How you make decisions about your EQ, IEMs, and monitor mixes is pretty personal, but you can make some small changes that can really impact what you hear in your ears and what the people hear in the room.
- A. The house mix (whatever is coming out of your church system that the congregation hears).
- B. IEM mix (your personal monitoring mix that you hear in your in ear monitors).
Different sound teams have different ways of dealing with these. Under some circumstances (and ideally), the two mixes are separated- so that the house mix EQ won’t impact your personal mix EQ. This would be the way I would set up the system, because the house EQ is tuned so that it sounds good in the live room (which doesn’t necessarily correlate to sounding the best in your personal mix).
For example, let's say the low end is too strong in the live room (maybe due to the shape of the room, or the way the speakers are set up). Then the sound team could tune the house mix EQ to cut down on the low end frequencies. If the house mix (A) and your IEM mix (B) are separate than you aren’t going to lose all the low end from your personal mix due to that house mix EQ.
Let's talk a bit about your personal mix. Most pro-bands have a person trained to create custom personal mixes for performers. They dedicate a person to this role completely, because it involves a lot of work and a one-on-one relationship with the musician so that the monitor engineer knows what the musician needs. For most church musicians, we don’t have that. Instead, we often have to settle for decent mixes and roll with it.
A few things that can really help a personal mix are:
- Having a stereo mix, where we can pan other instruments and create space to hear everything.
- EQ’ing the personal mix so that we don’t hear a bunch of frequencies that cloud our instrument’s space.
- Leaving out or bringing down the volume of other (non-essential instruments).
The goal with a personal mix is to hear yourself and the core parts of the team as best as possible, so that you can stay locked in (contrast this with a personal mix goal of having a “record” or balanced type of sound in mind).
We recommend you have yourself, some drums, the worship leader's vocal, the click, and some of the worship leader's guitar. Everything else I keep very quiet and panned hard. Another thing I have found really helpful is to know that my mix may not be perfect- so really knowing my parts ahead of time is crucial: the less I need to hear myself to sound out the parts, the better (this often leads my to playing simpler and just rolling with the music).
For more, you might like to watch the 4 part series: Building Patches that Sound Great Live, here is video 1: