Using In-Ear Monitors To Make Band Practice Sound AwesomeBy Philip Kaplan
Imagine if rehearsals didn’t sound deafening and horrible. And instead sounded clear and pleasant, like listening to music on your headphones.
Welcome to the world of in-ear monitoring. It’ll change your life — and doesn’t have to be crazy expensive.
Photo of my band rehearsing, above. Notice mics, headphones, and in-ears.
Here’s what you need. (pro tip: eBay)
- Mixer (with enough inputs for each instrument)
- Microphones (for each instrument that can’t plug directly into the mixer)
- Headphones (in-ear or sound isolating)
- Headphone splitter (with enough outputs for each musician)
- Headphone extension cables (or wireless bodypacks)
Any mixer will work. Just make sure it has enough mic inputs for all the instruments in your band. Don’t worry about how many aux sends it has (or busses, or which are essentially the same thing for our purposes), since you’ll all be listening to the same mix.
Explanation: Simply put, the number of aux sends a mixer has is how many individual mixes it can produce. When you use wedge monitors on a live stage, each musician wants his own mix (dummer wants to hear more of the bassist, guitarist wants to hear more vocals, singer only wants to hear himself…), so the venue’s mixer has a lot of aux sends. But when you’re in the rehearsal studio and everything is mixed perfectly like a CD, the whole band will want to hear the exact same mix. So any mixer will do, as long as it has enough inputs.
Budget example: Samson MDR1064
Medium example: Mackie ProFX12
Fancy example: PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2
Each instrument has to be either mic’d (ex: vocals, guitar amp) or fed directly into the mixer (ex: keyboard, bass guitar).
Get creative with drums. An overhead mic + bass drum mic will do. Or if you’re insane like me, mic each drum (and trigger the bass drum).
Also, you won’t be able to hear each other talk. So everyone will need a nearby mic to communicate. I’m a drummer and don’t sing, but (as you can see in the pic above) I wear a headset mic so my bandmates can hear me talk.
Budget example: Pyle-Pro PDMIC78
Fancy example: Lots of fancy mics out there for recording. But for rehearsal, stick to the mics listed above.
Everyone in the room needs headphones.
If you want your mind blown, get custom-fitted in-ear monitors. That’s what pros use. They block all outside sound so you get a perfect mix (no more loud drums blasting your eardrums). An ear doctor squirts goo in your ear to take measurements — then you wait about 2 weeks for them to be manufactured. Not cheap though. But you get to choose from many different colors and get your initials imprinted on them. So there’s that.
A more budget-conscious decision would be to get sound isolating headphones. They go over the ears and are tight. And sweaty.
Whichever you choose, if possible you should get a couple of sound isolating headphones to have laying around for guests. Everyone in the room needs headphones.
Budget example: Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones (Over-ear, great to have extras of these for guests)
Medium example: Westone UM1 (In-ear, not custom fitted)
Fancy example: Westone ES5 (Custom fitted. Don’t buy online — buy from an ear doctor).
Otherwise known as a headphone amp. It splits the signal from your mixer to each set of headphones (or in-ears). It also gives each musician his own volume knob for his headphones.
Example 1: Nady HPA-8 - Powers 8 headphones.
Example 2: Behringer HA8000 - Power 8 headphones. Also allows each headphone to have its own source, meaning if you decide you want 8 distinct (separate, unique) mixes, this is the splitter for you.
Getting sound from the mixer (well, headphone splitter) to your headphones.
Budget example: Headphone extension cable (1/4” male to 1/8” female)
That’s it! Your ears will thank you.