Like many musicians, I was always chasing consistency and more control with onstage sound. Moving from room to room, night after night creates an endless list of variables that affect what we hear. The transition to in-ear monitoring is the most significant step any musician can make in eliminating many of these variables and gaining control over your environment. This, in combination with wanting to protect my hearing over the long haul prompted me to make the change.
We were on tour in Europe supporting heavy metal legends Saxon a handful of years ago. Each night I would sneak out behind the drum riser and watch a bit of their show. One night after mentioning to their drum tech that I was looking to start using IEM's, they were kind enough to let me use a pair of universal fit IEM's and plug into their mix. I was blown away! The difference in clarity was amazing, all at a much lower volume! I was hooked immediately. From that point on I've been running a full mix through my IEM's.
IEM's have eliminated my need to have any monitors on the drum riser. Once I made the transition to IEM's and became comfortable, I no longer need to use valuable space to hold cumbersome monitoring systems onstage. This has definitely been an advantage for us in a live setting!
I run a mix of my entire drum kit, including overheads to give the drums and cymbals a much more natural sound. I definitely love to hear that kick drum clearly, so I tend to have quite a bit of that in my mix. From there, I have a fairly even mix of bass and guitars, along with just a touch of lead vocals so I'm locked into some cues during spontaneous moments in the set.
My playing has definitely noticed the benefits of using IEM's. As a drummer, it is often difficult to hear kick drum clearly, which causes you to play harder. Although playing hard is great, being relaxed is always important! The better you hear the kit, and the clearer everything becomes, the more relaxed you are. I've noticed I am much more relaxed and feel much more comfortable as a result of the change to IEM's.