With vocalists, having them speak, “test, test, test” into the mic is not helpful.
I have all the vocalists sing a chorus of a song together (usually with piano for melody), setting up their gains, and ultimately adjusting their monitors.
The hand signal works great at this time as well.
Once we get through the whole band, I have the band run a verse and chorus, and make any adjustments needed.
Some engineers prefer to have the band just jam while they set up levels and dial in monitor mixes.
That method can work, but I’ve found it takes a lot longer than a methodical, organized approach.
I like to start off my board set up with the gains pretty close to where they end up, and even some rough monitor mixes in place before the band even arrives.
I know from the experience of mixing the band week after week roughly what they’re going to want, and can usually get within two to three tweaks of a good monitor mix very quickly.
There is something comforting to a musician to hear themselves coming out of their wedge when they set up; and when they feel comfortable, it’s easier to make them happy.
Once they’re happy, you can get on with the business of building a great house mix.
Mike Sessler is the technical director of Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. In addition, he’s the author of the blog Church Tech Arts which is also featured on ProSoundWeb.