If you are new to in-ear monitors, chances are, they are not your favorite. It's tough to get the mix just right and you often feel isolated from everyone else in the room.
After employing the tips in this post, I believe you will end up loving your in-ear monitors. When properly mixed, in-ears offer a much better result than traditional floor wedges - for you and the congregation.
If your in-ear mix is in stereo, utilizing the panning feature works wonders. Pan the acoustic guitar a bit to the left and the electric guitar a bit to the right. You can do the same with vocals and other instruments, but I recommend keeping drums, bass, and your own instrument or vocal dead center.
It is amazing how big of a difference even the slightest panning adjustment can make. The sound becomes much ‘wider’ and enables you to hear different instruments more clearly.
Keep in mind, you must wear both headphones for this to work. Also, you’ll want to avoid ‘hard panning’, which is when you pan something all the way one way or the other. In general, you don’t want to go further than halfway between center and the direction you are panning.
There is nothing that messes up a mix more than the roaring low end of a vocal. Start by cutting the low end on all vocals (200Hz and below). Then, if they sound too thin, bring the low end back up until you are satisfied.
In-ear monitors are designed to offer complete isolation. This means you get a signal that is completely dry…which often sounds dead, unless you use reverb.
To keep things simple, you can mix in the same reverb that the sound tech is using on the main mix. I recommend turning it up until you can hear it, and then dialing it back a bit so it blends in.
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It’s common to see musicians with one ear in and one ear out. Although there are times to do this (like in the quieter moments when you want to hear the congregation sing), for the most part, you should keep both of them in.
When wearing only one headphone, your ears are in two different rooms, so to speak. Not only can this can be damaging to your hearing, but it gives your brain a hard time trying to blend the two things together.
In short, you’ll get a better sound using both headphones and employing the tips above to improve your mix.
Of course, the quality of your headphones can make or break your mix. But, this doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds on a custom pair of headphones (although if you have the budget, I am sure you wouldn't regret it).
I started with the MEE M6 Sport Headphones. At around $20, these are inexpensive and offer decent quality, although a bit lacking in the low end and a bit harsh on the highs.
Then, the same brand came out with MEE M6 Pro Headphones. At around $50, they are more than twice the price but totally worth it. I use these headphones every week and have no complaints. The lows are far superior to the Sport-Fi version and they also stay in your ears better.
These are the things I have found improve in-ear mixes, but I am sure there are others. Feel free to share your tips in the comments below.
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