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Hearing Yourself In A Group


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Yes . This is a very common problem with Concertinas. The reason being that the sound is exiting a long way from the players ears and if sitting close to other people ,in a band or session , the sound waves can be absorbed by the clothing and soft surfaces of one's neighbours.

 

There are topics relating to this on the forums, not that I can point any out to you at this moment. Many people's response to this problem is to search out a louder concertina, I did this and it works for me most of the time though it is not a move that is going to gain you many friends unless that loud instrument has good dynamic range... in other words it can also be played reasonably quietly as well.

 

I have also tried a personal amplifier ;microphone attached to each end of the concertina and a portable guitar Amp placed under my chair or a little behind me. Another idea is to wear a wide brimmed hat which might change the focus of your hearing... a little experimenting is called for obviously.

 

Concertinas might appear to be loud but stand next to a Brass Band to experience LOUD.

 

It all depends on the type of group you play with.... in Irish Trad. this should not be a problem but in other genres instruments can be quite powerfull.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I have had success with wearing a rigid broad brimmed felt hat, it seems to reflect rebound from above, a roof, and catch the sound of the instrument, like cupping a hand over one's ear to hear better. I am deaf in one ear and this does make a difference for me.

 

David

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Earplugs! Strangely lowers your neighbors' volume enough to allow you to hear/feel your own instrument's sound, but also everyone else. I suppose one should still be mindful of the potential to play "too" loudly, but that has never been an issue in the sessions I attend. I have once or twice been asked if my direct neighbor is playing too loudly, and then explained it's more about the total ambient sound than the proximal. I discovered this after a tip from harmonica player; it really seems to allow the skeletal transfer of sound, which I call the "bone phone." And, any plugs seem to work, including phone ear buds, headbands, and cheap industrial rubber cones.

 

Regards,

 

David

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Haven't tried earplugs. Thanks for the suggestion.

There may be several aspects to the question besides the seemingly simple "can I hear myself"? For instance, I know that my music-making depends to varying extents on what use I make of the aural feedback. For instance, am I relying on the sound to tell me that I'm playing the correct note or chord? Do I rely on it too much, perhaps at the expense of musicality, by adjusting dynamics, chording, pressure, etc. __after__ I hear the sound, rather than, say, knowing how loud I want it to sound because I decided that was what i want before I commenced playing?

What I've tried to build into my music-making is the intentionality of my musical choices, developed during and as a result of practice, repetition, experimenting with variations in my notes or chords in search of a sense of sequence and phrasing -- that kind of thing. So, I'd rather be an intentional musician than a [let's call it] "reactive" musician, always (and maybe overly) dependent on the aural feedback that comes from listening to myself . reactive in this sense might mean trying to adjust my musicality after the notes have sounded.

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Earplugs! ...cheap industrial rubber cones.

 

Seconded!

 

I use the industrial-type earplugs when travelling, and on the boat while trying to sleep before coming on-watch at 4-am.

They are far superior to the type you will buy in your local pharmacy.

 

A word of warning - do follow the instructions for removal. This type of plug is constructed (from foamed silicone rubber?)

to give an air-tight seal in the ear. Simply pulling 'em out can cause damage to the ear (to the ear drum?). Follow the

instructions which will come with the plugs and remove 'em slowly and carefully!

 

Roger.

Edited by lachenal74693
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Earplugs! I have to try that sometime.

 

Often I'm playing at a session or a dance where I do not know the tune but learn it on the spot. When I'm playing (or at least attempting) in unison with the persons who actually know the tune, then it can be hard to hear myself because we blend. One strategy I use is... when we get to the tricky bit in the tune, I play it right back to myself a few times quietly, while the rest go on. If I play quietly enough, no one minds or notices, but I can hear myself practicing that bit under the tune as played by the others and confirm my notes. Because I'm playing out of time and not in unison, I can hear myself then, and get away with this quiet bit of practice on the side.

 

This does not work so well if the session is small and quiet, but works fine in a loud crowd.

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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I'm glad to have corroboration in the earplug notion. Yesterday at my regular Irish session, I didn't have a plug, and sat next to a fine accordion player, whose lovely play did, in fact, absorb all my concertina (and harmonica) sounds. So, when I couldn't be sure of a bit of tune (or even if I had the right key) I would, as discretely as I could, put my left finger in my ear (he sat at my left) and it helped tremendously. It limitted my left hand play, but that wasn't much issue for ten seconds at a time, in ITM.

 

I do feel guilty about not passing along a warning about the hazard of careless removal. Apologies, and thanks to Lachenal for the caveat!

