Nigel Hendroff is the Music Director of Hillsong Worship Tours & MD for Hillsong Church in Australia.
Originally from the city of Perth, he has been a part of the Hillsong Creative team for almost 18 years. His guitar work can be heard on most Hillsong Church albums since ‘You Are My World.’
Why did you decide to transition from wedges to in-ear monitors?
As our stages we were playing on became bigger and the need for better communication grew, in-ear monitoring was the natural progression. Our stage volume had been steadily increasing over time with not just the on-stage bass and guitar amps, but also all the monitor wedges blaring. So with the thought of being able to eliminate a lot of the stage volume was a dream, and also having the means to talk to every musician and singer directly to their in-ears without yelling across stage opened us up to a world of possibilities.
What was the tipping point? When did you finally have enough of the wedge?
There were a couple! I used to run my amps on stage right next to where I was standing; however, it seemed that regardless of where they would be pointed someone would be complaining about them being too loud! We tried relocating the amps to behind the drum kit and have the guitar signal feed back through the wedges, but the horn within the monitor wedge would unnaturally color the guitar tone and make it rather unpleasant to play to, not to mention all the other instruments and vocals that it was competing with. Another frustration was not being able to execute creative video presentations which required the band to play along accurately to tracks but obviously not wanting to run the click and cue prompts through the wedges for all to hear.
How do in-ear monitors fit into your setup?
Our entire band, singers and monitor and backline teams all use the UE7’s which means we are all pretty much on the same listening playing field. What I'm hearing in my ears is exactly what the monitor engineer is listening to, thus minimizing the tonal discrepancies which makes for very easy and intuitive mix setups and adjustments. My guitar amps also now live in a completely different room and are fed back to my in-ears crystal clear.
What’s in your mix?
I like my live mix to be similar to as if I was listening to mastered music on regular headphones. As a music director I need to be able to hear everything that’s going on onstage, so space and correct stereo imaging is a must. So, to break it down a little it's pretty much like this:
The drum kit is panned as if I was standing behind it and at a good level – kick and snare in the center, toms panned 9, 12 and 3 o’clock, overheads panned hard left and right.
A good amount of bass
My guitar amps in panned hard left and right (I generally run a full stereo setup) and the other guitarist panned hard either to the left or right depending on where they are standing in relation to me.
Keys/playback tracks in stereo.
Click centered and at a good level.
Vocals panned as I see them - e.g. If there are 4 vocals on stage then I’ll have them at hard left, 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, and hard right.
Acoustic guitar and any other instruments usually in the center.
Ambiance/crowd mics at a reasonably healthy level hard panned in stereo. I like to be able to hear and connect with what’s happening in the room.
How do in-ear monitors improve your performance?
Having in-ears has drastically improved my overall performance in a big way! I’m extremely picky with my guitar tone in general, and the UE’s have a great way of accurately reproducing the fine detail of my amps, capturing the all-important midrange and high frequencies plus the overall depth and punchiness that guitarists love to play to. It’s so easy to get immersed in the quality sound and just enjoy playing.
What is your favorite thing about the UE 7 PRO?
I have been using the UE 7’s for about 10 years and they have never let me down. The big, powerful and clear sound I get from the drivers is something that I have come to rely on to play my best, not to mention their robustness and quality build that is paired perfectly for touring and playing live day in day out.
What are your thoughts on universal-fit in-ears versus customs?
Customs all the way! Everyone’s inner ear shape is different so there will always be a compromise with a one-size-fits-all universal fit in-ears compared to something that has been fully customized to fit. Generic in-ears simply cannot compete with the isolation, depth and clarity that is achieved with custom molded in-ears (not to mention them NOT falling out of your ears half way through a song!)
Anything else you would like to mention about in-ear monitors and UE?
These guys have outstanding customer service. There was one time on tour in the US where I had accidentally dropped my in-ears on the ground and blew one of the bass drivers. After shipping it back to the factory I received it back in a perfect working order within 2 days. Amazing!