March 26, 2020
German Tarazona has been a professional sound engineer since 2004. He has toured the globe with some of the largest Latin superstars. Here are his thoughts on how and why in-ears help artists, engineers, and backline professionals control for all variables that can come up during a show. He also offers tips for building great in-ear mixes.
What changes have you seen regarding the popularity and use of in-ears in your time out in the field?
In the last 10 years, the use of in-ears has become extremely popular. Without a doubt, they are a very powerful tool for the musician and for the technician — as long as there is good communication.
The development of stage headphones has had an impressive technological advance. At first, we would mix with one and two driver ears with universal fit tips and now we can find up to 18 drivers in the market, as well as the molds and materials of the in ears are getting better. With all these new improvements, the important thing for people to really understand is that the most expensive in-ear solution is not necessarily what they need. An in-ear with many drivers requires a better mix.
How do in-ears help you perform your job better?
In-Ear systems have exponentially improved the way we work as a team during live shows. The internal communication between musicians and engineers has become agile; the technicians can have independent mixes with talkbacks to solve possible situations that arise during the show without having to interfere with the artist. And for me, one of the greatest advantages of using in-ears is to help my FOH engineer have a clean stage —which helps give a better mix to the audience. This of course is the artist's top priority.
I like to strive to give my artist and his band the best mix possible so that they feel that they are playing together — that they don't lose that magic of the rehearsal room.
How do in-ears help your artists?
In-ears are, in my opinion, the best option for personal monitoring. In terms of hearing health, they will prolong the useful life of your ears.
In the last 7 years, I have only worked with singers who have a support band. These are true Lead Singers. This exponentially changes the mixing of their in-ears because they like it to sound the same as what's on the album. At least in my case it has been like that. So it all starts by having good communication with the artist — that you earn their trust— so you can slowly propose the best mix for them.
With Maluma, the artist with whom I am currently on tour mixing his 11:11 World Tour, it has been a very special case. He is a very young artist, very dynamic. He really enjoys doing his live show. From the first moment that I proposed the mix of his in-ears, we connected professionally. He quickly made me understand that he likes the band very present and his voice above a little —adding a little room with an audience mic in certain moments of the show.
In addition to this, we use a talkback system on his main microphone by which he can speak to the entire crew if he has any situation — or to the band if he wants to extend a song or change the order of the show.
And how do in-ears help your crew? Do they change set up time, rehearsal. Sound check?
For my crew, the use of in-ears is a priority. I made a mix of the show for them which is sent through a matrix with approximately 6 communication talkbacks. All these microphones have push-to-talk systems to avoid unnecessary ambient noise in the in-ears. All my crew can talk and solve different situations without interfering with the show. This can only be done quickly and clearly with in-ears — by radio it would be very difficult due to the ambient noise. And in a show that has effects which includes fire, communication is vital.
What are the 3 main benefits of in-ear monitors?
- Clean and clear mixes
- Hearing health
- Vocal stress is reduced
Do you have any tips for a great in-ear mix?
- Use stereo mixes
- Use the effects to generate spatiality (rooms, plates, halls)
- Take care of your gain structure
- Have a kind relationship with your musicians
- Create musical mixes, normally a musician requires your experience for his tranquility, make an effort for them.
- Adding microphones that capture the audience is a great tool.
And finally and most importantly, I think that one of the most frequent challenges in these tours is the back-to-back shows. Hearing fatigue from the flights sets in quickly and that makes the musicians feel tired. For this reason, they begin to feel that their mix is not the same. So here is a little advice that I give you if you have very stacked shows. Do not use headphones between shows. Rest your ears. Use ear plugs during set-up and before the show.
German Tarazona is a professional sound engineer from Colombia. He has worked in broadcast and is equally comfortable mixing FOH as he is on Monitors. German is a leading IEMITO member and he happily shares his expertise with the community.