Floor wedges vs In Ear Monitors: The Pros and cons of both

One of the most important things for a musician when they are on stage is the need to be able to hear themselves clearly, if they can’t, they are going to produce a sub-standard performance.  There used to be only one way of doing this and that was through what is known as a floor wedge or floor monitor, this is simply a speaker that is placed in front of the musicians so that they can hear themselves. As you can imagine, these speakers would be quite bulky and take up a lot of space on stage, especially if there is a large amount of musicians on stage, all requiring monitors.

This issue has now been solved with the invention of in ear monitors or I.E.M’s. The clue is in the name as t how these work, just like a floor monitor but rather than having a massive speaker on stage, each performer has a set of in ear headphones in which they can hear themselves and whatever else they require, for example, a click track if the performer is a drummer.

The debate about which monitoring method is best has been going on for years and there are pros and cons to both forms of monitoring, let’s start with the pros and cons of floor monitors:

Pros

  • Less expensive – A fully functioning in ear system can cost hundreds of pounds)
  • No sound blocked ( having in ears can sometimes block out the noise of the crowd etc.
  • Freedom of movement – if a performer isn’t on wireless I.E.M’s, they are attached to a cable.
  • Shared mixes – If time is not on a bands side, the engineer can arrange to have various band members using one wedge, not ideal, but time efficient.

Cons

  • More noise on stage – If you combine the front of house speakers, guitar amps and several monitors on stage, it sure is gonna get very loud, very quickly.
  • Less space on stage – Again, combining the amps, instruments and people with more bulky monitors doesn’t create the most comfortable stage plan.
  • more chance of feedback  – Because of the amount of things blasting out at you and the audience.
  • No chance of a custom mix – for some musicians, having a custom mix is essential, such as the drummer needing a click track at times, you can’t put a click through a floor monitor or the audience will hear it, not good.

As you can see, having a floor wedge has its advantages and disadvantages, now onto in ears. If you’re gigging week in week out like me, I would suggest investing in some in ear monitors, we’ll go through the pros and cons of these now:

Pros

  • Hearing protection – In ear monitors are designed to block out as much noise as possible to protect the hearing of the wearer, with in ears, the harsh frequencies like that produced from the crash of drum cymbals are either blocked out completely or blocked to a certain extent so you can still hear them but just not as loudly.
  • Custom mixes – With in ears, you can have a mix that is custom made for you, this take quite a lot of time during soundcheck but is well worth it. The quality of a mix can make or break a performance for a lot of musicians, if you can’t hear yourself or can hear too much of yourself, things could go horribly wrong. Thankfully with in ears, the sound levels can be adjusted without affecting anybody else in the band.
  • You can hear more clearly – Because your monitor is literally in your ear, you can hear everything more precisely and be really locked into the rest of your band members, this helps your performance a great deal.
  • They look cool  – I know, probably not the reason anybody chooses in ears, but I must say, I like the fact that I’m wearing what the pros wear, it makes me feel cool, okay? Try not to judge me!

Cons

  • Expensive – A good quality in ear system can burn a rather large hole in your wallet, we’re talking £500 + if you want the high end stuff. For your first set, I wouldn’t recommend going out and spending that much, get something quality but within your price range!
  • If they break, you’re done – This doesn’t happen too often if you look after them, but if they do break and you don’t have a spare set, then your kinda stuck, musically and financially. Especially if they break on stage and you don’t have a wedge running too, which is not likely.
  • Could cause hearing damage – If your sound guy isn’t responsible or experienced, they could send a massively hot feed to your ears, this could potentially damage your hearing if it keeps happening, before you switch to in ears, you have to be sure that the engineers your working with know how to handle their desks properly.
  • They can’t always be used – I’ve had experiences of going to a venue, telling the sound guy that I run in ears, and having them freak and not know what to do with these foreign objects.. dude… just run an XLR cable from your desk to mine.. oh well.

These are my personal pros and cons, added to the extensive argument as to which way works best. Personally, once I switched to in ears, using a wedge was never the same, I just couldn’t do it, and I’d imagine its the same for many people that have made the switch. A fellow session musician friend of mine described using in ears as “hearing in HD” and I have to say, his right.

