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Improve Singing Performance With In-Ear Monitors

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Read Time: 5 min

In-Ear monitors are designed to fit snugly into the singer’s ear canal. They are specially made and molded to fit the singer’s ear. These monitors can make a huge difference in the singer’s performance as they will heighten the quality of the mix being sent from the sound engineer.

In-ear monitors are made of two ear-pieces that are strung together just like ear-buds. The amplification system that power them is called a transmitter system and is purchased separately from the actual in-ear monitors.

Hearing Yourself Makes All the Difference

The better you can hear yourself sing the better your performance will be. You may have noticed how easy it is to sing when you are in the bathroom. All that reflection allows you to hear yourself so clearly that you stay in key and don’t over-sing.

When you can hear yourself clearly you will be less likely to over-sing by competing with the volume of the instruments and amplifiers. 

Even though a trained singer should be able to sing without hearing themselves at all, the optimal situation is to have a representation of your performance projected directly into your ear without impedance.

In-Ear Monitors Versus Stage Monitors

Stage monitors are the speakers you see at the very front of the stage. They are designed to sit at an angle pointing towards the singer. The soundperson can control how much of each instrument in a band’s ensemble is sent to the singer.

Problems begin with stage monitors when you have a bad sound person who is not capable of sending the mix the singer needs. Also, bleed from all the other monitors and the entire sound system can make it difficult if not impossible for a singer to hear themselves in their monitors. Additionally, when working a big stage, it is going to be difficult to have multiple monitors across the stage, meaning if the singer wants to walk around he or she will be limited.

In-ear monitors solves the problem of fighting with the mix to hear yourself singing above the other instruments. These devices are like having mini stage monitors installed right next to your eardrum. In fact, in-ear monitors can sound better than stage monitors in sound quality and range of frequency.

In-ear monitors are not perfect however. A bad sound person can still ruin a mix and make it sound too low, and in extreme circumstances they can ruin your hearing if an extremely loud signal is accidentally sent to your transmitter.

How to Select the Right Type of In-Ear Monitor

There are different type of in-ear monitors that will suit different needs depending on the instrument you play and the types of venues you perform at. Before shopping make sure you understand some of the main features you may need for your specific performances.

Fitted and Universal Sized

You can opt for non-fitted in-ear monitors which will slash the cost considerably, however you will not have the customized seal and make experience sound leakage. 

If you have the budget, custom fitted in-ears are recommended, but when you are just starting out universal sized monitors may be a better fit for your wallet.

Sound Quality

In-ear monitors have multiple drivers and depending on how enhanced you want your sound to be, you will select a different configurations to create the sound you are seeking. 

You can go for a lighter sound or you can the full range of frequencies including deep, bassy tones. The more range of frequency you opt for increases the number of drivers installed into the monitors which, in turn, will increase the price.


If you are just starting out as a singer and mostly performing at smaller venues, especially venues where you want to interact with the audience, you will want to consider ambient monitors. 

Ambient monitors have a sound portal that will allow a small amount of stage bleed through so you can hear your audience and interact with them. The amount of bleed is small enough that it will not upset the mix sent to you from the sound person.

Choosing an In-Ear Monitor Manufacturer

There are a few reputable companies you can choose from.  Two of the most popular custom in-ear monitor manufactures that you can also find at the NAMM conventions includes Ultimate Ears and Westone

You can purchase universal fit monitors from Shure, and you also generally receive a pair of these when you buy a full transmitter system as well.

Prepping for a Fitting

Getting fitted for in-ear monitors is similar to the process for a hearing aid fitting. You can choose to go to an audiologist to get your impressions if you are not near your chosen in-ear manufacturer at a cost, or you can have the actual in-ear monitor manufacturer take your impressions in their office if you are nearby.

Free impressions are also given at the NAMM conventions that can be used towards a later purchase.

At the fitting the impression-taker will squirt a substance into your ear canal to create the mold of your ear. Some people can experience slight discomfort as the material is injected into the ear. 

You may be advised to work your jaw like you are chewing gum to lessen any pressure. If you have a lot of hair, you can speed up your visit by wearing it back away from your face in a ponytail.


Selecting an In-Ear Monitor Transmitter System

In-ear monitors are no good if you don’t have a transmitter and receiver system. Some well known systems are manufactured by names including Sennheiser, Shure, and Galaxy Audio. These systems work by sending a  radio signal from the transmitter to the receiver.

Setup of your in-ear monitor system is rather easy: connect the transmitter to the soundboard via 1/4-inch cables. Plug the in-ear monitors into the receiver pack, which you will attach to your belt, waistband or guitar strap depending on which is most comfortable for you.

Some venues may have a house transmitter already available saving you the trouble of bringing your own system. 

If the venue does not, make sure to consult with the sound person ahead of time to ensure that he or she is familiar with managing an in-ear monitoring system so that you don’t run the risk of a bad mix. 

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