Have you ever wondered why your favorite rapper or singer uses headphones when recording? Or why does your favorite band use earphones during live performances?
You could have some preconceived thoughts about why they’re wearing headphones, but if you’re not sure, you’ve come to the correct spot.
In this post, we’ll go over why musicians wear headphones during recordings and live performances, as well as how it all works.
Quick Answer, Why do Singers Wear Headphones?
‘In ear monitor’ is the earpieces that singers use on stage. They give a direct source of sound to the performer, safeguard their hearing, and allow them to tailor their stage mix. They also enable the vocalist to hear things that the audience cannot (such as metronomes or backing tracks).
Why do Singers Wear Headphones when Recording
When you see singers and vocalists in the recording studio, they’re usually always wearing headphones or ear plugs with a hand on their ear, bobbling their head to the pace of the song. Just like Demi Lovato, she always wears headphones while recording! You might believe they’re doing it just to seem cool and stylish, but wearing headphones or earpiece during recording session offers a lot more benefits.
1. Keeping things simple
Overdubbing, in which vocalists record various portions independently and then layer them together until the full tape is complete, is one reason why singers wear headphones when recording.
Overdubbing on previously recorded sections allows rappers, vocalists, or musicians to make multiple takes or adjustments without having everyone else record their parts over and over again.
Wearing headphones also aids in keeping each recording crisp and free of bleed.
Bleed occurs when a microphone designed for a specific instrument or speech picks up on other sounds during recording. This has a negative impact on the ability to differentiate vocals and instruments during mixing.
Headphones allow singers, rappers, and instrumentalists to listen to pre-recorded tracks while recording their parts without bleeding.
2. Instrument Separation in Multi-Track Recordings
During the days of rudimentary recording equipment, most bands and performers would gather around a few mics in one room and perform their entire track in one take, generally with the assistance of monitor speakers and instrument amplifiers. This made it difficult to make significant EQ modifications during mixing, as even tiny changes affected how all of the instruments and voices sounded.
Artists and sound engineers can now record each instrument and voice separately for individual processing, thanks to developments in recording technology and the practice of multitrack recording.
Instead of using monitor speakers or instrument amplifiers, this technique allows groups of musicians to hear themselves while recording at the same time by putting their instruments into an interface, mixer, or headphone amplified. This results in separate recorded tracks that can be edited/mixed separately before being combined as a whole.
3. Timing While Recording
Timing is another key consideration to make when recording. That’s why musicians wear headphones to hear a click track, which keeps everyone in sync with the pace. A click track is essentially a metronome-like beat that serves as auditory cues, allowing vocalists and mucisians to synchronize and stay in meter.
Why do musicians wear Headphones when Performing Live?
Wearing headphones during live performances is just as vital for musicians and singers as it is for recording sessions. That’s why, if you’ve ever seen your favorite band or singer play live, you may have noticed that they occasionally wear headphones, or more particularly, in-ear monitors (IEMs).
1. Stage Monitors
In general, two things must occur in order for a live musical performance to be successful:
- The performances must be heard by the crowd.
- The performers must be able to hear themselves.
Musicians must hear themselves to ensure that they sound well and that they are all performing in time. As a result, the only method to meet the second criteria is to put in place a stage monitoring system with the proper devices.
Most musicians and singers have traditionally used floor monitor speakers or floor wedges as their primary monitoring equipment.
However, due to various advantages that IEMs have over traditional floor monitoring systems, more musicians are switching to using them instead of floor wedges. Here are a few examples:
2. Sound Isolation
IEMs give singers exceptional sound quality on their personal mixes while also shutting out unwanted outside noise. Because these devices are meant to be worn inside the ear canal, they establish a reliable seal that successfully suppresses noise levels while allowing the musician to perform uninterrupted.
Stage speaker monitors or floor wedges, on the other hand, might cause issues for both the artists and the audience. These wedges can interfere with the sound system intended for the audience as well as cause acoustic issues that hinder the musicians from hearing themselves correctly, hurting the overall performance of the band.
3. Volume Levels That Work Best
Another advantage of using IEMs is the ability to alter the volume of the in-ear music while lowering the overall stage volume. Musicians can listen to their tracks clearly and at their preferred volume levels thanks to their noise-cancelling feature. This not only makes them feel more at ease during their performance, but it also helps to preserve their hearing in the long run.
Certain instruments must also be heard louder than others by some musicians. Bassists, for example, must be able to hear the drums in order to follow the rhythm, whereas vocalists must be able to hear their own voice in order to guarantee that they are not drifting off tone. These musicians may totally personalize their mix and hear exactly what they want by employing in-ear monitors.
This is where on-stage monitoring systems fall short, because they must blast music at maximum level in order for the musicians to hear themselves. Constant exposure to loud music might create hearing issues and ear damage in performers in the long run.
4. Feedback Elimination
Feedback is virtually removed by directly directing sound and music into the musician’s ear via the use of IEMs.
When using floor wedges, the amplified music coming from a loudspeaker may be picked up by the microphones meant for the singers/performers. This frequently occurs when the microphones and monitor speakers are too close together or when the microphones are turned up too loud.
Another advantage of utilizing IEMs is the freedom of movement and mobility because you don’t have to stay in one place to hear the full range of music. Wearing IEMs allows you to transport the music with you wherever you go, freeing up your movement and giving you more space to work with on stage.
