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Stage Monitoring - how to get it right

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Hi everyone, this is my first blog on TMV and I hope you'll find it useful.

I'm both a singer/guitarist and a sound engineer who mixes a lot of different bands at locations from 50 persons to open airs with more than 10.000 people watching the show.

During the last 10 years of stage work I've worked with a lot of singers and found out that even some of the most experienced musicians don't have a clue about what they need in their monitor mix to play a great show.

So here are some simple tricks to get you the best stage sound possible in any given situation.

1. Point out what you need in your technical rider!

There is no use sending the venue a rider that does not state what you need _exactly_.

Instead of "we need 4 wedges" be exact and state for example "4 times 12"/1" wedge monitor on 4 independent aux-sends with seperate 31-band EQ for each send. Must not be self made or no-name".

Sometimes it's a good idea to ask for a little more than you actually need to get what you need :-)

2. Know what you need in the mix

I often hear "give me everything". That just does not work! There might be some singers that are fine with a main mix on their monitor but in most cases it's not the way to go.

Simple reason for that: Unlike the audience in front of the stage that will hear a mix made for them, you'll have a lot of sound coming from guitar- and bass amps, drums etc. so a main mix (made for the audience) on your monitor will most likely give you too much drums, bass and guitars while your voice (or any other instrument you play) will not be heard as clearly as you want it.

In addition to that, a lot of low-frequency signals in your monitor mix will reduce the maximum sound pressure that your speaker can handle. I.e.: If you put the bass guitar on your 12" monitor, you'll reduce maximum output in the vocal-range by as much as 6-10dB. That is _a_lot_!

The way to go is as simple as that: Let the band play with a rough main mix on the PA already made up and try to figure out what you're missing in the mix you hear on stage. First thing will be your own voice so have that added to your mix.

Next thing is to look for some tonal information, guitar or keyboards for example. You have to hear at least one of those for cues and to find the right notes so have a little bit of guitar and/or keyboards added to the mix.

Then you need a timing information. If you're far away from the drum kit, try a little bit of Hi Hat added to your monitor as this will give you the best possible information about the timing.

3. Have the backline right

This is something very handy for a clean mix on stage: Tell your guitarist(s) to put their amp(s) on the side of the stage, facing the opposite side instead of building a "wall of sound" behind the band and blow straight out to the audience. Not only will that help with the monitor mix as you will most likely not need to get so much guitars in the monitors, but it will also help the sound person to get a better main mix because of less bleed from on stage.

Guitarists should always have their speakers at ear height, so they will hear themself better plus getting a sound thats good for the microphone as well.

Have the bassist standing next to the drum kit on the Hi Hat side so he/she gets timing information from the Hi Hat as well.

4. Have a good microphone and good monitors

If you bring your own equipment, be sure to have the best possible!

Cheap mics and monitor speakers will give you bad sound and a lot of feedback instead of a great mix with ease.

Don't even think of buying 15" monitors for less then 400$ each - you simply can't make a quality monitor for that amount of money!

The exact same thing is true for microphones: A 20$ mic will cause feedback, bad sound and less clarity in the mix. Go for a good one!

I hope this is of any help. Comments are welcome!


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