musicians electronics

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When I watch professional musicians playing live concerts, they will occasionally fiddle with a box hanging behind their back and with an earpiece. What are those objects, and how are they used?
How is that different from the box strapped to the back of the guitar strap?
When the singer talks into a microphone at the back of the stage, who is he talking to?

In: Technology

3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Box and earpiece: this is an in ear monitor, they are to protect hearing and allow them to hear themselves and the band clearly, sometimes they have a
metronome or backing track playing too.
The box strapped to the guitar strap would be so they can play wirelessly (without a big long guitar cable) i think.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A musician will often get a live feed of the music as it’s been processed through the amps and speakers into a headset on their ear. This can help them figure out if they need to be singing louder, playing quieter, etc to get a good balance. They might fiddle with the receiver to change the volume.

If they’re talking to someone backstage, it may be one of any number of support personnel. Sometimes the sound guy in charge of the mix will be backstage and they may need to instruct him on where to balance the mix to make sure nothing is getting drowned out or overbearing. Or it may be just asking someone for something they need, like a water bottle or a backup microphone or anything like that.

Anonymous 0 Comments

All of those pieces of technology are intended to solve several problems of playing larger venues: the difficulty of hearing other musicians on stage if you’re 20-30 feet away from them, the problem of being tethered to your amp by a cable, and the problem of protecting your hearing.

The earpieces are called *in-ear monitors* and they are connected to a wireless receiver that usually attaches to your outfit somewhere. They are headphones that generally act as earplugs as well, allowing them to operate at a lower volume so you’re not blowing your ears out every night. In them they can hear a *monitor mix* that is maintained by a sound engineer sitting at a mixing board just offstage in order to make themselves available to the musicians. They might be hearing only themselves, or they might have their own custom mix of the other musicians. They can also have *stage monitors*, which are the wedge-shaped speakers you’ll see down by the musician’s feet. Same thing applies—the stage monitors will be playing a custom mix of the musician’s choosing. In-ears also help maintain a consistent mix for singers and guitar players using *wireless systems* while they wander all around the stage or interact with the audience.

At a big huge arena or stadium gig, there will be an engineer in the crowd area set a ways back from the stage. That engineer maintains the *house mix*, or what the audience hears from the enormous speaker stacks on either side of the stage. At smaller gigs, the same engineer will maintain the house mix and the monitor mix, which means that musicians will have less options for the monitor mix. Some small venues may only have one monitor or none at all.

Live sound is an incredibly critical part of music performance, but something that a lot of beginning rock musicians struggle with (ask one). Having a reasonable stage volume is not “cool” but makes the sound engineers’ job much easier and almost always leads to a better house mix.