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In Ear Monitors for Blind People

I have a friend who is severely deaf, but a sound lecturer in a university - we chatted after watching the Queen's Jubilee concert from Buckingham Palace. We were talking about the huge numbers of wireless channels for microphones, guitars and then the fact that everyone (bar one) of the performers were using IEMs.

I can imagine the problem for the performers - a concert stage, but then the crowd spread down a mile of road, with delay after delay after delay towers. Occasionally we'd hear through a live mic repeat after repeat. IEMs would be almost essential for any sense of timing and pitch - and even those who don't like in-ears would have found them essential. We then spoke about the one person who did not have IEMs in - the Operatic Tenor - Andrea Bocelli. He had a couple of slender opera mics (I guessed Shoeps) and three floor wedges. I thought this a bit strange as everyone else was on IEMs, but then my deaf friend told me that blind people have a real problem with IEMs that sighted people don't. Without sight, you rely totally on your two ears for everything, so putting in IEMs and sealing yourself off from the real world is scary, perhaps even frightening and puts you in non-real bubble. All your sensory clues vanish. You don't know which way you are facing, don't know if people around you are near or far and it can be like that old torture - sensory deprivation. Having three wedges, front and each side allows you to know where the mic is, allows you to hear the space you are in, plus the monitor function, hearing yourself. I had given no thought to how to treat blind people. I just figured sight isn't that important in the studio - but if any of us had a blind singer in the studio, what we stick in their headphones would be hyper-critical.

I'm really interested in this - does anyone have any experience of recording blind people?

Comments

audiokid Sun, 06/05/2022 - 10:14

It would be awesome to have someone blind participate in this thread! I've always been fascinated with how acute the blind hear.

I've been to a few José Feliciano concerts and always remember how he swayed his head and occasionally would switch the lyrics to ask the soundman for a bit more level. When it was right he would sing, that sounds better... Never missed a beat.

Interesting post, Paul!

kmetal Sun, 06/05/2022 - 22:15

At blackbird Studio C, George Massenbergs design, with most of the surfaces covered in diffusion, they had a blind singer come in yo test.  The singer was typically able to sense direction by snapping, and listening for the reflections of sound, reflections off mic stands, ect. Basically echolocation.

But when he went into studio C, which is highly diffuse, he was unable to sense direction. This is because the studio diffusion was designed well enough that there were no distinct reflections, sound reflections were essentially evenly distributed.

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Ivd never worked with a blind person but did record a bassist who was legally deaf, having only 10% of his hearing.  It was challenging especially because the material was death metal, but between his headphones and visual cues from the computer screens, we were able to get the job done well.

paulears Sun, 06/05/2022 - 23:56

Seriously folks, thanks for the comments. We try to be all inclusive nowadays and I’ve never had to think about people with no sight before. In the TV show that made me think I tutted because the guy touched the two mics before singing, but he had to. He needed as a pro to be in the correct place and the two mics, I’d bet we’re set up to cope with him standing in the wrong place, so one could have had the big pad fitted, in case he was way too close and the other without a pad, in case he was too distant. I wonder how Stevie Wonder developed his mic technique? Probably the lips on grill was essential for him to judge the distance he could back off and return? Sticking IEMs in your only sensory port must be horrible if what you get becomes wrong. I know for the Queen’s event one person was dedicated to switching the click tracks to the right ears. That’s a scary job, actually!

i want to know more about how this works, but there is surprisingly little info out there. I have a contact in a Blind organisation, for other things I have done, so I’m going to ask them.

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