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Hearing Yourself In A Group

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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.


This has long been a struggle for me, and as hjc says above, it is often the instruments directly around me... for example, sitting next to a loud fiddler can be especially tricky because their instrument is up beside my ear, while the concertina is on my lap. Another concertina is the worst because my ear is so tuned to pick up on concertina tones that I pick up another person's playing as much as my own. At various times I have found it helpful to sit in cross knee position to raise the concertina, to sit next to a wall for sound reflection, even putting my ear down to hear certain notes. I find it easier to hear true concertina reeds than the hybrid because the tone is cleaner, but that also makes it more obvious when you hit a wrong note - so I have to be sensitive to that.


I find it much easier to hear myself, when I am leading a tune or truly own it, but when I am playing along, there is necessarily a lot of matching of tones and audio feedback involved. In these cases, I find it really critical to know what key I am playing in and to have the framework of the tune before I start making runs up and down between the main framing notes. I have often found that in a large jam or session if you play the right note, you can hear it, but when it is a wrong note, your ear filters it out in favor of all the right notes playing around you - and if you know the tune in your head, you naturally hear the tune's correct melody. I once played a whole tune in a wrong key in a giant session of 60 people (Carp camp, Winfield KS), and never heard a wrong note out of my instrument... When I discovered this (thinking it was too good to be true, which it was) and with chagrin asked my neighboring musicians, no one around me heard anything wrong either. It was all filtered out by the joyous mass of right notes flying everywhere... sort of freeing eh?

Edited by CZ in AZ
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This reposted from "Playing An Imaginary Anglo Concertina"


I’m flying high on my way to the Old Pal festival at 30,000 feet. One of my favorite duos, Spencer and Rains are on staff this year and I’m listening to them on my head set. I would really like to play one of their Old Texas Fiddle Volume II tunes, called Waterloo. I remember how much fun it was to play it with them at Clifftop last year.

Should I beak out the Anglo and practice along with the recording and serenade the plane? Tempting... but no.

I’m bold, but not that bold. So instead, I’m sitting in the center seat of my row and playing air concertina. For a while I was tapping on the edge of my folding table, but I got nervous about disturbing the person in front of me. I’ve never done this before, but it seems that with a little practice I can also play silent Anglo against my legs.

I visualize the buttons and just play along. In some ways, it’s better than hearing the concertina, because I can concentrate on the fiddle nuances without hearing a concertina distraction. The feedback loop is there. Even though I can’t hear my thigh, I can feel it. When I press or draw, that is distinctly felt by both the finger and leg as being at two levels of pressure.

I’m amazed at how satisfying this silent play is. It’s also quite a workout. After 20 minutes of this my hands needed a rest. I guess playing imaginary concertina uses new muscles.

Wow! How come I never tried this before?

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I don't know if ear plugs help with the problem. I've never tried. However I use ear plugs for motorcycling and have looked onto what is available.


Auritech make some very comfortable earplugs. They are soft silicone rubber with a ceramic noise filter. They do different models which they say are optimised to filter out/allow in specific frequencies of sound.


One model is specifically made for musicians.


They may be worth looking at.



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At sessions I try to sit in a corner which works quite well but aren't always available. Smaller sessions aren't much of a problem. Watch out for playing louder to hear yourself. You may have trouble hearing yourself, but your neighbors don't since most of the sound is aimed straight at them.


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