 

Regards,

 

David

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I find it very difficult to hear myself when playing with a group. I sometimes feel like I'm not generating any sound at all and while I hope I'm getting all the notes right, I'm relying on faith more than any audible confirmation. Of course much depends on the other instruments in my vicinity. Mandolins and guitars aren't much of a challenge, but button accordions and pipes are another matter.

 

On the other hand, playing with a group on a stage with mikes and individual monitors for each member affords me great confidence as it's one of the few times I can really hear what I'm doing. That's an infrequent occurance however so I'm typically relying on the faith system.

 

I've often thought it would be a great notion to have some openings on the top of the ends of a concertina to permit some of the sound to project up. I don't know that such construction would be pleasing to the eye, but I think it might offer a functional remedy to aid in hearing yourself.

 

I'll have to give the hat suggestion a try. The best I've been able to come up with so far is to play in a corner or near a wall that will reflect some sound. Unfortunately that setting isn't often available or practical.

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I've often thought it would be a great notion to have some openings on the top of the ends of a concertina to permit some of the sound to project up. I don't know that such construction would be pleasing to the eye, but I think it might offer a functional remedy to aid in hearing yourself.

 

There's at least one discussion somewhere in these Forums of a few instruments that have small openings around the edges of the ends. I don't think we ever concluded why that was done. And I'm not at all sure it would have enough of the effect you're looking for.

 

If I find time -- and if nobody else beats me to it -- I'll try to find the discussion(s). Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos of one I used to own.

 

Maccann1874_full.JPG

 

 

Maccann1874_cutouts.JPG

 

As I recall, at least one of the others had cutouts of a more elaborate shape.

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Interesting and subtle design Jim, wonder if it was intended primarily as a visual feature or if there was intent to release some of the sound in non-typical directions? I'm thinking larger openings on the top might make more of a difference. I wouldn't be interested in converting any existing model to test the theory though, I prefer the look of the traditional design.

 

On the topic of side outlets, I can't say it appeals to me visually, but I applaud the uniqueness of this design posted on Bob Tedrow's website: http://hmi.homewood.net/fretless/

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I think one of the main issues is actually the acoustics of the particular space one plays. Ratio of room height, width, and length can smother or mask particular frequencies. When playing one has to deal with the sound reflection off boundary surfaces in a large or small room. Add in additional ambient noise from an audience or additional instruments and it can mask the frequency of your instrument. Monitors are a big help if you access. I find ear plugs block out especially lower frequencies. And they itch.

Jim Besser has a kind of hearing aid that seems to help him.

 

rss

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I used to have a metal-ended Lachenal which had slots in the edges, rather like Jim's. However these were a bit more elaborate in design than his, and echoed the design of the end fretwork. I thought they were rather attractive. Unfortunately I don't have photos. I can't really say whether they made any difference to the sound, as I never tried blocking them up to compare.

 

In a session, if you can manage to find a seat in a corner or in a window alcove that can be effective at directing the sound back to you. Also remember that everyone else in the room can probably hear you better than you can hear yourself, so beware of playing too loudly.

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I hadn't noticed that the OP was talking about playing in a band. I assume you are not using PA, since it is usual to have foldback monitors which allow the band to hear themselves. Since hiding in a corner is probably not an option, try changing your position relative to other players. It is not just a question of avoiding noisy neighbours, if their instrument occupies a similar area in the sound spectrum it may be difficult to differentiate them. Sitting next to a wind player, say, rather than a fiddler or accordionist (let alone another concertina) might make all the difference.

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The aim should be to get to the point where you don't need to hear yourself - the physical action of pressing the buttons, or even just the thought of pressing the buttons should evoke the sound of your concertina in your head. If you know exactly what it will sound like before you press the button, you don't actually need to hear the physical sound. If you don't know what sound it's going to make before pressing the button and squeezing... well that's a problem isn't it?!

 

Yes... this is a slightly idealistic position to take... but it is something to aim for. I can't help but "hear" the exact sound of my concertina in my head when I imagine playing it - even when imagining playing something I've never played before. If you can develop this association it works the other way too - being able to hear a melody, whether audibly or in your head (e.g. improvising), and immediately being able to play it.

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Speaking of concertinas with openings at the edges, here's an example more open than the one above:

 

And that instrument led me to realize that Bruce's idea of having additional openings at the top may be too narrowly purposed. While that might help him hear better, having openings also to the front would help the audience, rather than just the musicians to either side. Then having the openings all the way around might not add functionality, but would be more of a visual aesthetic.

Edited by JimLucas
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The aim should be to get to the point where you don't need to hear yourself

 

A nice ideal, and I can testify to its usefulness, but it was only when I could hear myself clearly (practicing alone) that I noticed that one reed was intermittently failing to sound. Turned out the reed frame was loose in its slot, probably due to a change in the weather.

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