Voxtrain caught up with Louise Campion, a 35 year old London based singer, composer and arranger. We spoke about a particular challenge she has been facing that has inhibited her singing during performances. You too may have faced this problem, so why not grab your coffee and join in on our conversation. How she solved her problem may surprise you.
At what age did you start singing and how long has it been a part of your life?
My earliest memory of singing is when I was five years old, I was an angel and sang in a Christmas play at Kindergarten. It has always been a part of my life, I sang in a choir from when I was 8, performed in school productions, Eisteddfods and so forth. I studied a BA Honours Degree in music at University (majoring in Popular Voice) and have sung on various people’s albums as well as at weddings, funerals, and events in South Africa and around the world.
How often do you perform these days?
I sing on average every second weekend. I usually sing with a band and really enjoy doing the musical arrangements.
Tell us about the problem you have been having.
I started to encounter the problem of not being able to hear myself sing properly when we changed from using wedge monitors to in ear monitors. I had to start wearing in ear headphones and what I found was that they kept falling out. It was so frustrating as I mostly play the piano while singing and resorted to forcing them in so they wouldn’t fall out during a performance, but this just resulted in bruised ear canals. Fellow musician friends told me it was all in my mind and that I was being fussy, but the earphones would just pop out no matter how hard I tried to push them in. The sound quality was terrible because I could not get the headphones far enough into my ears to block out the extra ambient noise from other instruments, and the volume levels needed to be dangerously high in order for me to hear myself.
What were the events that lead up to finding a solution?
In December I headed up a Christmas production in Kingston upon Thames. We were only a quarter of the way through when the earphones started crackling and as usual, were falling out. I resorted to pulling the distracting things out ….again! So there I was, singing and playing ‘Oh Holy Night’, with absolutely no way of hearing myself except through what was coming out of the main speakers, which were positioned in front of us. It was a nightmare! Afterwards my boss, who had been a guest that night, asked why I had pulled my headphones out of my ears during one of the songs. I explained what had happened, and seeing her sympathetic response, I realised that the time had come to fix the problem.
Sounds like you were at a desperate point. How did you eventually solve your problem?
Although quite pricy, I decided the cost of custom made in ear monitors was going to pay off in the end. I was spending far too much already trying to find headphones that could fit my ears and give good sound, so I decided to go to a company called CustomIEM who make molded in ear monitors. They were very helpful and I ended up choosing the 1964 V6 stage range, which gave me the best sound for what I need. I couldn’t believe how crystal clear the sound was and how I could easily distinguish between the instruments. The consultant created the personalised molds for my ears and made the observation that my ear canals are tiny and that it was completely understandable why I have been battling to hear myself with regular in ear monitors. This had been my problem all along!
So, since using your custom in ear monitors, how have they changed things for you?
Oh my gosh, chalk and cheese! I can actually hear myself for the first time. What a radical difference! I wish everyone could have a pair. I don’t have to set the volume so loud because I can hear everything clearly and each instrument is evenly dispersed in my ear. The noise cancelling effect is amazing, and it is certainly saving my hearing. It has revolutionised the singing experience for me in a performance context.
What advice do you have for fellow singers who are facing the problem of not hearing themselves during performances?
If you have small ear canals like me, I would suggest custom made in ear monitors. I would also recommend going into a shop and asking a consultant to help you choose monitors that will suit your needs. Go try them out! (Check out this article that reviews 24 Custom In-Ear Monitor Companies) If you can’t afford them, I would suggest you just have your voice and lead instrument in your monitors and don’t crowd the sound. Then you lessen the need to crank the sound and ultimately save your ears. If you value your hearing long term, don’t wait. Get an entry level pair at the very least, because that alone will be better than any over the counter options. Ears that are able to hear properly = happy singing