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Author Topic: Do IEMs prevent vocalists from blending?  (Read 830 times)

Gordon Waugh

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Do IEMs prevent vocalists from blending?
« on: February 28, 2018, 06:31:42 pm »

Our church band consists of keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, and 3 or 4 vocalists. There is a pool of about 8 vocalists of widely varying ability. Our keyboard and drums have been on IEMs for a couple of years. We just added the bass and guitar player to IEMs which eliminates a wedge monitor.

I am the sound team leader and drummer. I just suggested to the band leader that we consider eventually moving the vocalists to IEMs to eliminate the large amount of monitor sound (from the remaining two wedges) washing into the audience. She doesn't want the vocalists to use IEMs because she says they need to hear each other naturally to help them blend (and they need to hear all of the instruments and singers in their monitor mix to help them blend--although that's not as important). When I said, you can hear the other singers in your monitor mix, she said that's not the same.

I don't really understand this. The band leader was a vocal music major and toured with her college's large choir, so she is used to singing without amplification and listening to the singers around her. I assumed that a vocalist only needs to hear the keyboard, drums, and the lead vocal. And I assumed that she/he only needs to hear the other band members in the monitor rather than naturally.

I asked one of the vocalists whether he can hear all of the other vocalists naturally. He said he only hears the person on his left and the person on his right. Therefore, I question the ability to blend using natural sound.

What are your thoughts?
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Gordon Waugh

Taylor Phillips

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Re: Do IEMs prevent vocalists from blending?
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2018, 09:09:44 pm »

I've never used IEMs as a musician or a vocalist, so take that into consideration before accepting what I have to say.  Anyway, I would say that on a loud stage where the vocalists need monitors to hear each other, using IEMs vs wedges should not make a difference.  Using them right, it can actually help protect their hearing in the long run.  Now, if the stage is quiet and the monitors are only needed to give the singers a better reference for rhythm and pitch, then it could take some time for them to get used to them, but in the end, since you should be using pre-fade mixes for them, they should be able to blend just fine. 

As for your current wedges, with only two, you shouldn't really have a problem with them washing into the audience unless they are simply too loud, or your space is too small.  You only need to put through them things that are difficult for the users of the wedges to hear.  So, if you have an acoustic drum kit and guitar amp on stage, don't put those in the wedges.  If you have electronic drums, and guitar, bass, and keys are all going direct, then you might run into the problem of having too much in them for the vocalists to pick out what they need, and they in turn ask for either "more me" and it cycles into a louder and louder mix. 

I do think there is a tendency among some to go a bit too far in reducing stage volume to the point where it can seem less "real" or more unnatural, especially to those with a classical background.  Since your band leader appears to fall into that category, that might be more of the reason for her resistance to use IEMs than the ability for the vocalists to blend.
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Erik Jerde

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Re: Do IEMs prevent vocalists from blending?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2018, 09:34:07 pm »

Quick answer:  No.

Properly mixed the vocalists should be able to blend just fine.  Lots of people, pros and amateurs produce great results daily using IEMs.  The vocalists will need to adjust to a different way of doing things, have buds that fit properly and sound good (custom or not this applies).  Properly mixed is key, they may not have the talent to do it themselves with personal mixers, or that may take the most training of all.  All that said, if they have a mental block against it fixing that will be the hardest part and you may not be able to fix that.  This is why it's super important as the engineer in a church setting to have a great relationship with the entire worship team so that you can speak into misconceptions like this with the authority and trust built up through a good working relationship.
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