Why Do Singers Wear Headphones? The Reasons.

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Most of us can understand the picture because we’ve seen it so many times, but not everyone can understand one particular aspect of the scene. Even when playing with other musicians, the singer almost never performs without wearing a pair of large headphones.

Have you ever questioned why your favorite rapper uses headphones while he records? Or why do the members of your favorite band wear headphones while performing live?

You may have some preconceived notions about why they are wearing headphones, but if you’re unsure of your assumptions, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll go into great detail about how headphones work and why musicians wear them during live performances and recordings in this article.

How Is Music Created?

Understanding the recording process will help us better understand the quirks and actions of musicians and performers in a recording studio.

Drums, guitar, piano, vocals, and any other instrument you want to add to the mix all come together to form a song, which is frequently the reason music can feel so powerful and emotive. This isn’t the case when musicians are recording their albums; instead, all of these parts are created on a stage in front of you during a live performance. Multitrack recording, in which all the various parts and instruments are recorded separately, is the industry standard for contemporary music production. In this manner, the various instrumental lines can each be individually edited and mixed to create the ideal result.

The point of these individual tracks is to prevent bleed from one instrument into the recording microphone of another. The microphone in front of the singer, for instance, will almost certainly pick up the sound of the guitar and drums if there are three microphones set up for a singer, a guitarist, and a drum kit. This may muddie and dull the sound and make it more difficult to edit later. A person in a crowded bar might find it difficult to hear you even if you are standing right next to them and speaking directly into their ear because of all the other noise and commotion going on.

Recording each instrument or vocalist separately effectively eliminates this overlapping “bleed” of noise, making sure that each recorded track is clean and clear.

Why Do Musicians Use Headphones When They Record?

Singers and vocalists can frequently be seen in the studio wearing headphones, a hand on one ear, and bobbing their heads in time with the music. Although you might assume that they do this just to look hip and stylish, using headphones while recording has a lot more benefits.

Keeping Things Clear

One reason why singers wear headphones when recording is because of the process of overdubbing — where they record individual parts separately, then layer them together until the entire track is complete.

‘Rappers, singers, and musicians can make multiple takes or changes by overdubbing on the parts that have already been recorded without having to have everyone else record their parts repeatedly.

Wearing headphones also helps keep each individual recording clear and free from any bleed.

When recording, bleed occurs when a microphone set up for a specific instrument or voice picks up on other noises. This adversely affects the ability to separate vocals and instruments during the mixing process.

Headphones allow musicians, rappers, and singers to record their parts while listening to pre-recorded music without any bleed-through.

Separating Instruments In Multi-track Recordings

When recording technology was still in its infancy, the majority of bands and artists would typically assemble around a few mics in one space and play their entire track at once, frequently with the aid of monitor speakers and instrument amplifiers. Due to the fact that even a small EQ adjustment would have an impact on the sound of all the instruments and voices, it was difficult to make any significant EQ adjustments when mixing.

However, thanks to the advancements in recording technology as well as the practice of multitrack recording, artists and sound engineers can now record each instrument and voice on its own for individual processing.

By connecting their instruments to an interface, mixer, or headphone amplifier instead of using monitor speakers or instrument amplifiers, a group of musicians can hear themselves while simultaneously recording. This results in distinct recorded tracks that can be freely edited and mixed before being combined into a whole.

Timing

When recording, the timing is a further crucial consideration. That’s why musicians wear headphones in order to hear a click track so that everyone involved stays within the beat. A click track is essentially a metronome-like beat that acts as audio cues to help vocalists and mucians synchronize their performances and maintain meter.

Here is an illustration of a click track. For drummers, this one is designed specifically.

Why Do Performers Wear Headphones When Playing Live Music?

Wearing headphones while performing live is just as crucial for musicians and singers as doing so while recording. As a result, if you’ve ever seen your favorite band or artist perform live, you may have noticed that they occasionally don in-ear monitors, also known as earphones or earbuds.

During a live performance or recording session, musicians can use in-ear monitors to hear music, their own custom instrument mix, and/or additional supporting vocals.

Stage Monitoring

In general, two things need to happen in order to have a successful live musical performance:

  1. It’s important for the audience to hear the performers.
  2. It’s important for the performers to hear themselves.

To ensure that they sound good and are playing in time with one another, musicians need to hear themselves. Implementing a stage monitoring system with the most suitable tools is the only way to satisfy the second requirement for this reason.

