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Why Do Singers Cover One Ear While Singing?

So you saw singers covering one ear while performing on stage? And you’re wondering why? Well, you’re at the right place!

Many singers will cover one ear while singing for the following reasons:

  1. An in-ear monitor is an earpiece singers wear. Pushing it closer helps them listen more closely to the music.
  2. Noisy and loud concert. Singers are trying to block the noise.
  3. Singer’s own voice can be heard clearer by covering one ear.
  4. Just a habit.

Let’s now take a deeper dive at each of the reasons!

Why do singers cover one ear while singing?

In-ear monitor

Similar to headphones or earphones, singers may wear an in-ear monitor to listen to the instrumentals, ques, and other vocals. By doing so, singers can have more confidence in singing in tune, remembering the next song, lyrics, and other benefits. Note that on stage, sometimes it is hard to hear the music or your voice at all, so having an in-ear monitor helps a lot.

When on stage, singers rely on the stage monitors to guide them. But in many cases, there aren’t enough stage monitors so the volume singers hear can be quite low. Also, if the music and vocal weren’t mixed properly during the rehearsal, the music and vocal can be out of balance. In that case, the singer may not be able to hear the music, vocal, or both. Hence, by wearing an in-ear monitor, the singer can be confident in their singing.

Should the in-ear monitor get loose or out of place, the singer will notice it and try to put it back in place. This is why you see many singers covering one ear at concerts. They’re not actually trying to cover up one ear, but to put their in-ear monitor back in place.

Noisy and loud concert

When crowds are screaming and cheering, it can be very difficult to stay focused on singing. The music that the audience is hearing may also have a delay when compared to what the singer should be following. This all adds confusion. Singers block one ear to at least block half of the noise. This simple action helps them to focus on their singing.

I mentioned in the section above regarding stage monitoring can have some shortcomings. If the audience is extremely loud, the noise can cover up the stage monitors’ sound partially or even completely in some cases. In that situation, if the singer does not have an in-ear monitor, it can be extremely difficult to hear the music and his or her own voice. By covering up one ear, the singer can temporarily block the noise and try to listen to get back in tune and on time.

Singer’s own voice

Covering up one ear helps you hear your own voice. This is due to the resonance of our voice created in our heads. You can actually try it too! Cover up one ear either by your finger or your palm and sing something. You will immediately notice your voice has been amplified.

Singers may not be able to hear their own voice while on stage, so they may cover their ears to listen to their own voice clearer. By doing this, they can sing more in tune and on time.

Just a habit

Whether their vocal coaches do it or they developed it on their own, covering up one ear may be as simple as a habit. I know a few singers who do this to help them remember the feeling of hitting a particular note. It is similar to how some singers raise their hands to certain positions when singing particular notes.

I personally would recommend practicing singing without developing the habit of covering one ear. This is because for a beginner, having a correct singing posture is extremely important. Covering one ear when you’re starting out may move your body in certain ways and tense your body up. So leave your hands down on both sides, and keep your body relaxed while practicing.

Does covering up one ear make you sing better?

Covering one of your ears doesn’t make you sing better per se. For example, if you can hear the music and your voice clearly in a reasonably quiet setting, you should be able to sing at your full potential. Covering one ear in that situation may actually be a distraction for you and your audience.

However, if you’re singing at a venue that is noisy, and you can’t hear the music or your voice, covering up one ear can bring your singing back to your original standards. You may experience difficulties singing in tune and on time, and therefore covering one ear in that situation can help you sing like how you normally sing. In that sense, you do not actually sing “better” while covering one ear.

Should you cover one ear while singing?

If you’re just a beginner starting out, chances are you won’t have an in-ear monitor while performing on stage. So the main reason why you would cover one ear while singing would be either the concert is too loud, or you can’t hear your own voice. If you find yourself in any of these situations, and covering one ear does help you sing better, in tune, and on time, then you should do it.

However, if you’re covering one ear throughout the whole performance, visually it may seem a bit odd. One thing you can do is if while you’re covering one ear, and you think you’re singing in tune and on time, stop covering your ear for a while. And then if you find it difficult singing again because you can’t hear the music or your voice, cover your ear again.

By doing that not only your singing isn’t affected, but your body language can also be used to engage the audience more.

If you know you’ll be singing at a loud and noisy venue, you may want to consider buying an earplug. By using it on one ear, you’re actually emulating the effects of covering one ear. So by wearing it throughout the whole performance, you’ll be able to hear your own voice clearer while blocking the external noise. I highly recommend this approach as you won’t need to think about when to cover your ear. You can then focus solely on your singing and your body language to give the best performance you can.

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