We all remember them: the little wedge shaped speakers on the edge of the stage. You know the ones, right up front; Those speakers the singer would rest a foot on while belting out all those ’80s classics, or that the guitar player would jump over several times a night while making weird faces and delivering eyeball melting guitar solos. The lowly stage monitor.
Change of Habits
Those lowly stage monitors might have been the most overlooked pieces of equipment in a band, but they served one of the most important purposes: they let the band and the singer hear themselves. This lets them stay in time with each other, and most importantly for singers, to stay in tune. If you’ve ever heard someone sing while having trouble with their monitors, you know just how essential the stage monitors are.
But somewhere along the line, singers began to become more active on stage. Dancing and running around on stage has been happening for quite a long time in music; But modern music- with it’s energetic, frenzied dance beats and infectious grooves and anthem spawning country and rock heroes- have performers who move and jump and dance in so many places on stage that traditional monitors are pretty much useless.
Some people began experimenting with headphones and and mic combinations and wireless technology through the late 80s to the 90s, and performers like Madonna, with her dance heavy, high energy show put this it to good use.
Then, as technology advanced, a new breakthrough found its way to the modern stage.
An Inside Job
With modern design advances and the shrinking size of electronics, tight fitting, custom fitted in ear monitors are becoming what the stage monitor was until the 1980s. Shrinking in size from old “ear clip” styles into the sleek, nearly invisible design of an ear bud, the in ear monitor lets modern performers like Brittany Spears dance and perform as energetically as possible while never being out of range of their monitors.
The performer can focus then on performing, eliminating the need to always be near a stage monitor in order to deliver the best possible performance. They do this by being, in many cases, custom fitted to the user’s ear canals. This allows the sound from the monitors to be broadcast directly to the ear, allowing for a more precise and crisp sound. Since these are nearly always custom fitted, they generally also greatly reduce ambient sound and noise from the wearer. This can be either bad or good, depending on the situation, but most of these systems can allow for many different mixes and set ups to allow a musician to hear what he needs to hear to give their best performance.
Modern technology has allowed personal monitors to advance to new heights of both functionality and performance. Modern musicians have been quick to put it to the test, but its today’s concert goer who reaps the true benefits. Those lucky enough to see their favorite acts at their absolute best, thanks to high tech designs that let them perform to their absolute limits.