Learning how to sing with in-ear monitors can be a bit of a challenge. I have been using them for about 12 years now, and I am still making adjustments to be able to sing without straining and without damaging my hearing. The first few times we used them, I thought we would never adjust. While they are incredible for players, they can cause trouble for singers unless the singer employs some practical techniques to overcome the unnatural sound of hearing the voice deep inside the ears. We’re used to hearing our voices go away from us, and we are used to hearing a more ambient sound when singing on a mic. Some singers will sing with only one ear monitor in to overcome this problem, but that can cause other problems. We will discuss these problems and how to resolve them.
Although there are times when it absolutely necessary to pull an in-ear out because of technical issues, it is best to leave them both in to save your ears and your voice.
Often you will see stars take one out on award shows because time may not allow for getting good settings on everyone’s monitors, because of all the quick changes between performers. I would not want to be in charge of all of those technical issues. That sounds like a nightmare to me! But no worries – no one would hire me for that position anyway, so we are all safe haha!
In those situations, the singer does whatever is necessary to make it through the song in the best way possible. We must remember to extend grace to those performers under those circumstances because we have no idea what their in-ear mix sounds like. There is always a very good chance that they can’t hear their own voice, which is why they pop one in ear out. The problem with not being able to hear their own voice is that they have to push and over sing in order to hear themselves over the band in the house mix. This can cause pitch problems and just all-around bad singing. So let’s be sure to cut them some slack and give them the benefit of the doubt if they aren’t sounding up to par. They could be dealing with a number of stressful obstacles, as if singing for millions isn’t stressful enough under the best of circumstances.
Hear are some strategies for singing with in ear monitors that we have found helpful for preventing vocal problems, hearing loss, and allowing for free and easy singing.
1. It is a great idea to allow plenty of time for getting your settings the way you want them before show time.
2. Set your voice above all other levels. Set the levels where your comfortable loud singing is comfortable to your ears. If you push past the point of comfort and begin to strain your voice, it will sound too loud in your ears and remind you that you are over singing which never your best sound and can hurt your voice in the long run.
3. Remember to use air when you sing and don’t sort of hold your breath. With the sound directly in your ears, it is sometimes hard to remember to sing freely. A little trick that we have been having success using lately is to pretend that we are directing our voices to go through the mic into the room. Sort of like the vocal warm up exercise that you can watch here.
4. If you have the luxury of room mics, or audience mics, turn them to a good level to help you hear a more ambient and natural sound.
5. Set your levels in the safety range to protect your hearing. This is one reason it is best to keep both monitors in your ears. When you take one out, often it is necessary to turn the other one to compensate. This can damage your hearing and that damage is not reversible. You also may over sing, which can cause trouble with your vocal mechanism. We want to avoid both of these things for certain! Take great care of your whole instrument.
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