What is a Monitor Engineer:
A monitor engineer mixes the sound the musicians listen to onstage during a performance. Typically the musicians will be provided an individual mix with either speaker monitors or in-ear monitor systems (IEMS). The monitor engineer will tailor the mixes for each musician onstage, providing them with their desired amount of instruments and vocals. There is no template for the mix as each musician will have their preferences to what instruments they need to hear and the overall sound of the mix.
The monitor engineer is also typically responsible for maintaining and repair of the monitor system and microphones. The monitor engineer will supervise the set up of the monitor system and set up stage wiring. The monitor engineer will EQ the monitor system (ring out wedges) on a daily basis. On large tours, the monitor engineer will have a monitor tech that these responsibilities fall too. Some artists tour with two monitor engineers that will divide up the mixing duties and some instances one monitor engineer will be dedicated to just one artist on stage.
The monitor engineer is typically located on the side of the stage, having an unobstructed view of the band. On larger productions, the monitor engineer is often hidden under the stage, in which case they communicate with the band by video monitor and/or the use of talkback mics to the artists.
The monitor engineer must pay attention the musicians during the performance and maintain communication. Hand signals are often used to communicate. The monitor engineer must maintain the mixes during the performance making sure each musician is comfortable and happy with their mix. The monitor engineer must keep the stage feed back free.
What to Expect:
It’s called the Hot Seat for a reason – Musicians often get emotional during a performance – there is a lot of adrenaline happening onstage. These emotional outbursts are often (fairly or unfairly) directed at the monitor engineer. Monitor engineers (unfairly) are expected to read minds, watch, and understand every artist onstage at the same time. Multi-tasking is a must, as well as be highly organized.
The monitor engineer is directly responsible to the band. People/Musicians skills are a must. The monitor engineer needs to be able to anticipate the needs of the musicians. A thick skin and learning not to take things personally is a must. Perfect communication skills and stay on top of technology. Good monitor engineers are highly sought after.
Skills and Education
Science and Art – You must have a good ear and be able to recognize frequencies instantly. A firm grasp of the tools and technology used to mix monitors. Hands-on experience with both analog and digital consoles, speakers, and amplifiers, microphones, processing, etc. an excellent position to start is as a stage tech responsible for wiring the stage and as a monitor tech. Also beneficial education and training in electricity, physics of sound, and mathematics.