Stage Monitors

Speakers used to enable performers to hear themselves and each other.

It helps to have a well balanced monitor speaker set up. Usually wedge monitors for vocals and spot locations and some full range speakers on either side of the stage.

Foldback monitors are crucial to for on-stage sound. To monitor vocals and instruments, use a separate monitor mixer or a fold-back mix from your front of house mixer. This is sent to a fold-back monitor amplifier and speakers or to individal active fold-back monitor speakers (with built in power amplifiers). Fold-back monitor speakers are usually wedge shaped.

The equalisation and mix used in a monitor will usually differ from what is used in the front-of-house (FOH) system, and (if enough auxiliary sends are available) will differ from the EQ and mix in other monitors.

An alternative is to use personal in ear monitors. These are small fold-back monitors similar to in ear headphones. This allows a personal in ear monitor mix to your exact personal monitoring preference. A wireless, or cordless radio in ear monitor system gives complete movement freedom around the stage.

Floor or Wedge Monitor

Sometimes a multi-angled full-range speaker lying on its side. but usually a loudspeaker enclosure designed so that when it is placed on the floor, the drivers point upwards at an angle. This enables a monitor to be aimed at an individual performer. Because it is often wedge-shaped, a monitor is sometimes called a wedge.

Properly placed floor monitors are essential for not just vocalists but many other musicians. Usually at the base of a mic stand these play into the null of a directional vocal or instrument mic, increasing the gain before feedback.

You won't usually be sending drums or bass to these, a partial mix of sound is sent instead. This consists the vocal or instrument sound itself, something of the other vocals, and also other instruments that lack volume on the stage itself.

Side Fills or Cross-Stage Monitors

All but very small stages benefit from Cross-Stage Monitor systems, sometimes called Side Fills. These are usually small full range PA speakers that can handle more bass than floor monitors.

Any stage width of 12ft (3 metres) or more should have side fills fed with a Cross-Stage mix.

The Cross Stage Mix.

The term Side-Fills, can be a little mis-leading as not many people really understand their purpose.

It is often thought that Side Fills are there to duplicate the FOH sound and are therefore fed with the FOH mix.. This unfortunately tends to increase the overall stage volume, contributes to more bleed into open mics and tends to result in the band playing louder.

As well as being handy to have some bass reinforcement on the stage monitoring, the main purpose of these speakers is to be able to hear people on the other side of the stage. A guitar player or bass player can hear their own backline amplifier and others on the same side of the stage, they don't need more blaring at them from some side-fill.

However they may not hear that keyboard player on the opposite side of the stage. The keyboard player can hear his/her amp, but may need to hear that bass player and a little guitar. Because of this it is technically known as a Reverse Stereo Cross Stage Mix.

In it's basic form it separates the stage into left and right. everything right of center is mixed into the left speaker, and everything left of centre is sent to the right speaker. Usually lead vocals and some drums are mixed into both sides. This results in a more intimate sound field on the stage, closer to when playing in a smaller space.

When balanced properly it gives the individual musicians a personal balance like the FOH mix, not the actual FOH mix, an important difference.

Side-Fills as the only monitors

Do not consider using smaller PA speakers behind the main speakers, facing the band as a main monitoring solution.. Foregoing the monitor wedges and depending strictly on side-fills generally results in too much feedback before getting it loud enough to please everyone.

Remember, properly placed floor monitors play into the null of the directional vocal Mic, thus increasing the gain before feedback. The sound is also more focused at the artist as well

Headphones and talkback

Keep all of stage feeds in the headphones until the last minute, sort your levels, rough sound balance and stage problems without it all going through the PA or shouting across a busy venue. Feed something back to the stage monitors if need be for musicians, but not FOH. Use a talkback mic that only feeds the monitors and use that to talk to the performers.

No separate monitor mixer?

Often a small stage won't warrant a separate monitor mixer and often the monitors have but one feed from the desk. A very handy but under-used trick that works very well is to run a post-fader signal to the stage monitors, NOT pre-fade as is usually done.

The beauty of this is the ease in which the stage sound is created and controlled, and when feedback rears its ugly head, a light touch of a channel fader brings it under control no matter the source.

It means that the monitor mix progresses and matches the FOH mix. Often once a band has done a few numbers, minor tweaks bring the sound together and it startes to gel. This automatically happens for the band as well...