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Live Gigs: Creating a personal monitoring set-up [Long!]

Messages
60
Hey hey, I hope this is the right place for this question (I couldn't find a 'Live Sound' forum section) but here goes:

For those of you who have any experience playing live with a band, I am sure that you are familiar with the trials and tribulations of monitoring. That is the art/science of being able to hear yourself and the rest of the band well on stage in different venues.

Often times we have to put the trust in the sound guy that they know what they are doing and that the venue has the equipment for a decent monitoring set-up however this isn't always the case and in my own particular scenario I am a deaf/hard-of-hearing guitarist which gives me quite a few additional hurdles and requirements for a very specific mix of frequencies.

To further add to complications, I play shows in NYC where, (to put it bluntly) you have to really have your sh*t together because you have 10 minutes to set-up and start playing with no luxury of a sound-check, if you go over your time slot before the next band are due, you face cutting your set short and venue managers are far from pleased.

So, is it possible to create a portable personal monitoring solution that is very quick to set-up?
What experience or tales do any of you guys have to share in regards to taking control of the personal monitoring of your shows?

Crucially, wireless technologies from the likes of Shure/Sennheiser & AKG may mean that a solution may be getting closer because I can't see a wired system being quick enough to set-up, but such things are still quite cost prohibitive.
I have seen wireless systems and add-on transmitters that can be plugged onto XLR microphones, does anyone here have any experience with the Sennheiser G3 wireless systems in particular?

Anyhow, it might be a long stretch, maybe no-one is looking into this kind of thing as it is such a complex and little discussed topic but I figured it was worth putting out there.

Happy new year to all and sundry!
 

speakerjones

Member
Messages
2,299
Hey spuddle. There's no short answer to your questions, but I'll try to help. You may want to check out the live sound forums at Harmony Central and Pro Sound Web for more info.

I'm an audio engineer by trade and have mixed in-ears for many artists and I'm a musician who uses in-ears himself. Setting up an in-ear rig can be very easy. In a professional situation with a professional sound engineer, it should be as easy as handing him your transmitter ahead of the show. He will be able to connect this to one of the aux outs on the console and give you a custom mix for your ears only. However, you want to make sure the engineer is one who's experienced in mixing in-ears. When you have drivers that close to your ears, you do not want to mess around. Also, you'll want to talk to the sound guy ahead of time to make sure they can accomodate you. You don't want to walk up 5 minutes before you go on and try and spring that on them.

The other way to go, retaining full control of your monitor mix, is to build a monitoring system which will include a mixing console, mics, monitors for each band member, possibly mic splitters, and all the cabling to go with it. This is expensive and will take time to set up initially, and before each gig. This is the set-up I had for my 4 piece rock band. We had a Yamaha 01V, 4 Shure PSM's, and mics for everything. We had it set up so that we could either hand the sound man a snake with all of our inputs on it, or just a left/right mix. It was compact and easy enough to set up, but wasn't practical for situations where we had to get our stuff set up and be playing in 5 minutes. For those quick and dirty festival type situations, we dealt with playing with regular monitor wedges. It just served to remind us how good we had it when we played with in-ears.

The only effective way to use in-ears is to have almost complete isolation from the ambient on-stage sound. This means you'll have to mic everything that you'll need to hear. For me, that's everything - drums, bass, all vocals, keys, and guitars. That means everything gets a mic or a DI. Even if you use cheaper mics and cables, things are going to add up and make for a substantial cost. When I decided to try convincing my whole band to switch over, I borrowed some from the shop for a week (you could probably rent locally from a sound co.). After a week of rehearsals and one show they were all hooked and purchased their own.

As I said, I use a Shure system, the PSM600 with Future Sonics buds. I've also had great luck with Sennheiser's systems. Audio Technica probably makes a decent one. I wouldn't dabble with the lower end stuff (Nady, Galaxy, etc.), but that's just me. My hearing and performances are too important to me. You can start out with the generic ear buds, but eventually you'll probably want to get custom ear molds made to get better isolation and more comfort for those long gigs. It may seem expensive, but in the long run it's not much more than a good amplifier and monitor wedge will cost you and it will be considerably lighter! And consider it an investment in your health as well, because if you keep listening to loud/bad monitor mixes, whatever hearing you have left will not last long. Good luck!
 

traviswalk

In the Great State
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
13,659
Hey spuddle. There's no short answer to your questions, but I'll try to help. You may want to check out the live sound forums at Harmony Central and Pro Sound Web for more info.

I'm an audio engineer by trade and have mixed in-ears for many artists and I'm a musician who uses in-ears himself. Setting up an in-ear rig can be very easy. In a professional situation with a professional sound engineer, it should be as easy as handing him your transmitter ahead of the show. He will be able to connect this to one of the aux outs on the console and give you a custom mix for your ears only. However, you want to make sure the engineer is one who's experienced in mixing in-ears. When you have drivers that close to your ears, you do not want to mess around. Also, you'll want to talk to the sound guy ahead of time to make sure they can accomodate you. You don't want to walk up 5 minutes before you go on and try and spring that on them.

The other way to go, retaining full control of your monitor mix, is to build a monitoring system which will include a mixing console, mics, monitors for each band member, possibly mic splitters, and all the cabling to go with it. This is expensive and will take time to set up initially, and before each gig. This is the set-up I had for my 4 piece rock band. We had a Yamaha 01V, 4 Shure PSM's, and mics for everything. We had it set up so that we could either hand the sound man a snake with all of our inputs on it, or just a left/right mix. It was compact and easy enough to set up, but wasn't practical for situations where we had to get our stuff set up and be playing in 5 minutes. For those quick and dirty festival type situations, we dealt with playing with regular monitor wedges. It just served to remind us how good we had it when we played with in-ears.

The only effective way to use in-ears is to have almost complete isolation from the ambient on-stage sound. This means you'll have to mic everything that you'll need to hear. For me, that's everything - drums, bass, all vocals, keys, and guitars. That means everything gets a mic or a DI. Even if you use cheaper mics and cables, things are going to add up and make for a substantial cost. When I decided to try convincing my whole band to switch over, I borrowed some from the shop for a week (you could probably rent locally from a sound co.). After a week of rehearsals and one show they were all hooked and purchased their own.

As I said, I use a Shure system, the PSM600 with Future Sonics buds. I've also had great luck with Sennheiser's systems. Audio Technica probably makes a decent one. I wouldn't dabble with the lower end stuff (Nady, Galaxy, etc.), but that's just me. My hearing and performances are too important to me. You can start out with the generic ear buds, but eventually you'll probably want to get custom ear molds made to get better isolation and more comfort for those long gigs. It may seem expensive, but in the long run it's not much more than a good amplifier and monitor wedge will cost you and it will be considerably lighter! And consider it an investment in your health as well, because if you keep listening to loud/bad monitor mixes, whatever hearing you have left will not last long. Good luck!
Genius post!
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,312
Hey spuddle. There's no short answer to your questions, but I'll try to help. You may want to check out the live sound forums at Harmony Central and Pro Sound Web for more info.

I'm an audio engineer by trade and have mixed in-ears for many artists and I'm a musician who uses in-ears himself. Setting up an in-ear rig can be very easy. In a professional situation with a professional sound engineer, it should be as easy as handing him your transmitter ahead of the show. He will be able to connect this to one of the aux outs on the console and give you a custom mix for your ears only. However, you want to make sure the engineer is one who's experienced in mixing in-ears. When you have drivers that close to your ears, you do not want to mess around. Also, you'll want to talk to the sound guy ahead of time to make sure they can accomodate you. You don't want to walk up 5 minutes before you go on and try and spring that on them.

The other way to go, retaining full control of your monitor mix, is to build a monitoring system which will include a mixing console, mics, monitors for each band member, possibly mic splitters, and all the cabling to go with it. This is expensive and will take time to set up initially, and before each gig. This is the set-up I had for my 4 piece rock band. We had a Yamaha 01V, 4 Shure PSM's, and mics for everything. We had it set up so that we could either hand the sound man a snake with all of our inputs on it, or just a left/right mix. It was compact and easy enough to set up, but wasn't practical for situations where we had to get our stuff set up and be playing in 5 minutes. For those quick and dirty festival type situations, we dealt with playing with regular monitor wedges. It just served to remind us how good we had it when we played with in-ears.

The only effective way to use in-ears is to have almost complete isolation from the ambient on-stage sound. This means you'll have to mic everything that you'll need to hear. For me, that's everything - drums, bass, all vocals, keys, and guitars. That means everything gets a mic or a DI. Even if you use cheaper mics and cables, things are going to add up and make for a substantial cost. When I decided to try convincing my whole band to switch over, I borrowed some from the shop for a week (you could probably rent locally from a sound co.). After a week of rehearsals and one show they were all hooked and purchased their own.

As I said, I use a Shure system, the PSM600 with Future Sonics buds. I've also had great luck with Sennheiser's systems. Audio Technica probably makes a decent one. I wouldn't dabble with the lower end stuff (Nady, Galaxy, etc.), but that's just me. My hearing and performances are too important to me. You can start out with the generic ear buds, but eventually you'll probably want to get custom ear molds made to get better isolation and more comfort for those long gigs. It may seem expensive, but in the long run it's not much more than a good amplifier and monitor wedge will cost you and it will be considerably lighter! And consider it an investment in your health as well, because if you keep listening to loud/bad monitor mixes, whatever hearing you have left will not last long. Good luck!
In other words, no way, if you've got 10 minutes to setup and are playing mult-band shows. <g>

I would spend your efforts at rehearsals, getting your band to come up with a stage setup which allows everyone to be perfectly balanced instrumentally w/o PA, hear each other clearly, have solos come up, etc.

At your gigs, tell the soundguy you want vox only in the monitors and you'll be all set.
 

GCDEF

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
28,448
When time is of the essence and you don't know much about the PA or have control over it, the most effective thing you can do is learn how to position and set your stage amps so that you can get a good instrument mix without monitors. Throw some vocals in the monitors and you should be good to go with minimal fuss.
 
Messages
60
Hey spuddle. There's no short answer to your questions, but I'll try to help. You may want to check out the live sound forums at Harmony Central and Pro Sound Web for more info.

