Commercial Music’s new technology: In-ear monitoring systems
By Mary Norris
The USC Upstate music program is upgrading its technology for practices and performances.
Commercial Music Combos rehearsing in the HPAC Recital Hall now have an in-ear monitor system available for their use. In-ear monitor systems function by having a mix sent to earphones worn by each performer to fit their audio needs and having a different mix sent through monitors facing the audience.
Musicians, for years, relied on wedge monitors, or stage speakers facing the performer, to hear themselves. While this is still the case in most small clubs and bars, almost any live performance you see now eliminates the wedge monitors and relies on in-ears instead.
During performances and rehearsals, student assistants can control the sound the crowd hears from a mixing board. “It allows us to make a cleaner mix, seeing as how microphones aren’t picking up unnecessary sound from wedge monitors,” Ian O’Donnell, a student assistant said.
Wedge monitors easily muddy the sound. As opposed to having to alter a mixing board in the front of the performance space and competing with guitar volume, the mixer is in the back, and each performer’s volume can be adjusted as needed. Performers get what they need in their ears, and the audience gets the best sound.
“Those running the soundboard are able to carefully control the mix when it comes out of the main speakers to the audience via volume levels, pan 1 and 2, etc., Noelle Taylor, a student assistant said. “This allows for a more intricate musical picture to be painted for the audience.”
In-ears also allow performers to better hear tracks made with music software like Logic Pro and Ableton Live. The musician’s track may also include a click track that the audience will not hear, so that performers can keep time. Performers are kept in sync with one another, given hands-on experience with the new industry norm for live performance, and student assistants learn how to mix sound with up-to-date equipment.
Dr. Griffin Woodworth said pricing played a big part in the inventory acquired. “Keeping the price down was a huge priority, and I was very proud that the whole monitoring system came in at less than $550 total, including the mic stand trays and cables,” Woodworth said.
“A system like this is within financial reach of just about any working band, and provides a much healthier monitor environment (lower overall decibel levels) while allowing the musicians to hear themselves better and to use software instruments,” Woodworth said.