For Your Praise Band, Are In-Ear Monitors Really The Right Solution?

Even at some churches, the "Everything louder than everything else!" demand is a challenge that rises from "monitor wars."

For Your Praise Band, Are In-Ear Monitors Really The Right Solution?
For sure we are facing some challenges, as we try to avoid the bad, old days of the "monitor wars." It can get out of control sometimes! One such funny example, from Deep Purple's lead singer, on the "Made in Japan" double live album, is his demanding that he wanted "Everything louder than everything else!"

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For Your Praise Band, Are In-Ear Monitors Really The Right Solution?

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The en masse move to IEMs - now even for smaller church halls and congregations of 200 or less - makes me wonder if we have lost sight of the main purpose of church music.

Surely the main purpose of music in a church gathering is connection. Vertical and horizontal connection.

Through songs, we want everyone - congregation and band - to connect with God and each other. With one voice, we want to pour out praises and prayers to The Almighty, encourage others in our congregation to do the same, and remind each other of the Truths of The Gospel.

Our main purpose is to dissolve the barrier - blur the line - between platform and congregation so we all know one, common purpose: Our church community sings together as an expression of worship to God.

Do IEMs help or hinder connection? Togetherness? I am going to argue that, in most church music situations, IEMs hinder.

Consider this: The main purpose of IEMs is to isolate, not to connect. It is to give the singer or instrumentalist a monitor sound that is separate, cut off, individualized and distinct from the sound of others in the ensemble and the sound that the congregation is hearing.

From the audio technician’s perspective, IEMs help isolate the room sound from the stage sound. IEMs give the FOH audio engineer greater control, but does so by isolating the elements from one another.

But we’re aiming for connection, not isolation!

This isolation goes beyond just the technicalities of sound. Singers and instrumentalists using IEMs can easily feel musically and even personally isolated too! Comments from IEM users often include statements like:

• “I find them helpful but don’t enjoy them.”
• “I don’t like ‘em, but I guess they’re a necessary evil.”
• “For singing with loud bands, I understand why you would use them.”
• “I hate them, because my voice feels isolated and the music never blends together like it does in a room.”
• “I find it so hard to be connected with the band, the song and the crowd.”
• “They’re a vibe killer.”

To my mind, the “vibe” that is being killed - or at least badly wounded - with IEMs, is connection. Our main objective is being sacrificed in favor of lesser objectives like sonic clarity, the desire for more control and the monitor requirements of individuals.

Yes, we want good, clear sound and we want to provide monitors that inspire, but these goals should not be more important than achieving horizontal and vertical connection. I have found that a team of individuals on the platform who are each feeling isolated, will very likely leave the congregation feeling isolated as well.


More About Grant Norsworthy
A Grammy-nominated, Dove Award-winning musician, Grant Norsworthy is also the founder, owner, content developer and principal instructor of More Than Music Mentor, helping to equip church singers, instrumentalists and technicians for artistic excellence and authentic worship.
Get in Touch: me@grantnorsworthy.com    More by Grant Norsworthy

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Comments

By webe123 on January 12, 2018

As a member of a praise band…..we have a small church of 70 people. But yet we have problems with the monitors because of hearing ourselves. What we have decided to do when we get the money, is get a IEM behringer system for JUST the musicians! The singers and lead will NOT have IEM’s. To me,I think that is about as “good as it gets” as far as using IEM’s for a small church. Our PA man is not experienced enough to get us a good enough monitor mix, so we just do the best we can. But still, this would help solve the problem of keeping the music at a reasonable level while letting the musicians hear themselves at the same time.

By Ad Lib Music on January 10, 2018

Thoughtful as always, Grant! I think the most telling thing is “if my main objective is to lead the congregation to sing, I must be able to hear them! Have an acute awareness of their sonic contribution to the sound in the room.” I don’t think many of us have that as our REAL goal. Like we want to make sure the band is working right, the techs want to make sure the band is mixed right. Of course, it’s all to facilitate worship, but the idea of the congregations “sonic contribution” doesn’t usually make it to our top 3 does it? If it does, when was the last time you chose to arrange a song so that the congregation’s singing was one of the primary or highlighted parts?

By Deslog on January 8, 2018

Have you been in church in the congregation when you are worshiping and find that you cant hear your own voice? I find a lot of churches are so loud that you can end up getting a sore throat if you try to get into it emotionally with your voice. You’re right, it’s not a concert, everyone is joining in to create one voice. Imagine if rock concerts had to lower their volume to allow everyone to hear their own voice. I understand the logistics of getting the sound balance but I think a lot of us love the volume more than the connection. Let one voice move us not volume. I must admit, if I am standing next to someone that clearly has a bad voice and is belting it out I do prefer the volume:-)

By Darth Fader on January 4, 2018

Interesting topic.  There are obviously pro’s and con’s with each approach but I tend to agree that if you have mature musicians and vocalists that are in complete unity about the “true goal” of what is trying to be accomplished that an open monitor strategy will produce a much better overall result when taking into consideration not just FOH sound but also unity, connection and “vibe”.  As a soundguy and a vocalist/musician I find myself often torn because it is obviously much easier to mix FOH with no stage volume, but I also recognize that what is happening on the platform tends to feel disconnected.


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