This past Sunday, my wife Candice and I had the privilege and opportunity to sing a special in two different churches. I was playing the piano and singing, and Candice was standing behind me, looking over my shoulder reading the words. We both had our own microphones. We sang the same song both times, and both times (from an execution standpoint), we felt like everything went well. But there was one main difference: confidence. We sang much more confidently in the morning service than we did the 2nd time in the evening service.
But shouldn't we have been more confident the 2nd time through? It was, after all, the 2nd time we had sung that arrangement. It was also later in the day, making it easier to sing and remain on pitch. And, it was in a more familiar church setting. But one thing made all the difference. What was it? The monitors! The presence of good monitors gave us the freedom to sing out. We didn't feel like we had to sing quietly and listen for the piano or for each other because the monitor was giving us a very clear representation of our blend and balance.
As both a singer and an accompanist, I cannot over-stress the importance of monitors. For those who don't know, a monitor is a small speaker that sits next to an instrument or the pulpit that allows those playing or singing to hear exactly what is happening. This is important because church platforms are always set behind the main speakers (and for a very good reason, I might add). Monitors allow everyone singing or playing to hear exactly what they sound like.
What kind of monitors should we get?
I personally prefer hotspot monitors with built in volume adjustment for the musicians on the platform. These can be purchased at a very reasonable cost. You will also have to purchase stands if you plan on placing these types of monitors by your instruments.
Who needs monitors?
Every person on the platform needs monitors. If your choir is large enough that when they all sing they cannot hear the piano, they too need monitors. Each instrumentalist needs a monitor. The pulpit area needs a monitor. The men who remain on the platform during the preaching need monitors. If you have a separate place where instruments like violins or flutes stand to perform offertories, that place needs a monitor. My philosophy is that one can never have too many monitors.
Where do they get plugged in?
This can be a little tricky depending on how your church is wired for sound, but the general idea is that the monitor is plugged into the Aux Send channel on the mixer. Then, through the mixer, you can designate exactly which sounds are sent down the Aux Send. For example, the piano monitor needs to have the sound from the pulpit mic sent to it so the pianist can hear the song leader. For more information about monitors in a church setting, check here.
In short, we can help our music ministry by having a good monitor setup. Having the proper setup enables your musicians to be at their best. When they can hear themselves, they can relax and sing or play more confidently.