Q: “What are the advantages of a dedicated monitor mixer versus a monitor mix from the house mixer?”
A: First, let’s assume that you’re playing somewhere larger than a coffee house or a local pub, and that you have enough instruments (and budget) to consider the need for a separate stage mix.
Back in the early days, the monitor mix was done from the main console out in the audience. Many of us have toured under these circumstances, and have learned to get by with hand signals and clever cryptic phrases in order to communicate with the FOH engineer. But, let’s face it, even if the FOH engineer’s only duty was to mix your stage monitors, he’s at a serious disadvantage due to positioning alone – he can’t hear what it sounds like on stage and mixing to hand signals is embarrassing for the band and nearly impossible for the engineer. Beyond that, he already has his hands full mixing your sound for the audience. Additionally, few FOH mixing consoles were intended to handle both the FOH mix and a complete monitor mix (which often times goes WAY beyond 8 channels).
So, a dedicated monitor mixing console can be stationed near the stage where an engineer can hear and communicate with you better, and the console itself is tackling the task it was intended for. But, perhaps the best reason for considering a dedicated monitor mixing console and engineer is the positive affect it can have on your stage performance. When you can hear yourselves on stage, your intonation (vocals, and other instruments) will be more exact AND your ability to stay in the pocket of the groove will increase dramatically. Many stage shows today are enhanced with “extra” backing tracks, imagine trying to pull that off without a good monitor mix. Finally, a good monitor mix can actually help the FOH mix considerably since feedback that is generated from the monitor mix will be under control.