<p>In-ears aren&#39;t just for the big guys anymore.<br/><br/>A few years ago, every big-name artist started the transition to in-ear <a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/monitor-mixing-101-1817737" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="1">monitors</a>, even though the technology has been around since the early 1980s. It&#39;s been the &#34;secret weapon&#34; that has helped many artists perform better than they ever would have otherwise, and the love of in-ears has trickled down to independent musicians, too; heavy-hitters in the in-ear industry such as Future Sonics and <a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-stage-monitoring-1817741" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="2">Ultimate Ears</a> have released superior quality universal earpieces featuring their expertly-designed sound signatures, and audio equipment companies such as Shure and Sennheiser have released affordable versions of their pro-quality (and pro-level-expensive) transmitter/receiver combos. It&#39;s never been easier to &#34;go in-ear&#34;; however, mixing in-ear monitors is a much different process than mixing wedges.<br/><br/>Whether you&#39;re on stage or in the studio, mixing in-ears is a much different affair than mixing wedge monitors.<br/><br/>In this guide, it&#39;s assumed that you&#39;re familiar with the equipment necessary for mixing in-ears, and you have a mixer and an in-ear system, either wired or wireless.<br/><br/>If you&#39;re a stationary musician (drummers, keyboard players, pedal steel players), a wired system is considered the best choice for both convenience and budget. For others, a wireless system of the highest quality you can afford is a great option. Also, don&#39;t forget the added cost of the monitor earpieces themselves; getting the best quality earpieces you can, whether custom-molded or universal-fit, is equally important. Many times, the included earphones with off-the-shelf systems offer relatively poor isolation and frequency response compared to even moderately-priced earphones purchased specifically for that purpose.<br/><br/></p><h3>Hearing conservation</h3>The first thing to remember is that in-ear monitoring is all about hearing conservation as much as it is <a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-stage-monitoring-1817741" data-inlink="3SAMcDR60-ALWPKY4hs9qg&#61;&#61;" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="3">quality monitoring</a>. Taking your monitors off the stage and into your ears presents an interesting problem; while <a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-stage-monitoring-1817741" data-inlink="TE8pzYZfqoxq9poWysv9ag&#61;&#61;" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="4">in-ear monitors</a> have the ability to offer greatly reduced sound pressure level (SPL) exposure, you can actually damage your hearing even worse with in-ears if done wrong. Remember, with wedge monitors, you have sometimes over 100 decibels of SPL coming at your head from several feet away; with in-ears, you could potentially push just as much relative SPL through speakers much closer to your ears.<br/><br/>In fact, many times touring sound companies -- while gladly providing top-quality in-ear monitoring equipment -- will refuse to provide an engineer for the artist, insisting that they supply their own, because nobody wants to be responsible for damaging a top artist&#39;s hearing with poorly executed in-ear mixes.<br/><br/>Many in-ear units offer fairly good limiters built into the beltpack, but it&#39;s never a bad idea to consider something external, especially if your artist is high-volume. The first part of your signal chain you should consider investing is a <b>brick wall limiter</b> for this very purpose. There are high end models -- such as the Aphex Dominator and DBX IEM processor -- but any quality limiter, such as those built into the relatively inexpensive DBX compressor/limiter combos, will work, especially when used in conjunction with built-in limiters. The purpose here isn&#39;t to compress or restrict the signal, but catch any unexpected feedback or transients from entering the earphone signal.<br/><br/><h3>Stereo or mono?</h3>If you have the resources to run a stereo, or binaural, mix -- meaning, a stereo transmitter/receiver combo and a stereo auxillary send from your mixer -- then by all means, mix in stereo. Mixing in stereo has a distinct advantage on in-ears; you&#39;ll be able to set your mix in a way that mimics real life. If you&#39;re a lead singer, you&#39;ll want your vocals to be in the middle, but the guitars and drums can be panned around you just as you&#39;d hear them while standing on stage.<br/><br/>Mono does have advantages. First, if you have a lower-end transmitter and receiver system, you will get a much stronger signal if you broadcast in mono. This is an advantage, especially in large cities where there are less clear frequencies to choose from.<br/><br/>Mono also has the advantage of being simple; if you don&#39;t have a stereo aux send, it&#39;s a lot easier to just use one instead of try to balance two separate sends as a stereo pair.<br/><br/><h3>Mixing the mix</h3>The first thing to remember is that, while many artists that use in-ears prefer a full mix, on a small stage, this won&#39;t be necessary. Many times, you&#39;ll want a very simple mix on a smaller stage -- just vocals, a little guitar (or other instrument the mix owner is playing), and kick drum. Remember, the loudest sounds always win at the mic, so you&#39;ll get enough bleed from the vocal mics to hear everything else clearly.<br/><br/>On a larger stage, the sky&#39;s the limit. Just remember to communicate with your artist, and ask specifically what they want. If you&#39;re mixing in stereo, keep in mind that everything they want panned will be the opposite of what you see. If you see a guitar on the left side of the stage, they&#39;ll want it on the right side of their mix, because when they&#39;re facing the crowd, that&#39;s how they hear it.<br/><br/>Start with kick drum, overheads, and <a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/recording-bass-guitar-1817864" data-inlink="dffmX3qp1NL7yyO6idLjTw&#61;&#61;" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="5">bass guitar</a>. Once you get a solid foundation, you can add the vocals. Make sure that you avoid sending an effects send at this point -- make sure your artist is feeling comfortable just hearing the rhythm section and their own voice. Then, color in the rest of the instruments they require. Remember, they&#39;ll always want their own voice and their own instrument on top of everything else, so make sure you don&#39;t bury the important signals.<br/><br/>I tend to avoid putting snare or close-miced toms in a mix until the artist feels comfortable and asks for it. Sometimes, hearing a loud snare crack suddenly can be scary, and unnecessary to the overall health of the mix.<br/><br/><h3>Adding ambience</h3>In a larger room, you&#39;ll soon find that your artist may feel isolated. This is very common; in-ears, by design, offer exceptional ambient noise reduction, which in turn can make a player feel cut off from the world around them.<br/><br/>First, consider adding a crowd microphone. Some like to put two on either side of the stage, in stereo, to give a wide sound; I prefer a single shotgun microphone at the base of the microphone stand in front of the lead singer, pointed at the back of the room. This gives a perfect &#34;localization&#34; -- the artist knows that the ambiance they hear is happening right at their feet.