The use of stage monitoring equipment further limits movement by requiring artists to remain in a specific “sweet zone” in order to hear the music effectively. Furthermore, the floor wedges and loudspeakers take up important stage space.
6. Direction Musicale
It can also aid musicians if they are given particular auditory cues and transitional music directions from a musical director in order to improve synchronization and overall performance.
In-Ear Monitors: A Quick Overview
The speakers at a concert face the audience, which means they are facing away from the stage. As a result, instead of hearing the sound directly from the speakers, the vocalist hears whatever is being reflected off the venue’s walls. This might be exceedingly tough to follow and make the singer’s work difficult.
In-ear monitors are earpieces that provide a direct, clear source of sound to the singer on stage, allowing them to perform to the best of their abilities. They also provide a variety of extra benefits, which I’ll discuss in a bit.
Check out this spec if you’re a massive nerd (like me) and want a technical explanation of an in-ear monitoring device.
Additional Advantages Of In-Ear Monitors
1. Mix Customization
Singers frequently rely primarily on one aspect of the arrangement to effectively traverse the song. For example, in order to stay in time, they may need to hear the kick drum quite well. Similarly, most vocalists would want to hear their own voice at the top of the monitor mix to check they’re tuning the notes correctly.
Each artist on stage can tailor their mix using in-ear monitors. The singer, for example, may have their voice nice and loud on their speakers, whilst the bassist may be following an instrumental version of the mix. This allows everyone to play (pun intended) to their strengths by ensuring they have a well-suited combination.
2. Protective Hearing Equipment
Professional vocalists spend a lot of time in ear-splittingly loud surroundings by nature. They would be putting themselves at danger of permanent hearing damage if they did not wear sufficient hearing protection.
Earplugs can efficiently safeguard a singer’s hearing, but they impair their ability to hear the mix well.
With in-ear monitors, you get the best of both worlds. They’re highly good at shutting out external sound because they’re custom-molded to the singer’s ears. This permits the singer to hear a crystal-clear mix at a reasonable volume rather than being subjected to the PA’s ear-splitting volumes.
3. Reliable Consistency
The front of house sound is heavily influenced by the shape and size of the room in which a band or performer is performing.
As a result, singers are frequently subjected to a completely different sound on each night of a tour, which can easily confuse them. Furthermore, the sound might vary greatly depending on where you are on stage; for example, the singer may struggle to hear the guitarist if they are standing right in front of the drum kit.
4. Use a metronome (Click Track).
When playing live, nerves can sometimes cause singers to begin a song at the incorrect tempo or to speed up/slow down inadvertently throughout the song. While this may work well for some tunes, it also carries the danger of appearing amateurish and ill-prepared.
To get around this, many vocalists use a metronome (sometimes known as a ‘click track’). This is a device that emits an audible ‘click’ sound at a predetermined speed, which the vocalist listens to in order to stay on time. The click track is sent to the vocalist via in-ear monitors, which saves the audience from having to listen to it.
Similarly, if the performer is using pre-recorded backing tracks in their show, a metronome is required. Without a metronome to keep them in time, the backup tracks are almost certain to be out of sync with the actual performance.
Sometimes you’ll notice a drummer wearing earpieces even if the rest of the band isn’t. This makes the drummer sound ‘robotic.’ This is done to give the concert a more live feel by having only the drummer play to the click track while everyone else plays to the drummer.
Final Thoughts on Why do Singers Wear Headphones
In-ear monitors are generally used by musicians to listen to their own performance. A vocalist, for example, will listen to the songs they are singing, whilst an instrumentalist will listen to the instruments they are playing. In addition, they have the option of hearing the performances of additional instrumentalists and singers on stage. This allows artists to perform in unison and solves synchronization concerns.
Aside from that, musicians can hear a backing track and a click track.
Backing tracks are recordings of synthesized instruments, which are often recorded in a studio. These enable bands and solo musicians to incorporate elements of their music that would be impractical or impossible to perform live. Choir parts, string sections, horn sections, backing vocals, and drumming are a few examples.
A click track is a collection of rhythms or audio cues that serve as a metronome. Listening to a click track assists performers in maintaining a consistent tempo and improving coordination with other performers. Because they cannot hear it, the audience is ignorant of the presence of a click track.
These are the factors why singers wear regular headphones or studio headphones while recording, live performance or during concert. We hope that we are able to answer your questions! Leave us a feedback!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Why do vocalists remove their earphones?
In-ear monitors are similar to inserting extremely powerful earplugs into your ears. This is critical since stages can be incredibly loud, causing hearing impairment and chronic ear ringing in musicians. Musicians frequently use these earpieces because they want to hear the audience and soak in the ambiance!
Do you have a better singing voice when you wear headphones?
To sing precise pitches, you must hear the sound as it would be heard in the outside air, not as it would sound in your thoughts. “But wait,” you cry, “professional singers always utilize noise cancelling headphones and earpieces!” Yes, they do… They will not go sharp since the pitch is correct.
Why do vocalists place their lips to the microphone?
Direct mouth-to-mic contact is used to boost the volume of the singer’s voice and amplify low notes (this is known as the proximity effect). This is accomplished by singing as close to the microphone as possible in order to be loud enough so that your voice is not drowned out. This position of their lips reduces distortion.
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