Tips for using Personal In-Ear Monitor/Mixes

While not a definitive list, here are some tips for performers who are new to using an Personal In-Ear monitor/mixer system for the first time:

Try to ensure the master volume is set as close to unity (or “0”) as possible:

If the master volume is down then the volume of individual channels in the personal monitor mix may need to be increased more than they should be and this will result in a distortion/discomfort.

More is not always better:

This lesson should be taught to all your performers (as well as to any new sound people you are training).  If a performer thinks they need to hear more of a particular sound (perhaps they need to hear more guitar in their mix), it is sometimes better to adjust the level of other things down, rather than to increase the level of what you cannot hear enough of.

Try and keep the main EQ as flat as possible:

Like mixing for the PA, EQ should be in small doses.

Pan instruments and vocals to create space:

While it is desirable in wanting to ensure that everything is in the mix (albeit at different levels) for your main front of house mix so that everything can be heard.  But putting everything in an in-ear mix can tend to clutter up an in-ear mix.  At the same time while a mono signal can be used well in front of house, the use of panning (to the left or right) in an in-ear mix can be extremely helpful.

For example, panning a signal to either the left or right can help a performer pick out what they need to hear much easier than if combined equally into the left and right ears.  My preference personally is to keep my vocals and the guitar I am playing in my right ear, and then other vocals and keys/guitar in my left ear, leaving the drums and bass out of my mix entirely (as I can typically hear these without needing them in my ears). But the overall objective hear is to customize your mix to suit your personal needs/taste.

Only add what you NEED:

This is an extension of the last point but only add what you need in your mix to be able to perform well.  It may not be a necessity for you to have everything in your mix for you to perform well.  Less is certainly more, in the case of hearing what you need to.  Trust your sound engineer to ensure that everything is being heard as it should in front of house, so just worry about what you need to hear.

Use the ambient mic sparingly:

Many of the mixers have an onboard ambient mic. This can add great space to the mix, but it can also cause chaos, so use sparingly.

Make the overall level as loud as you need, not just LOUD:

Remember that the ear-buds are only inches from the eardrum and this can cause hearing damage very fast.  As a best practice, you should plug in your ear buds and turn on your personal mixer, before you place your earbuds in your ear, just in case the maser volume has been cranked up too loud.

Also, in consideration of those who are wearing ear-buds, unplugging an instrument can not only cause a “pop” in the front of house if not muted, it can also cause the same type of loud “pop” in a performer’s ear-buds.  So warning people you are going to unplug a mic or an instrument to give them time to remove their ear-buds if they would prefer to not hear the loud “pop”.

Finally, Did you know you can save what you just did!!!!

As much as I wish I didn’t need to keep repeating myself, I don’t know how many time we get back from a break (even if we were there just a day, or even an hour earlier), and someone says their personal mixer is all messed up.  Perhaps that is because another band was in since we were in last time?  Not really sure I usually respond and I then ask,  “Did you save your mix?”……


Whatever the reason, I seem to always need to remind people that they can save their mix settings on most personal mixers.  It could be a mix you set up that will work for your entire set, or even a mix for a particular song when you finally want to hear Bob’s Sitar in your monitor mix.

So, remind people that saving/ recalling a mix in your personal mixer is a great way to get back to where you had things set up earlier.  So stop asking your sound guy why everything is messed up since you were here last time.  “Did you remember to save?  Do you remember how to load your saved settings?”


Tips for using Personal In-Ear Monitor/Mixes

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