SIDE NOTE: I wrote a little review of my Moxpad X6 in ears, take a read!: https://garycunninghammusic.wordpress.com/category/reviews/page/2/

 

 

 

 

5 Things I’ve learnt from my first three months of touring

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated this blog in a long time, as much as I apologise for this, I do have a very valid reason.

Since the beginning of March, I’ve been on a UK tour with a Northern Soul Band called “The Signatures.” It has been one of the best experiences of my career, but it has also had its challenges and various valuable lessons.

1) Don’t eat fast food (too much)

This tour is the first time I’ve been away from home properly without my parents around, so of course I took this as an opportunity to eat whatever I wanted. BAD IDEA, after the first two dates, I quickly learnt that getting by on the energy of McDonalds. is not going to see you through a show and it is not going to make your insides feel very good either. Obviously, everyone eats junk food on the road, but as long as you balance it out with the odd fruit pot and flavored water, you’ll be fine.

2) Sleep as much as possible on the bus/ at home

On this tour, we are only on the road during weekends  and during the week, we go back to our normal mundane lives, we also drive back home on the same night for some of the gigs. This involves various days of getting in at 5:30/6:00AM, this renders me and various other members of the band shattered the next day. This is why its important to get as much sleep as you possibly can when you’re on the way back from a show or the next day once you’re at home, if you don’t make time to sleep, you’ll end up becoming unwell pretty quickly.

3) Try your best to get to know the sound guy of every venue by name

This can be quite hard sometimes, but it is also quite important to make sure at least one of the band members knows the sound guys name, especially if you want your show to go well. For me, its integral to know the sound guy because he is the one in charge of my monitor mix and because I’m running in ear monitors for this tour, having a good or bad mix really does affect the way I perform and play on stage. If the sound team and I are on first name terms, I feel more comfortable asking for certain things, such as the adjustment of my monitor mix. Another thing I try my best to do, is to shake the hand(s) of the sound guy(s) and general venue team and say thank you, it may take that little bit of extra time, but it makes them feel appreciated and they won’t forget it very quickly.

Further to this point, you will get the odd sound guy that can be rude and sometimes let the power of being in control of your sound go to their head. If you meet a guy/girl like this just nod and smile, as tempting as it is to tell them wear to stick their advice/demands.

4. SPARES SPARES SPARES

This lesson was a very hard one for me to learn and it certainly isn’t one I will forget in a hurry, I really learnt it the worst way possible too. We were on our last show of the first month of the tour, and it was a hometown show for me, literally in Billericay, the town in which I live and grew up in. We get on stage and begin setting up, I plug everything in, go to switch on my keyboard… NOTHING, literally not lights, sound, nothing! To say I was bricking it was an understatement! I unplug my power supply and check it to be greeted with the heart breaking sight of bare wiring, which basically means the power supply isn’t going to work… I was stressing, the band were stressing and I wanted the ground to swallow me up.. thankfully, a fellow keyboard player lent me his keyboard and I had to learn how to use it on the fly. It’s safe to say that I will not be making that mistake EVER again!

5. Enjoy it!

I’ve been very fortunate to have my first touring experience at the age of 19. It has been stressful, crazy, sweaty, tiring, absolutely hilarious and genuinely the best experience of my career. The tour hasn’t ended yet either, which is good because I don’t want it to for a while! The musicians in The Signatures are outstanding and have a wealth of knowledge that I have learnt so much from dipping in to, asking questions and by simply watching how they do things in the studio and  on stage. There will be some videos of our shows and some behind the scenes stuff real soon!

Thanks for reading, I hope the advice has helped you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made!

The Unfinished Record

The Unfinished Record

The music industry and the sound of unsigned music seems to be going through another evolution as of late.

I’ve reviewed various bands for my unsigned music blog recently, and they all had one thing in common. Their finished releases didn’t sound.. finished. That’s a bad thing, right? WRONG. The evolution that the unsigned music world is going through right now, is that many unsigned bands (dependent on genre) are releasing records to the world without having them perfect.

