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Monitor Operators

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by soundman1024, Jun 18, 2005.

  1. soundman1024

    soundman1024 Active Member

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    What would you say the job of a monitor operator is? What all is entaled in doing monitors? Basically I am asking what should a good monitor operator be doing all the time.
     
  2. Andy_Leviss

    Andy_Leviss Active Member Premium Member

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    Short version, making the musicians happy. Now, I'm not a monitor engineer by any means, but I'd say a good monitor engineer is one who understands what the band wants, who can translate what the band asks for into what they really want, and who can keep many different mixes going, balanced (as dictated by the musicians), sounding good (as heard by the musicians), and just generally who can give the musicians the sound they need to perform their best.

    It's just as much about psychology and general people-skills as it is about mixing.

    --A
     
  3. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    In spite of what many folks may say about the job--I love doing monitors and find it easier and more challenging and fun then FOH...even though a monitor guy can be at any one time have 6-20 different mixes going while FOH may only have 1-6 mixes going on. A Monitor operator mixes the bands on-stage wedges, in-ears and side fill monitors so they can hear to blend the music and vocals. A montor mix can be complex or simple...once set--there is little changes you do during a show--but you don't EVER leave your post in my book..the monitor desk is always manned...

    Most monitor guys also usually set the stage for layout and instruments, and mic the instruments in concert with the FOH guy on how they get set up. They are also in-charge to test the mic's and lines and positions monitors. He will ring out the monitors ahead of time and set the levels to how the band wants them and mix in each wedge the other folks what each performer needs or wants to have to keep time. Monitor engineers also are sometimes in charge of running click trax, effects, playback and backing vocal tracks too... Most times a monitor engineer's console powers the phantom power for condenser mic's on stage too--in a nuytshell you have to make sure all things are working and be ready to act should something fail. During a sound check, the monitor guy will be on the mic on stage at each instrument or mic, and have an assistant at the console set the levels, and the monitor guy will tell the frequencies to be notched, or the channel EQ to be adjusted.. A touring band monitor guy will know the approximate settings and levels and mixes for each wedge and make sure they are set up properly before the band takes the stage. Sometimes with the monitor guy and the assistant its reversed--the monitor guy will set his own console and let the assistant do the work on stage and he will just double check it later--depends on the monitor engineer and his relationship and trust with the assistant and the assistant's abilities for ears...

    A good monitor engineer must be super fast and on the ball, and have a VERY good set of eyes and ears to see and hear what is happening on stage from the side of the stage--especially for any feedback that may occur and know the mic's out there for frequencies, and be able to target where it is in the mix to remedy it immediately. Bands HATE any feedback and will let you know it in no uncertain terms (some will throw things--tho that has never happened to me)--and many bands won't put up with it from a monitor guy for very long... A good monitor guy can find a sketchy frequency to notch down on the first hint of ring. Its not a job you sit back and sleep on....it requires a lot of attention in looking and listening.. As temperatures and humidity on-stage changes--the mix can need adjustment to compensate...so a monitor guy needs to be able to follow things closely...

    A good monitor guy has to be attentive to detail and to the band and everything going on on-stage. A good monitor engineer must be able to read hand signals, eye contact and occasionally read minds too--some of the signals you get from band members during a show are very very subtle--sometimes its just a look, a head bob, or a nod...so during the show you basically have to watch the stage like a hawk for instances that need attention and be able to figure out what is needed quickly. You have to be able to quickly scan and look to see if a mic fell, or if a wedge moved..or dial up a mix in a cue wedge to see what the problem may be and make a judgement call. For example: In a really thumping concert--its not unheard of for a drummer's wedge to move or vibrate off its position, and need to be replaced into position. Or If a mic or DI fails or falls off its position--its up to the monitor engineer or his runner to remedy the problem immediately.

    Monitor guys have to have thick skin--you will get compliments if you are good but you will get criticism more often if there is the slightest problem....so you have to know how to kiss butt of prima donna's and hand hold them and make them feel happy... If you want to be good at it you have to know your stuff and your system inside and out, to give the client what they want no matter how loud, how stupid, or how far it pushes things in a system. This means absolutely NO feedback whatsoever. Feedback is only permitted during a set up before the band arrives in my book. Once the band is on stage--no feedback in my book is allowed. Monitors are meant to get abused but good monitior mixers are treasured by a band. Its the monitor persons job to make sure the band is all set during sound check and everyone has what they want thru out the show for levels, mixes and so on. If something drops out suddenly during a show you have to quickly assess what it is--line, channel, DI, mic etc, and get it back and happening. Its not really a set-it and forget-it type of job...while you don't really DO any real mixing during the show--you babysit the console and levels and make minor adjustments as requested, you are basically there to watch the stage for what the band needs and deal with it...

