Why Musicians Wear Ear Pieces and What Exactly are the Earpieces For?

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Earpieces that are used while you are performing to a large group or while on set are specifically known as in-ear monitors. In-ear monitors are the modern-day version of monitors which were previously wedge and floor monitors. They are most commonly used by performers and especially musicians while they are on stage. This article seeks to look into why it is important for musicians to have ear monitors and what exactly they use them for.

Basically, an in-ear monitor consists of a transmitter which is placed off to the side and is used to send audio to the performer, a receiver which is generally worn as a belt pack ad looks like a walkie-talkie attached to the belt of the performer and which has the earphones plugged into, and the earphones that the musician puts in their ears.

In-ear monitors work through radio frequencies. An audio signal which is known as the monitor mix is sent to the transmitter which then sends the signal wirelessly through an antenna to the belt pack receiver on the artist. The belt pack picks up and converts the radio signals into audio.

Different types of Monitors

Universal Vs Custom made.

There are custom made in-ear monitors as well as generic fits that are cheap and easy to acquire as well as universal. Many musicians prefer custom made in-ear monitors which are small making them invisible to the audience. They are also specifically fitted to an individual making them effective as well as comfortable for the performer.

Straight or Over-the-Ear

In-ear monitors are either wrapped over the back of the ear or can be sick-ins with cables that hang straight down. The over-the-ear wrapped ones are preferred by performers because they are easy to insert and the cable at the back of there is hidden from view by the audience.

Types of Ear Tips Available

In-ear monitors come mainly in silicone and foam ear-tips. For a performer who likes to move around on stage, silicone ear tips are recommended. They are light and use suction to stay in place. They have slightly less isolation than foam tips which are denser and more isolating but with some pressure to the ear making them slightly uncomfortable to have on.

Number of Drivers

Drivers in in-ear monitors are analog due to the number of speakers. The higher the number of drives in your monitor, the better the monitor. Dual drivers in each ear-piece create a resemblance to typical studio monitors. Your ear monitors will have better sound quality with higher drives. However, the higher the drive the more expensive the ear monitors.

Why Should a performer have In-ear Monitors on stage?

To Hear themselves

One of the most important reasons why musicians wear their in-ear monitors on stage is so that they can hear themselves as well as the music they are playing. Music is played from the transmitters and the musician can hear it as they are performing.

Ear Protection

The main reason for using the in-ear monitors while performing on stage is for the musician’s ear protection. Think about going to a really loud concert. After the concert, your ears will ring for at least a day or two. Now imagine how many times singers are exposed to this kind of noise that causes your ears to ring. Most in-ear monitors are noise blocking. This is an important element because musicians do live stage performances a lot. They are exposed to the loud-speakers too much. The in-ear monitors block out most of the loud noise enabling the musicians to perform many times without causing permanent damage to their ears. It is recommended that you use the two earpieces at the same time because using one over a long period will cause an imbalance in pressure in your ears leading to irreversible damage.

To Regulate their volumes

The in-ear monitor allows a vocalist to regulate their volume rather than depend on the sound engineer to do it for them. Other instruments are generally tuned to a certain volume by the sound engineer already. The vocalist, however, wants to be able to hear themselves as they perform to avoid being too loud or too soft. Having to ask somebody else to keep adjusting your volume is tedious to the vocalist as well as the sound team. The in-ear monitor has eradicated this issue allowing the musician to regulate their volume as the need arises.

To Reduce Voice Strain

With the regulating of their volumes, then the musician reduces the straining of their voice. You do not have to yell as you are performing because you can already hear yourself as you perform.

To control Interference.

As the musician is performing, they may get interference from some transmitters. Using in-ear monitors reduces the feedback you will get considerably because whatever you are using to transmit your music is not close to you and therefore does not interfere with the speakers and other electronics that are on stage.

Communication with Sound Engineer and Crew

With the monitor, the musician can communicate easily with other members of their crew including the sound technicians, sound engineers, and if they are a band or group, other members of the group. In case they need to change their performance routine or to adjust anything, then they can communicate with their teams clearly without interrupting a performance.

The in-ear monitor is portable because it is tiny and the receiver can be attached to any type of clothing on the performer. Rather than the traditional floor monitor that was initially used to transmit music to the musician’s ear, now the musician has a well fit monitor in their ear that gives them enough space to move around without too much interference.

Are there any Disadvantages to Monitors While on Stage.

The monitor has been described as an “eighth wonder” by some because it has made it easier to move around the stage as well as to reduce a musician’s strain while they are performing. However, all good things do have a few challenges for them.


The in-ear monitor is great but it is quite expensive to acquire one. They are mostly custom made for an individual so each one will cost the musician a small fortune to acquire.

May block out other sounds

If you are performing on stage with a band or other musicians other than yourself, then you have to be capable of hearing your fellow performers. You may have been able to regulate your volume and to hear yourself more clearly but blocked out your fellow performers’ sound. This may cause a disconnect in the performance. You have to be careful as you are tuning your volume to remember to leave room to hear other external sounds.

May cause distraction to the performer

Sometimes while a musician is performing, you will notice that they take out their earpiece. This is because the sound system may go haywire or some feedback may be distracting passing into the ear monitor confusing the musician’s flow and causing them frustration.

Man Power Challenges

Most sound engineers can work with floor monitors easily. The in-ear monitors, on the other hand, need a little more know-how to work with them. It will require a little more training for the sound technicians to learn how to use them The performer will also require a little training as well to understand how to easily use them.

Sensitive to System.

Any system failures will lead to your monitor failing. If the transmitter or the receiver has any faults then the monitor is likely to fail.

So What Exactly do the Musicians Hear Over their Monitors.

The musician or performer will hear what they have per-recorded to the transmitter in their ear. They are also able to hear their fellow performers if they are performing with others. They can hear every single note of every single song clearly through the monitors. When the sound systems like the microphones are malfunctioning, then the musician is exposed to static in their ear as well as a lot of feedback. Any kind of sound system malfunction will automatically lead to your ear monitor malfunctioning as well. If you have watched performances, sometimes you will notice that the artist performing will remove their earpiece. When there is any kind of interference in the sound system, then the monitor which is the ear-piece becomes a distraction. Hence its removal by the musicians or performers. The musicians are also able to hear each other as well as their crew members if they wish, through their monitors. A monitor is, therefore, a means of communication between a musician and their crew.

Monitors, and specifically in-ear monitors are the greatest invention according to a majority of musicians who have experience in live stage performances. To get the best possible experience with an in-ear monitor, you have to have a custom-made one. You avoid small inconveniences like ill-fitting monitors, issues with sounds, or comfortability with custom-made in-ear monitors. If you are performing as a group or a band, it is better to invest in monitors for every group or band member. This allows the whole group to be synchronized as they perform making the performance better. Ensure that the sound systems you are using at your performance are tested and checked because any malfunction in your system will automatically lead to a malfunction in your piece.

Tags: Musicians

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