worship leading essentials 11 – setting monitors

“My mix was awful.” I have heard that statement more times than I would care to admit. There is something about the monitor mix that has the ability to hinder a worship set or make it excel. It should not, but it does. We have given some attention to our monitor mixes and have a system down pretty well. We try to make the process simple and quick.

First some preliminaries and then our practical “how-to.”


You need to determine the following:

  1. Number of monitor mixes you will use.
  2. Who will share mixes.
  3. Where monitors are run (front of house position, or from stage).

How to set a monitor mix:

  1. Make sure the monitor (or FOH) tech has a signal from each instrument and knows where each mix is. Once he gives the thumbs up, we are ready to roll.
  2. I turn and face the band and make sure everyone can see me and hear my vocals in their mix. I am the only one that communicates with the monitor tech. The band members tell me what they need and I tell the tech. Simple.
  3. The drummer lay down a groove. I look at the drummer. He tells me what he needs; I tell the tech. When he is satisfied, I move on to the bass player and ask him what he needs with drums. When he is satisfied, I move on to the next band  member until they are all satisfied with the drums. We then move to the next instrument, acoustic guitar, and start the process over, each band, member telling me what they need from the acoustic guitar. I usually play 2 measures of G, and 2 measures of C and repeat. The band slowly builds a song as they come in, one at a time. We call it the “monitor song.” Yes, we are incredibly creative sometimes. This is our normal order of instruments playing (each building on the other): drums, acoustic guitar, bass, electric guitar, keys, auxiliary percussion, and lead vocals (usually just a “la … la…”) . We keep most of the background vocals out of the instrumentalist’s mix, just to make it a cleaner mix.
  4. Once everyone is set and the whole band is playing the Monitor Song (copyright 2001), I ask if anyone needs anything different. If so, they tell me and we make adjustments.
  5. After we rehearse the first song, I again ask if anyone needs any adjustments. Typically, little adjustments are made after this point, and we are free to concentrate on arrangements, etc . . . .

When things are clicking technically, this process takes us about 5-7 minutes.

Sometimes I wonder if we have become much too spoiled with our technology. If we have a bad monitor mix, it is easy to become frustrated. It is interesting that the Beatles and many other bands of the 60’s played (and even recorded live) without stage monitors. They had yet to be developed. Maybe we should take monitors away from the band one Sunday. That would be interesting!

What are you doing to set monitors?

[tags] monitors, worship leading, band, stage, front of house, FOH, Beatles, acoustic guitar [/tags]

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10 thoughts on “worship leading essentials 11 – setting monitors

  1. one word: AVIOM!!!!!!!!


    Even if the mix works well for one song, if one person has soloing or is the lead instrument for a song, they need to hear more of self. If a song is louder, drums and guitars crowd out keys to a frustrating magnitude. Personal AMPS are needed to adjust for these uncontrollable factors, which complicate things even more.

    Aviom…preferably wireless, which is our next goal…even for the singers.

    Aaaah. Rocks my world!

    PS: GREAT job leading out to make sure people are taken care of! Great advice for those using monitors.

    Just be aware that if halfway through the set, needs change, that’s why…and the next song, they will likely change again! Ugh!

  2. Great info. Monitor checks quickly and regretfully become “studio mixes” for us. We then eventually suffer from a muddled, high-volume stage mix that overpowers the first couple of rows.

    We’ve been eyeing ear monitors for a couple of years, but we don’t have the budget yet. More than likely ear monitors will be our next big purchase. The Cat5 versions offered by Hear Technologies and Aviom look very attractive! But then again, taking away the monitors all together would be MUCH cheaper! 🙂

  3. JP,
    Yep, smaller rooms and loud bands are an issue – especially when the band wants (“needs”) some volume. Many of us use in-ear monitors. There is a trade off, but I use in-ears almost exclusively (unless I am doing an acoustic only set). I’ll post an article on in-ears in the near future.

  4. I lead a very small band, and some set of events has lead us to have to be without any monitors at all. Granted, we don’t have a whole ton of stage noise, but in one sense, it’s very freeing. The electric instruments just use their amps and we mic those. And whenever we do retreats or any venue where it’s just me and perhaps a back up vocalist, I make it a point to not bring our monitors with us. It makes everyone listen a lot closer to everything around them, rather than the small speaker blaring right in front of them.