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Church Sound: Enhancing Personal Monitors/IEM For Happier Musicians

Dealing with the isolation issue...

By Gary Zandstra November 29, 2011

Image courtesy of Sennheiser

I regularly hear complaints from musicians about being too isolated with they use personal monitor mixers with headphones: “I feel like I’m in a studio” and/or “I feel like I’m in my own separate world.” 

These complaints often have merit because the only thing available to mix into their phones is the dry signals from the other instruments.

To solve this issue I’ve tried – with good success – a few techniques.

1) Add a feed from an audience response microphone into the mix. I’ve found by simply placing an open mic pointed toward the audience and providing that input to musicians provides them with some of the acoustical clues that they’re looking for. Those clues are things like hearing some congregational singing, hearing the house sound system, and the general ambiance of the acoustical properties of the space.

Our aural acuity and visual acuity need to work together. That’s a fancy way of saying what we hear needs to match what we see. Blending a little bit of an audience mix in helps our eyes to match with our ears.

2) Along the same lines, I will also add an open stage mic to the mix. I usually place the mic about halfway back from the front of the stage, and off to one side, at an “ear level” height. The simple logic behind that is replicating some of what their ears hear when they don’t have earphones in.

I’ve found that particularly with more mature (older) players, there’s a need to hear some of the stage wash. (They prefer more aural and visual acuity.)

3) Make it “wet.”  If there are still some channels open on a personal mixing system, I use one of them to insert some of the reverb return that I’m using on the vocal mics. When I faced with a shortage of channels, I’ve used this in place of the stage wash mic.

The key is keeping the effects time short and without too much depth. I’ve also found that musicians will usually love it immediately or hate it.


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About Gary

Gary Zandstra
Gary Zandstra

Consultant, Dan Vos Construction, Writer for Worship Facilities and ProSoundWeb
   
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.
http://garyzandstra.com

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Justin Bartlett says

I can’t imagine giving musicians control of wedge mixes for the exact reasons you discuss.  We use Aviom extensively, but when we have wedges on stage those are mixed from FOH.

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