Ever wondered what your favorite musician or singer is hearing on stage while you are jamming to their tunes? Well, it may surprise to know that what performers hear on stage can be wildly different from what you hear as a listener in front of the stage.
You see, performers on stage are typically positioned behind the main speakers which blast out music to the audience. They are also in the middle of a whole lot of sound and racket coming from the stage itself. Whether it be the drums, or the sax, or the background singers…
There is a lot going on on stage to produce the delicious music you enjoy while in front of it. This is where earpieces come in. Let’s take a look at what they are and most importantly, what does the performer hear when wearing them.
What do the singers hear with their earpiece while performing on stage?
Singers hear exactly what they want to hear in their earpieces. Earpieces or in ear monitors, allow the singer to monitor what’s going on and hear themselves. They can be tuned by a sound engineer to only feed specific sounds like the singer’s own voice, the singer’s voice and the piano, or the melody of the music, the backup singers etc.
They also help protect the singer’s ears from excessively loud sounds and isolate outside noise of the performance in general — so the singer can concentrate on singing.
So what are those fancy earpieces called?
Now we know what singers and other performers hear in their earpieces, let’s dissect what these pieces actually are.
The earpieces you see used by performers on stage, audiophiles and other stage speakers using are called In-Ear Monitors (IEM). As the name suggests, they are sophisticated devices that are moulded in the shape of the wearer’s outer and inner ear and can be used to monitor the audio ongoing in a personalized way while also excluding outside noise.
How do in ear monitors work?
These devices come wired or wireless. They are usually worn by the performer, who also wears a wireless receiver belt pack. This is the device you may see bulging from the performer’s clothing.
The wireless receiver gets sound feed from a transmitter that is operated by a sound engineer. The transmitter is the device that can be used to select the sound type the performer will hear from their earpiece.
It’s a straightforward system that works well, and has revolutionized the live performance industry, increasing the quality of music we get live.
What do in-ear monitors (IEM) sound like?
So what exactly do those earpieces or in-ear monitors as we have now established sound like. Are they better than simple earbuds or earphones? Let’s see.
Being professional gear, in-ear-monitors provide clear and full sound to the wearer. Because they are generally custom fitting and also noise isolating, the wearer typically has the sensation of being in their own world. Hearing a rich sound that is clear, and at a higher frequency than regular earbuds.
Mind you, the actual feed can be tuned by the sound engineer, to have more bass for example. Exactly how the performer wants it.
You can even try replicating this feeling yourself. All you have to do if you don’t have access to professional in-ear monitors is to tightly wear in-ear earbuds or earphones with silicon tips. Make sure your ears are well plugged so you feel in your own bubble, then listen to your favorite song in acapella while singing along. This is a basic version of what these devices do at a higher level. It does take a lot of practice to be able to sing at a moderate volume while listening to yourself in an almost isolated environment.
Can singers and performers hear the audience?
In-ear monitors are fitted to the wearer’s inner ear. They typically fill it up completely, thereby eliminating most of the outside noise. Depending on the intensity of the performance and concert, it is possible though that the performer hears the audience, at a very much reduced volume. To get the full experience though, singers sometimes just take them off. We’ll see in the next section when and why singers take out their in-ear monitors.
Why do singers take out their IEM earpieces?
There are many reasons why you would want to take out an ear blocking earpiece during a performance. Here is a list of possible reasons.
- They get uncomfortable to keep wearing — Performing is no walk in the park. Singers are full of emotion. Some dance, shout. It is a pleasant but intense event for the performer and they do get hot and sweaty. In ear monitors then become quite bothersome to wear, and musicians may take them off for this reason.
- The singer wants to feel and hear the audience — As we mentioned above, these IEM usually eliminate most of the outside noise and greatly reduce the atmosphere of the performance for the singer. This is why singers usually sometimes remove them, to hear and feel the show they are putting on and the response of their fans and audience.
- They become distracting — sometimes these IEM end up being a distraction rather than help the singer follow the music. In these cases, they may be removed during the performance and then get reset during the interval or break.
- If the feed gets out out of sync — Performance can be unpredictable and technical glitches do happen. Sometimes, the feed coming into the earpiece becomes out of sync with the ongoing performance for whatever reason. This is highly confusing for the performer and they may be forced to remove their IEM temporarily.
So there you go, you now know what singers and other performers hear from their earpieces while performing. We hope your doubts have been cleared and your questions answered. These earpieces are a brilliant invention for singers and have contributed to the high-quality live performances we have become accustomed to. Now you know what they do.
Thanks for visiting and best wishes.