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Personal Monitoring Systems
A personal monitoring system takes an individual’s monitor mix and sends it directly to the ears of that musician or singer.
If in a church with high ceilings and hard surfaces designed for acoustic music, choirs and sermons, there are a few problems. Some churches are acoustically challenged venues such as the ones meeting in a school gym or office building.
For a quieter stage, less feedback and more control over individual mixes, a personal monitoring system is the answer. Today, entry-level wireless in-ear monitoring (IEM) systems including transmitter, bodypack, receiver, and earphones are far less expensive than the equipment that first came on the scene in many mega-churches nearly 20 years ago.
To determine what kind of system will work best for you/your church, let’s assess your needs and those of the musicians and singers and the type of mixing console that you have.
Who will benefit the most from a personal monitoring system?
- Of course, vocalists will benefit from it, but also drummers will play quieter and more controlled with IEMs.
- Organists will also benefit, especially if they are located at the opposite end of the sanctuary. Time delays can be eliminated if choir monitors are fed into the organist’s personal monitor system.
- Pastors and teachers will benefit as the IEMs prevent feedback that comes from gooseneck microphones or lavaliers.
- Choir directors use it for cues to hear the pastor more clearly.
- It eliminates the “volume war offenders”!
- Audio engineers use IEMs for microphone placement in front of loud instruments. This lets the engineer walk right to the front of the amp cabinet and position it for the best audio without being exposed to louder than normal sound pressure levels.
Do you want wired, wireless or both?
Hardwired systems require the musicians and singers to be tethered to a cable. Drummers, back-up singers and keyboard players who are stationary on stage have no problem with being tethered and thus can take advantage of the lower cost and the simplicity that hardwired systems offer.
Hardwired systems also work without searching for clear frequencies. If several performers share the same mix, hardwired systems can be chained together without causing noticeable signal loss.
Wireless is more sophisticated and expensive. Also, it requires more attention to detail. However, the advantages are great: free-to-move worship leaders and musicians can hear a consistent mix from any location on stage. If several performers are using the same mix, they are easy to hook up. You can use however many wireless receivers as you need to monitor the same mix and there will be nothing harmed. No cables to trip over counts for something.
It depends on how many people are in your band and who needs a personal monitor. The band must collaborate and figure out what they want to hear in their mixes. Here are some ways to go:
Everyone wants to listen to the same mix, but this defeats the purpose of individual monitoring that allows each performer to hear themselves.
An inexpensive setup would be one for vocals and another for instruments. The performers individually choose how much of each mix they want to hear. However, band members must agree on the configuration. It is a cost-effective way to transition to personal monitors.
Another way to work with two mixers is to have a separate mix for the drummer. Drummers want to hear more drums in their monitors than the singers and other musicians do. Also, drums can be played acoustically, especially in small venues.
Assuming the vocalists agree on a mix of the vocal microphones when they share the same mix you get a good vocal blend. The lead vocalist could have an individual mix.
A great solution is to place some of the backup mics in the “instruments” mix and adjust the vocal mix to satisfy the lead singer, even if that means you must add some instruments to the “vocal” mix. This way you have an individual mix for the lead singer, a mix for guitars and keyboard that includes their vocals, and finally a drum mix that can include the bass player.
How many mixes does your console have?
Monitor mixes are created using auxiliary (AUX) sends from a mixer, either FOH console or a dedicated monitor console. Usually, a console of small format should have at least four AUX sends which are also used for effects. How many available sends that your console has will determine how many monitor mixes you can have.
Will you go with stereo or mono?
Most personal monitoring systems can go either way. Stereo requires two channels of audio so two sends are required to create a stereo monitor mix. It takes twice as many sends as a mono mix and it will quickly use up your AUX sends. If your mixer has only four sends, you can only create two stereo mixes. Mono can save you a lot of money.
How is your budget?
You can spend several hundred to several thousand dollars for a good wireless system. It is a good idea to start gradually with one band member at a time. It may take a while for all of the members to adjust to IEM after years of standing in front of a mic.
To determine what kind of system will work best for you/your church, first assess your needs and those of the musicians and singers and the type of mixing console that you have. Consider:
- Who will benefit from it?
- Do you want wired, wireless or both?
- Do individuals need their own monitoring system, or can they share?
- How many mixes does your console have?
- Do you want stereo or mono?
- How is your budget?
With all of these things taken into consideration, you will be able to make the right choice as you enter the exciting world of personal monitoring systems.