By Lis Lewis
If you saw the inauguration you watched as Beyoncé pulled out her earpiece while singing the Star Spangled Banner. That earpiece is called an in-ear monitor. It allows her to hear exactly what she wants. For example if you are a singer singing with a live band, there is a lot of noise onstage with you, especially from the drummer. It can be very hard to hear yourself which can make you sing louder and even shout. Your voice can get tired and you might feel like you’re straining. If you use in-ears, you can have the sound engineer put only your voice and, let’s say, the keyboard in your ears. You won’t hear the drummer at all! You can choose how much or little of each instrument you hear.
There are some drawbacks to in-ear monitors though. A rehearsal in an empty room sounds entirely different than in a room full of bodies so you can’t be sure how it’s going to sound at the show. Also you don’t get any ‘ambient’ sound in your ears so there’s no room noise. If you aren’t used to the way that sounds, it can feel ‘dead’. I don’t know exactly what happened in the case of Beyoncé but I imagine it’s hard to predict what you want to hear in your ears when you’re singing outdoors in front of hundreds of thousands of people. She probably had too much of the Marine Corps Band in her ears and took one earpiece out to try to hear her voice coming out of her mouth.