“I need more of myself! Turn me up!” – Musicians Worldwide

It is an age old dilemma for the sound crew- how to provide the volume levels that each musician wants in order to hear themself. I recall the time when floor monitors were ubiquitous and all the time the band would spend arguing over their monitor levels. In smaller venues it sometimes to the point that the stage monitors were louder than the house speakers! The drop in price of good in-ear monitors to a range the average music could afford was a game changer.

As a drummer, I love in-ear monitors because it puts the monitor audio closer to my eardrums. I do not have to strain to hear the floor monitor over the sounds of enthusiastic banging. 

As a keyboardist, in-ear monitors have allowed me to increase the lushness and types of sounds I can use. Getting the floor monitor volume up where I wanted it often would cause the rest of the band to not be able to hear their own part due to the covering nature of pads.

One problem solved, but there is still the issue of many mixing consoles having a limited number of aux channels for monitors.What I commonly encountered were four aux channels, split something along the lines of:

  • Piano
  • Singers
  • Drums and bass
  • The rest of the band

That left everyone to bicker about their own volume still.

Nearly two decades ago I came up with a deceptively simple solution that allowed me to both hear as much of myself as I want and control my own volume. All without affecting anyone else sharing the monitor mix. In fact, I could be removed from the monitor mix entirely if desired and still hear myself. 

The solution: Run the monitor send from the board and the output from your instrument into a personal mixer.

Here is a diagram of the idea:

The Personal Mixer sits next to your instrument and allows you to turn up and down the volume of your instrument independently of the monitor mix coming from the soundboard.

During set up, connect a splitter to the output of the instrument, in my case a keyboard. One side runs into the direct box and out to the house, the other into the personal mixer. The monitor send from the house runs into another channel on the personal mixer. Headphones plug in to the personal mixer and viola! I now have control to hear myself as loudly as I would like.

For the splitter, go with something like

My current go to personal mixer is the Rolls MX28, due to it’s compact design and how easy it is to mount on a flat surface.

Other mixers I have used with great success

And, of course everyone wants to know what earbuds I used. For the price and sound quality I have never found any better than the KZ lineup