    During a soundcheck, a monitor guy is in charge of making the final adjustments and changes. This is the fun part and a good monitor guy needs to know how to deal with a request or multiple requests coming at him at once--each band member wants their mix taken care of right then and there--so you have to know how to prioritize the pecking order and pull a few tricks out of your bag to make them happy and most of all work FAST--because when doing monitors its also part psychological. Many times I have been asked to add or change something--and before my finger touches the knob I get a "Great--thats what I want to hear" from the person who made the request. Sometimes the mere thought that things are changing can make a person believe it has changed when it hasn't. Another monitor trick to do on some of the more difficult folks is to cut the wedge out completely and then immediately bring it up to the same level slowly--it resets the ears from fatigue and band folks think its louder or better then it was--even tho it may be untouched from what you had it set to before. A monitor guy may also double as a system tech in some smaller rigs--checking FOH amp/x-over racks as well as checking his own racks..but that depends on the rig and the show.

    Monitor consoles are different in lay out from FOH consoles--more AUX sends per channel and more routing abilities typically--and a broader more detailed parametric EQ...as well as whatever you have inserted per mix or channel. You need to know which EQ to adjust if you have to--channel EQ or the graphic you have on the mix. Mixing monitors you need to not think about the faders and how they route things--they pretty much get set to nominal or may not even be used--and everything is run from the auxes PRE fade...but some monitor guys run everything POST fade and set the fader at nominal--again it depends on your style and preferences. Trick with EQ and monitors is knowing how NOT to over-EQ a problem...most feedback problems are gain and proxmity related--not neccessarily EQ related..especially with many of the hypercardiod mic's out there nowadays. Cut too much EQ and you lose that gain--and quality or sound...and then you have nothing left to mix--and even more problems to deal with. I've seen monitor folks cut the channel EQ to nearly -20db on all frequencies to get rid of feedback...when all they needed to do was slightly touch the gains back a bit.. You really have to have your chops up to speed....

    I've mixed monitors and seen drum wedges fall off the sub it was stacked on...I've seen mic's fall and fail..I've seen guitar folks unplug their DI "accidentally". I was mixing Martha Reeves one time and the PZM in the Baby Grand piano came loose and fell on the strings in mid-song (cause the stupid FOH guy who wanted to do the mic'ing didn't tape it properly)--I grabbed my gaff tape and had it fixed in 30 seconds. Once while mixing Los Lobo's one of the drummers wedges fell over and off the back of the stage--I had my runner there with tape in seconds to fix the problem. Once during a Van Halen gig I was stage tech, and Eddie VH had an amp problem in a crossed cable and could not get his sound going...I was out there with new cables and a fix in a jiffy. You have to be fast and know your stage set up like you know your bedroom--if something moves--you need to see and know it moved and notice everything. Bands don't like to look over to the monitor console and see their monitor guy dozing off, reading a magazine, flirting with a girl, or just not there or not paying them any attention...they feel velunerable and suddenly that is when they need a change--or something suddenly isn't right for them and then they get pissy cause you were not there. Only touring monitor folks can get away with that stuff--and even then its rare. When I do monitors--whether its for a national act or a local band, I stand at my console and give the band my complete unwaivering attention...and I look at each band member and should they look over at me I make immediate eye-contact to see if they are good or need something...and I have had nearly zero a complaint that I haven't done a good job or went above and beyond, in all my years. It takes a LOT of practice and a lot of learning and knowing sound systems, connections and how to provide a good properly gain-structured mix..and how a stage set-up should be layed out. When I am stage-tech or assistant to a tour monitor guy, I have myself set up with DI's, Mics', Gaff tape, Batteries, E-tape, Gerber tool, extra mic, line and speaker cables, extra stands and clips, and anything else I feel I will need for the day all within my arms reach. In Monitor-land I know where everything is and in what case it is. You never go out on stage to fix a problem or check problem only to have to run back for something you forgot--or waste time searching thru cable trunks for a clip or cable---it wastes valuable time and that should have been taken care of before the show on layout and where things are...plus pockets are sewn into clothes for a reason. ;)

    Hope that gives you an idea of the job...lots more to add but thats it in a nutshell....
    -w
     
  4. koncept

    koncept Active Member

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    I'm interested....can someone provide a flow diagram (sample disagram) of how this would be setup with the equipment on stage, the FOH mixer and the monitor mixer. I am a bit confused on how you get the signal to both consoles without using a split snake (i know the wording is wrong but basicaly you can send the snake to two consoles)

    second what type of mixers would be used?
     
  5. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    Some monitor consoles have a direct out on each channel that sends the signal to FOH. Most companies big enough to have a monitor desk have also sprung for a split snake though.
     
  6. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    No the wording is right--a Spitter snake is pretty standard most shows... Its a snake box or stage box is where all the inputs get plugged into, with a Primary and a secondary point for multipin or hard-wired snakes to run to both FOH and to a monitor desk..thus taking each input and putting it two places. The nicer splitter snakes have ground lifts and isolation transformers on each channel, for any ground or hum issues...

    A picture of the set up... http://www.ramtech.net/images/ramtechstagelayouttmb.jpg

    A picture of a splitter snake....
    http://www.ramtech.net/images/products/stageboxes/stagebox54front.jpg


    Type of mixers--most on-stage monitor boards are at least 24 - 32ch--regular is about 40-56 channels depending on the act. Of these channels, you then have 8-16 or even 24 outputs (in auxes) depending on the console.. Usually they are built and sold as monitor consoles...

    -w
     

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