Floor wedges or monitor speakers have typically been the main monitoring equipment used by musicians and singers.

However, due to a number of benefits IEMs have over the conventional floor monitoring systems, more artists are switching to using them today rather than floor wedges. Here are some of them:

Sound Isolation

IEMs give singers excellent sound quality on their custom mixes in addition to the advantages of reducing unwanted outside noise. Due to the fact that these gadgets are made to be worn inside the ear canal, a solid seal is created, effectively lowering noise levels while preserving the musician’s ability to play without interruptions.

Stage speaker monitors or floor wedges, on the other hand, can be problematic for both the performers and the audience. These wedges can disrupt the sound system intended for the audience and cause acoustic issues that make it difficult for the musicians to hear themselves clearly, which will negatively impact the band’s performance as a whole.

Optimal Volume Levels

Utilizing IEMs also allows you to control the in-ear music volume while lowering the overall stage volume, which is a benefit. Musicians can listen to their tracks clearly and at their preferred volume levels thanks to their noise-cancelling feature. This not only makes them more at ease while they perform, but it also helps keep their hearing healthy in the long run.

Additionally, some musicians prefer to hear certain instruments over others. For instance, bassists must be able to hear the drums clearly in order to follow the rhythm, whereas singers frequently need to hear their own voices in order to check that they aren’t speaking out of tune. These musicians are able to completely customize their mix and hear exactly what they want by using in-ear monitors.

In order for the musicians to hear themselves, on-stage monitoring systems must blast music at maximum volume, which is where they fall short. The performers’ ears and hearing may eventually suffer long-term effects from exposure to loud music on a regular basis.

Elimination Of Feedback

Feedback is essentially eliminated by using IEMs to deliver the music and sound directly into the musician’s ear.

When floor wedges are used, there is a chance that the microphones meant for the singers or performers will pick up the amplified music coming from a loudspeaker. When the microphones are turned up or when the monitor speakers are placed too close together, this typically occurs.

Mobility

Another advantage of using IEMs is that you don’t have to remain stationary in order to hear the full range of music, which allows for greater mobility and freedom. You can move more freely and have more room to work on stage if you wear IEMs because you can take the sound with you wherever you go.

The use of stage monitoring systems also restricts movement by requiring musicians to stay at a certain “sweet spot” in order to properly hear the music. Additionally, the stage space is taken up by the floor wedges and loudspeakers.

Musical Direction

When a musical director gives specific audio cues and instructions for transitional music to the musicians, it can sometimes help the musicians’ synchronization and overall performance.

Watch the keyboardist in this video giving the band’s other members useful cues while they are performing live.

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In-ear Monitors: How Do They Operate?

In-ear monitors are basically made up of three important components:

  • Transmitter – sends the receiver the performance’s audio or musical soundtrack (monitor mix).
  • Receiver – connects to the earphones and receives the transmitted audio. It has volume control knobs so the musician can change the sound’s volume while it’s usually worn as a belt pack.
  • Earphones – helps to block out unwanted noise from reaching the ears while also sending the high-quality monitor mix directly to the musicians.

Check out this quick video setup tutorial for a better understanding of how to set up in-ear monitors.

What Equipment Do Performers Use Live?

Given the rationale behind using headphones in the recording studio, you may be wondering how artists manage to keep their performances on track when performing live, especially when there is a big band and a huge screaming audience of fans! While performing live, singers frequently use in-ear monitors rather than headphones. With in-ear monitors, different musicians can hear different instrument tracks played at various volumes. For instance, if two singers are harmonizing, the singer may prefer to hear the other performer’s vocals rather than the drummer’s or pianist’s mics. A performer can choose exactly what sounds they want to hear from the performance in their ears by using an in-ear monitor.

Foldback speakers, which were essentially a different speaker system from what was pointed at the audience, were once frequently used by performers. The foldback speakers would be aimed at singers or other performers and could be adjusted depending on what the singer preferred to hear most. This method, though, might cause a lot of extra noise to be generated on stage as well as some bleed and feedback into the on-stage microphones. The various foldback speakers might conflict with one another and confuse performers, complicating their performance and subjecting musicians to loud, potentially harmful levels of noise throughout every performance.

