July 26, 2020
I grew up in a DIY scene where you were lucky to get a floor wedge for your reference. My drums were always placed behind two stacks of amplifiers and it was a constant battle to hear and be heard. The level of noise was overwhelming and it was rare that anyone on stage could hear what any of the other performers were playing. As the stages got bigger and I began to play festivals with side fills, the problem largely remained the same; things got louder, I could maybe hear a bit more, but there wasn't any detail or nuance and my ears were getting wrecked.
When I finally made the jump (it's not scary at all) to custom IEM's, I only regretted not doing it about 15 years earlier. My performances improved, my confidence grew and I went to bed without ringing ears after a show for the first time ever.
My IEM's are now as important as my snare drum and to not have them with me for a show would be devastating — which is why I always carry a back up. Not only have they made a major difference to my performances, but I use my IEM's for checking mixes being sent back by engineers for approval.
I don't use anything else for performing or listening to music any more. You just can't beat the comfort, detail, and isolation offered by a custom in ear monitor.
In my day job, I help people make the transition from wedge to IEM. There is often a lot of hesitation at the beginning; people are worried about losing the vibe of a gig or being too isolated. Although this can happen — knowing in advance how to prepare for this and how to communicate effectively to an engineer — makes it easy to overcome.
I often say, "Some of my best wedge mixes were still nowhere near as good as some of my worst IEM mixes." At most, the best I could hope for through a wedge was barely hearing my kick drum, some vocal and a woofy bass, but now every gig sounds like a record through my IEM's.
Top tip: Always bring a set of overheads/condensers just in case!
Nigel Kenny is the Distribution & Artist Relations Manager at Musicmaker Dublin, the Production Manager for the 21 Drums drum clinic and the Tour Manager & Drummer for rising act Bitch Falcon. Musicmaker was voted 'Best Specialist Shop' as chosen by the Irish Times - Winner 2016.