I recently did a little swap.
Instead of fulfilling my role as a sound ‘engineer’ behind the awe-inspiring 48-channel mixing board, I had the privilege of being a ‘performer’ on stage. Instead of being the (food) mixer and blender, I was the one being mixed. Instead of being in control, I became the controlled.
Just before this swap, I understood why musicians (guitarists, bassists, drummer, keyboardists, etc) need to hear themselves at a reasonably loud volume to feel the ‘feel’. But of all things, I totally neglected the people with the microphones to their mouths. Through this learning experience, I now understand the requirements of singers or performers who are very dependent on floor monitors up on stage.
The way singers hear themselves when they sing is pretty unique.
- Similar to how musicians hear their instruments, singers get feedback about their singing through the audio information interpreted by sound waves entering the ear canal.
- However, singers can hear themselves in another, usually overlooked way – through vibrations propagating through the bones/flesh (similar to how you hear yourself quite loudly when you have blocked ears or the flu).
When the stage sound is ultra loud and overpowering, a singer cannot hear him/herself through his/her ears. The more important feature of hearing through those vibrations in his/her face is also lost which makes it harder to keep in tune.
It is one thing to do up the monitors in such a way that we, the sound engineers, can hear the singer’s voice. It’s another thing to make sure that the monitors are clear enough for the singers, so as to replace those 2 functions.
Point to take away: Audio engineers need to learn how to ‘sing’ (and play instruments as well) too. Then we will know how best to adjust singers’ (and musicians’) monitors. 🙂 Haha, bao kah liaoz.