from cancelling out the feedback caused by onstage monitors.
As with everything in life, there are drawbacks, too. Talking to different engineers before penning this article, we noted a growing trend in not only the artists themselves, but also their crew members all wearing monitoring headphones, and not always of the same model.
Though it may sound a little obvious to some, not all IEMs produce exactly the same sound, and if the live guy is dealing with a variety of setups, any easing up of their workload is quickly negated by the added time and complications of trying to parse everything into a uniform sound.
That being said, if you’re thinking of leaving those old wedges behind in favour of in-ear monitoring, opt for the same model for everyone in your entourage and do your live engineer a favour. After all, he’s got a busy enough workload as it is.