March 08, 2017
Singers in bands of all styles tend to face a very familiar problem: the inability to hear themselves when singing along with the band. This frustrating problem can cause vocalists to strain their voice trying to over project and have problems with pitch ultimately giving less than their best performance. The human voice has its own distinct limitations- unlike an electric guitar or bass, a singer cannot simply turn up the volume on his or her amp if they are not cutting through. However, taking advantage of technology can help vocalists hear themselves over the din of a loud band.
Evaluate the Stage vs. House Mix
When singing live onstage, keep in mind that what you hear onstage and what the audience hears can be completely different. If you feel like your vocals are getting lost in the mix, try to step off the stage if possible (a good time to get crowd interaction points!), and see how it sounds out front. Of course, this isn’t possible on big arena and festival stages, but it works fine at small venues, especially if you have a wireless microphone system (check out Carvin Audio’s UX1200MC Wireless System). If you have problems hearing yourself while the front row is getting blasted with vocals, signal to the soundman that you would like more of your vocals in your monitor. Also, if you want less of the other instruments in your monitor mix, as they will interfere with how clearly you hear your vocals, specify what you need changed during a break between songs. Ultimately, the house mix is the job of the soundman, but you do have control over what you want to hear onstage. The soundman only knows you want something changed if you tell him.
Make Sure Your Monitors are Working with You
While guitarists and bassists may be able to get away with not being able to hear themselves optimally, due to muscle memory and the ability to adjust EQ settings on their amps on the fly, singers are often a different story as hearing the pitch and nuance of one’s voice are essential to be able to sing accurately. When choosing a spot to stand onstage, make sure that the monitoring system is adequate and that you stand close enough to the monitors. Vocalists usually need more monitor wedges than other members of the band, so ask if you can move them, if they are part of a house system, where you need them. Of course, the quality of the monitoring system matters, as with any other pro audio equipment, and if a venue has a sub-par monitoring situation you will have to adapt to it.
Consider In-Ear Monitors
In-ear monitors can be a dream come true for vocalists. While useful for all band members, as they reduce the need to be tethered to one spot onstage, vocalists especially benefit from the crystal-clear, high fidelity monitoring of their voice, unhindered by onstage monitors or excessive clashing with other instruments, working as ear plugs letting you set your volume. It’s no wonder that in-ear monitors are the go-to system for seasoned professionals. They may look a little pricey, but not so pricey when compared to a power amp and a floor monitor. It’s an investment that will ensure a new level of vocal performance.
If you can’t hear yourself sing live, do not alter your vocal technique or overcompensate by shouting and letting your dynamics suffer. As an acoustic instrument, the human voice naturally cannot compete on its own with loud guitars, bass, and drums, so it’s essential to use the pro audio tools at your disposal to your benefit.
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5