For example, the vocals aren’t smothered in auto-tune (everyone knows how much I hate auto-tune, if you don’t, READ THIS) and sometimes they aren’t even at the front of the mix, they’re buried deep behind the lead guitarist. I’m not going to lie to you, this did get on my nerves at first because I was so used to hearing that perfected, fixed up, radio perfect release for so long. Becoming a regular music blogger opened up my eyes to the dark, under-belly of unsigned material. It took me a while to appreciate it, but now? I love it!

It works so well, you can really feel and appreciate the amount of effort and heart that has been put into these sorts of releases, the imperfect product has a certain charm to it that you’ll never hear when listening to mainstream radio. The amount of chaos that I’ve heard within these records is astonishing, it sounds as if these sorts of bands have just hired a studio, plugged in their instruments, hit record and just started playing random notes! I’ll tell you now, to the commercial labels, that is their idea of a recurring nightmare.

BUT it’s an ever-growing trend to push out, raw, un-edited music! It really works in my opinion, but you need to have a certain character about you to sit down and enjoy it.

Is the unfinished record going to be the new way of doing things in the future? who knows? What I will say is this: listening to music that is raw has helped me discover a new side to the industry I fell in love with at the age of 9 (yes, 9), it has shown me that you don’t have to rely on expensive equipment to produce something of high quality, and it’s shown me that no matter what, don’t give a damn what people think, release what makes you happy and proud to be an artist, and eventually, people (like me) will catch on and appreciate right along with you!

My thoughts on episode one of The Voice UK

My thoughts on episode one of The Voice UK

Popular TV talent show “The Voice” returned to our screens this weekend, bringing with it some new rules and new coaches as well as the return of fan favourites Will I Am and Sir Tom Jones.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this season so I sat down with an open mind. I have to be honest, I was very very underwhelmed with the standard of contestants within this first episode. None of them really got my attention or got me excited, and to be frank, some of them were awful!

There was one contestant that got my attention and made me excited and that was the final contestant “Mo” performing “Iron Sky”. I could just tell that he really wanted a turn and he really deserved it, his passion during his audition was like nothing I’d seen in a while and certainly blew the other contestants out of the water, I predict a bright future for him on the show.

The same can definitely not be said for his friend Max Vickers who performed “You Can Call Me Al”. I use the term performed very loosely.. It sounds harsh but he just couldn’t get ahold of himself or his vocal technique during this performance, he genuinely sounded and looked like he was having a fit on stage! Remarkably, he got a chair turn from of the new coaches Gavin Rossdale.

Over the last few years, the standard of performances on The Voice UK has been shocking, the American’s, Australian’s and all the other countries are blowing the UK out of the water, we don’t have a leg to stand on at the moment and we haven’t for quite some time. The shows should be about showcasing genuine talent, not about sticking someone diabolical in front of millions of people to make good TV, they’ll only end up showing themselves up in the end.

Overall, I am completely disappointed and underwhelmed by the first show, even the coaches performance (bar Jennifer Hudson) was mediocre. I hope that in episode two, things improve drastically.

The Musician’s Muse – Episode 2 – Social Media and The Music Industry Rant, Music from Pacific, Justin Bieber Walk Off

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In this episode, Gary talks about social media within the Music industry, plays you music from one of his favourite unsigned bands and gives his two cents on the recent Justin Bieber stage walk off.

LISTEN TO EPISODE 2 HERE

Links

Pacific’s feature on the blog

Justin Bieber walks off stage 

Pacific on Soundcloud 

The Musician’s Muse (Podcast)

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I’ve decided to create a podcast guys! It’s called The Musician’s Muse and is essentially an audio version of this blog! Here it is:

https://www.podomatic.com/embed/html5/podcast/5489041?style=square&autoplay=true

I hope you enjoy the show, it’s going to be a weekly show, published on Tuesday’s. Episode 1 has already been published, feel free to go and have a listen and share around with your friends!