I'm an audio engineer by trade and have mixed in-ears for many artists and I'm a musician who uses in-ears himself. Setting up an in-ear rig can be very easy. In a professional situation with a professional sound engineer, it should be as easy as handing him your transmitter ahead of the show. He will be able to connect this to one of the aux outs on the console and give you a custom mix for your ears only. However, you want to make sure the engineer is one who's experienced in mixing in-ears. When you have drivers that close to your ears, you do not want to mess around. Also, you'll want to talk to the sound guy ahead of time to make sure they can accomodate you. You don't want to walk up 5 minutes before you go on and try and spring that on them.

The other way to go, retaining full control of your monitor mix, is to build a monitoring system which will include a mixing console, mics, monitors for each band member, possibly mic splitters, and all the cabling to go with it. This is expensive and will take time to set up initially, and before each gig. This is the set-up I had for my 4 piece rock band. We had a Yamaha 01V, 4 Shure PSM's, and mics for everything. We had it set up so that we could either hand the sound man a snake with all of our inputs on it, or just a left/right mix. It was compact and easy enough to set up, but wasn't practical for situations where we had to get our stuff set up and be playing in 5 minutes. For those quick and dirty festival type situations, we dealt with playing with regular monitor wedges. It just served to remind us how good we had it when we played with in-ears.

The only effective way to use in-ears is to have almost complete isolation from the ambient on-stage sound. This means you'll have to mic everything that you'll need to hear. For me, that's everything - drums, bass, all vocals, keys, and guitars. That means everything gets a mic or a DI. Even if you use cheaper mics and cables, things are going to add up and make for a substantial cost. When I decided to try convincing my whole band to switch over, I borrowed some from the shop for a week (you could probably rent locally from a sound co.). After a week of rehearsals and one show they were all hooked and purchased their own.

As I said, I use a Shure system, the PSM600 with Future Sonics buds. I've also had great luck with Sennheiser's systems. Audio Technica probably makes a decent one. I wouldn't dabble with the lower end stuff (Nady, Galaxy, etc.), but that's just me. My hearing and performances are too important to me. You can start out with the generic ear buds, but eventually you'll probably want to get custom ear molds made to get better isolation and more comfort for those long gigs. It may seem expensive, but in the long run it's not much more than a good amplifier and monitor wedge will cost you and it will be considerably lighter! And consider it an investment in your health as well, because if you keep listening to loud/bad monitor mixes, whatever hearing you have left will not last long. Good luck!
Jalford, thanks for taking the trouble to write about some of your experiences, really helpful and gracious post indeed.

You reference the use of IEM (in ear monitors) a lot and yes it would be great if the rest of the band could invest in these for themselves.
For my personal situation I wear BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids and thus have what amounts to another kind of IEM but for every waking moment of my life as I cannot hear anything without them :)
The company who make the hearing aids (Phonak) have a nice run of accessories including a neck worn loop system that can receive direct audio wirelessly so I am almost set in that regard.

You mention what must amount to a typical personal monitoring set-up which is to mic up all the instruments and run cables to a personal mixer which you can feed everyones wireless IEMs from. This is great and definitely relatively affordable these days but does not offer that <10 minute set-up / break-down time which is very allusive.

Therefore I am speculating as to what kind of multichannel gear may become affordable in the coming years that allows a sort of plug and play of instrument mics wirelessly to overcome that need to lay down cables everywhere.

Anyhow, thank you for the insights, very valuable to see what is feasible if one has more time to set-up on stage.
 
Messages
60
In other words, no way, if you've got 10 minutes to setup and are playing mult-band shows. <g>

I would spend your efforts at rehearsals, getting your band to come up with a stage setup which allows everyone to be perfectly balanced instrumentally w/o PA, hear each other clearly, have solos come up, etc.

At your gigs, tell the soundguy you want vox only in the monitors and you'll be all set.
When time is of the essence and you don't know much about the PA or have control over it, the most effective thing you can do is learn how to position and set your stage amps so that you can get a good instrument mix without monitors. Throw some vocals in the monitors and you should be good to go with minimal fuss.

Now this is the route that my band have been taking and we are definitely getting familiar with our un'miced (except for vocals through PA of course) sound in rehearsals. The key is definitely paying attention to the volume levels, too loud and you run into problems, our drummer is unfortunately on the loud side and so we do have a small case of volume wars but the general awareness with the band is always improving.

I would love to also play with EQ shaping more to get a better balance between the amplifiers and since we are self-producing our recordings we are learning a lot about the ideal frequency ranges to allot to our respective instruments.

However due to my hearing condition I still have immense difficulty hearing sometimes in rehearsals and thus will definitely be looking at the cabled route to mic'ing our instruments and getting familiar with creating a personal monitoring solution. As Jalford mentioned, the use of cheap microphones and budget mixers will make this whilst still fairly costly in total, the most affordable route for now.

Does anyone have any recommendations of cheap clones of the Shure SM57 and AKG D112 mics as these would form the basis of mic'ing the amplifier trio.

Thanks for your input guys, tremendously helpful!
 




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