In-ear monitors are a crucial piece of equipment for singers who want to give their all-out performance, whether it be at the Super Bowl halftime show or a low-key concert at a nearby venue.

In-ear Monitors Vs. Studio Headphones Vs. Regular Headphones

If you’re an aspiring artist or singer, you may ask yourself:

“Can I record and perform live without using studio headphones or IEMs?”

The short answer is no, not really. Here are some explanations for why professional musicians and artists always choose high-quality studio headphones and in-ear monitors for their performances.

Sound Response

The audio or music playing from studio headphones and in-ear monitors has a flat frequency response, which means there is no bass boost or other adjustments to the track’s various frequencies. This makes it possible for sound engineers and mixers to identify any discrepancies or errors in the song and make the necessary corrections.

On the other hand, standard headphones typically boost bass or higher frequencies, or both, and have a limited frequency range. They are unable to hear the unwanted sound artifacts present in recordings as a result.

Sound Isolation

IEMs and professional studio headphones are more reliable at providing sound isolation than regular headphones, despite some of them offering this feature. The majority of the time, recording sessions take place in noisy environments such as music studios.

In order to record and perform their song without interruptions, musicians should wear high-quality studio headphones that offer the proper level of sound isolation.

Durability And Comfort

Regular headphones and studio headphones both have the ability to provide both, which is where some similarities between them can be found. Essentially, you want headphones that are of a high enough caliber and robustness to withstand years of continuous use, as well as ones that are comfortable enough for you to wear them for extended periods of time.

Due to their sturdy materials and superior construction, most high end (and expensive) studio headphones typically last a lot longer than standard headphones.

Type And Design

Your personal preferences will have a significant impact on the type and style of headphones you choose. Open-back and closed-back are the two main categories to choose from when purchasing studio or everyday headphones.

Each ear cup of open-back headphones typically has grills or perforations that permit sound and airflow. As a result, a different listening experience is produced, one that is more ambient and spacious due to the background noise that is bleeding in.

But the best noise isolation comes from closed-back headphones. This is accomplished not by using active noise cancellation technology, but rather by the design of the headphones’ physical components and the way their sound-isolating ear cups form a trustworthy seal around your ears.

For your information, the closed-back headphones are the Sony MDR7506 and the open-back headphones are the Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO.

IEMs are frequently contrasted with traditional earbuds. In terms of appearance, functionality, and general design, these gadgets vary from one another.

There are many different designs available for earbuds and IEMs on the market, so you can choose one that matches your aesthetic preferences. However, customized in-ear monitors (CIEMs) are available if you want a device that is truly unique to you. These CIEMs use a mold of your ear canal to ensure that the device fits perfectly.

Because they have multiple headphone drivers, IEMs and CIEMs also have better sound quality than standard earphones. Up to eight headphone drivers can be found in one earpiece on the majority of high-quality IEMs and CIEMs. In-ear monitors can accommodate a wide range of frequencies thanks to multiple headphone drivers, which produces distinct sound clarity and minimal distortion.

For your information, the in-ear headphones are the MEE audio M6 PRO, and the standard earphones are the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120K.

The Disadvantages

Although using studio headphones and in-ear monitors seems like your only option, there are a few drawbacks you should be aware of.

The Price

It is common for studio headphones and IEMs to cost significantly more than regular headphones because they include additional features that are necessary for recording music and live performances.

Takes Some “vibe” Away

Every musician enjoys hearing their adoring fans’ screams and cheers as they perform live. However, due to the effective sound isolation of IEMs, it’s hard for singers to appreciate the “vibe” of hearing the crowd.

Audio Malfunction

Audio problems are unlikely to occur, but they do occasionally occur. When these problems occur, whether the audio cuts out, the monitor mix is too loud, or something else, it can undoubtedly ruin a performance.

In this video, you can see some of the more notable instances of when IEMs for well-known performers have failed during live performances.

Conclusion

A good set of studio headphones and dependable in-ear monitors will be crucial to your success if you want to enter the world of music recording and performance. Despite the fact that making music is a collaborative process, it is crucial that singers and other musicians are able to separate out the various parts of a track, avoid bleed from outside sources of noise, and hear other performers clearly without being distorted by a loud venue or an overzealous drummer! That’s the reason why singers frequently use in-ear monitors while performing and wearing headphones in recording studios.

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