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Taking Control of Your Monitor Mix -By Jeannie Deva
Ever had to sing in a club when you could not hear yourself through your monitor? First of all, what you don't do is panic or get *#*! - ed off. And you probably know, if you concentrate too much on trying to hear yourself, chances are, you'll start to push harder, your throat will start to tense, and you'll sound strained and possibly off-key to the audience. What's the deal with this anyway?

Pretty much all the other musicians in the band have their own volume knobs and can adjust their stage volumes. But you are dependant on a sound person who can't hear what you hear on stage, and may be facing certain sound system limitations because of the feed-back threshold. You can take full control of these situations by assembling your own monitor setup, giving you access to your own volume knobs and vocal mix!Ever dreamed you could?

Setting up the Basics
To accomplish this, you'll need a small mixer and amplifier, which you can set up on a rack on stage. You can get these as separate components or together as a powered mixer. Next you'll need a splitter. This has a built in transformer to keep the signal intact. Your microphone plugs into the input. It has two outputs, one of which goes to your monitors and the other to the main sound board. You can special order one from some of the major mike manufacturers, or check out the MS-3 by Pro-Co.

Microphone Choices
Stage and club noise picked up by your microphone are big contributors to feed-back squeal. In order to avoid feed-back without sacrificing volume, you'll need the right microphone and a noise-gate. A high-output, unidirectional microphone is most sensitive when faced directly in front of your mouth. The sides and back end are least sensitive, thus lessening the amplification of extraneous room and stage sounds. Some recommended microphones include the Sure SM 58 or Beta 58; Beyer TG-X480 or TG-X580; the Electro-Voice N/DYM Series, or Pevey's PVM 580 TN. Try out each to determine which works best for your voice.
There are a number of other models out on the market that are also worth a try.
Remember, mics are a personal choice based on your vocal sound and style and the kinds of rooms and PAs you use. Always audition a mic before deciding it is the one for you.

Put a Lid on Feedback
The noise gate should really put a lid on feedback problems. For those unfamiliar with it, adjusting its sensitivity allows it to open only when you're singing into the microphone. The gate otherwise stays closed and shuts out the stage and room noise. One such model on the market is the DBX 463X.

Another piece of equipment assisting in the reduction of feed-back as well as enhancing the electronic representation of your voice, is the equalizer.
There are two types: The graphic or the parametric equalizer. The parametric is better, as it allows you to reduce or boost selected portions of the entire sound frequency spectrum. Though this one takes longer to set up, it allows you to cut the frequencies that are feeding back, without reducing the presence of your voice. The graphic EQ clumps sections of the sound spectrum in groups, and resultantly is less selective. If you do get a graphic EQ, remember that the more bandwidths it has, the more precise you can be. One with 30 bands will give you more control and less presence loss compared to one with only 10 or 15 broader bands. A relatively inexpensive Parametric EQ is the AMR PM.

Improving the Sound Signal
If you want to take this all the way, the next step in the improvement of your set-up is to improve the quality of the sound-signal that is getting through. Your voice, being an acoustic instrument, loses some of its quality when reproduced electronically. An enhancer helps your voice sound more natural. First on the market was the Aphex Aural Exciter. Barcus Berry Electronics (BBE) has one called a "sonic maximizer." [Note: if you get the BBE 401 enhancer, you won't need to get a separate mixer.] Signal processing is your final addition.
Digital reverb and delay give your voice back the acoustic quality so often lost through the wires. Alesis and Yamaha models have good ones. Or, you might try the use of guitar pedal effects. In fact there are some pedal units now made for singers! One of them is the DigiTech Vocal 300. It has vocal effects such as delay, reverb, chorus, flang and more, plus a processor, gate, EQ, compression and a mic preamp, all for around $200 (at Guitar Center).

With the above setup, you are completely independent! If you want to turn up, you can do so without feed-back, and feel satisfied with the sound of your voice coming through the monitors. Being able to hear yourself and liking what you hear, does wonders for throat relaxation and overall improvement of the sound of your voice and the band. You may think it's a lot to do and may cost more than you can afford. Look for used gear and sales at large music store chains. Is it time to take control?

© 2003 Jeannie Deva. Jeannie Deva is the founder of Jeannie Deva® Voice Studios since 1978 and of The Deva Method® A Non-Classical Approach for Singers. While her private voice studio is located in Los Angeles, Jeannie maintains private clients across the country and in Europe. Author of the internationally published vocal home-study course: "The Contemporary Vocalist" book and CDs, she has been flown to recording studios internationally to handle album vocal production and has been endorsed by producers and engineers of the Rolling Stones, The Cars, Aerosmith, and many others. Clients include Grammy Award Winner Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin, Coppertree, Dar Williams, Moodcrush, members of the J. Geils band, cast of Fame, Jesus Christ Superstar and many more.

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