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Hearing Issues


Parker135

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I recently had the good fortune to attend Brianna Brown's concertina workshop(s) during the Minnesota Irish Music weekend.  She's quite a musician with many awards to her credit and an excellent workshop leader.  She also played a number of tunes for us to record for inspiration.  So I had a great time at this, my first concertina workshop, but I came away having to admit that I have some sort of hearing issue that makes it nearly impossible to tell one concertina from another (including my own Edgley Heritage) with a dozen of us playing in a small space.  I  could barely hear myself so I really couldn't tell whether I was playing the correct notes while learning new tunes with the group, but I worry others could hear me all too well.  Loud concertinas in a confined space are almost painful for me, so I shouldn't have been too surprised.  I've tried several types of earplugs with little success.  

 

I would be interested in any suggestions.  Perhaps something like earbuds to reduce the intensity of the other instruments while monitoring my own concertina with a couple of small microphones would help, if there is such a thing.  I do a little better in sessions with a mix of instruments, but it's still a challenge.  Maybe I should just stick with solo playing for my own enjoyment and let it go at that.  

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You say this was your first workshop. Workshops are often difficult, especially if they are in a confined space as you describe. You have a lot of instruments all of the same type, all occupying the same sound frequencies and with similar tonal characteristics, and all playing (or trying to play) the same notes.  That can make it very difficult to pick out your own instrument.  This doesn't just apply to concertinas, but the high pitch and shrillness can be particularly difficult, and the way the instrument is normally held means the sound from your own instrument is projected away from you but you are on the receiving end of your neighbours' instruments. 

 

I have found that it becomes possible to recognise and focus on the tone of your own instrument, but it takes practice and concentration. Sometimes I deliberately play a wrong note just to help me tune in to my own sound. Obviously you can't do that too often.

 

However if you are having similar problems in sessions with more of a mix of instruments then it is possible you have a hearing problem. The higher frequncies are usually the ones to go first, whether through age or damage, so this might affect how you hear the concertina. Have you thought about seeing an audiologist?

 

 

 

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I am almost 70, with very good hearing. I found it difficult to play alongside more than 1 other concertina, I just can't hear what I am playing.

Rooms with lots of glass are the very worst.

I have tried loud instruments, hybrids, brass reeded instruments, sitting in corners etc etc.

For me the only two things help:

The group plays outside, or:

I play a baritone.

This worked with my Morse, but I haven't tried it with traditional instruments.

 

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I have very sensitive hearing myself, and hate extremely noisy environments [ loud cities, those modern day sirens of emergency services with their howling at 100 decibels plus for example!] And it seems these days people have become more accustomed to excessive volume generally.  I would have thought if playing instruments in a group it would be more thoughtful if they all agree to play more quietly and respectfully to each other - as I imagine like in a room full of people talking there is the tendency to have to increasingly raise the volume to hear each other talk - and so up goes the volume!🙂

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That would have been helpful, but I think it's similar to the room full of people you describe.  In this case the room was full of Carroll concertinas with folks probably working hard to hear themselves, same as I.

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I'll echo what the others have said. I don't think what you've experienced necessarily indicates hearing loss. Since the sound comes out the ends, it's usually easier for other people to hear a concertina than it is for the person playing it. And multiple concertinas playing in a small room will be quite loud, compounding the issue.

 

10 hours ago, Parker135 said:

Perhaps something like earbuds to reduce the intensity of the other instruments while monitoring my own concertina with a couple of small microphones

The term to search for is "in-ear monitor".

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2 hours ago, hjcjones said:

You say this was your first workshop. Workshops are often difficult, especially if they are in a confined space as you describe. You have a lot of instruments all of the same type, all occupying the same sound frequencies and with similar tonal characteristics, and all playing (or trying to play) the same notes.  That can make it very difficult to pick out your own instrument.  This doesn't just apply to concertinas, but the high pitch and shrillness can be particularly difficult, and the way the instrument is normally held means the sound from your own instrument is projected away from you but you are on the receiving end of your neighbours' instruments. 

 

I have found that it becomes possible to recognise and focus on the tone of your own instrument, but it takes practice and concentration. Sometimes I deliberately play a wrong note just to help me tune in to my own sound. Obviously you can't do that too often.

 

However if you are having similar problems in sessions with more of a mix of instruments then it is possible you have a hearing problem. The higher frequncies are usually the ones to go first, whether through age or damage, so this might affect how you hear the concertina. Have you thought about seeing an audiologist?

 

 

 

I guess it's reasonable to put a group of concertina players in a small room since our instruments are small, but acousticly, it's a real challenge, at least for me.

 

I have seen an audiologist, and I do have some high frequency loss, especially in the right ear.  I'm 75 and used to fly military aircraft.  The audiologist said I don't need a hearing aid for normal conversation, which I was happy to hear, but I wasn't thinking about session playing at the time.  I generally do okay in sessions with good acoustics, but sometimes have similar problems in a small space.  It's much easier for me if I'm playing mandolin or banjo.  I think the direction of sound plays into it as you describe.

 

Perhaps it's time to check in again with the audiologist.   Thank you for your comments. 

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Steve Schulteis said:

I'll echo what the others have said. I don't think what you've experienced necessarily indicates hearing loss. Since the sound comes out the ends, it's usually easier for other people to hear a concertina than it is for the person playing it. And multiple concertinas playing in a small room will be quite loud, compounding the issue.

 

The term to search for is "in-ear monitor".

Ah, in-ear monitor.  Thank you!

Edited by Parker135
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You're certainly not alone in having difficulty. Yours is one instrument in a room of similar sounding instruments, and the sound predominatly comes out the ends, i.e. away from you. Be rest assured that if you are playing something terribly wrong then you will hear it!

 

What I do is hold my concertina up so that it's up at chest/chin level, which does help. Mind you I've never been a "rest it on a knee/thigh" type player, so supporting it with just two hands is normal for me.

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I use In ear monitoring, but that's when playing in a band through a proper PA. Using one in a session presents different problems.  Ideally you want a compact system that isn't too fiddly, does't get in the way of other players and if possible is battery powered rather than relying on the mains. 

 

There are systems to allow electric guitar players to listen through headphones, but these usually plug into the guitar itself and won't take external mics.

 

You will need a pair of mics, one for each end, with some way of attaching them to the instrument. Many mics need phantom power from a mixing desk, so you will need ones which have batteries or don't require power. You'll then need some sort of amp to connect the mics to your earphones. It's important to understand that the signal from mics is at a different level from electric guitars ("line level") so gear designed for guitars may not work. 

 

If you're considering this, go to a good music store and explain exactly what you're trying to do. Something like this might work for you, but take expert advice.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/JUST-MIXER-Audio-DJ-Mixer/dp/B01LPT8JY8

 

This doesn't provide phantom power so you'll need mics which don't require it.

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12 hours ago, hjcjones said:

I use In ear monitoring, but that's when playing in a band through a proper PA. Using one in a session presents different problems.  Ideally you want a compact system that isn't too fiddly, does't get in the way of other players and if possible is battery powered rather than relying on the mains. 

 

There are systems to allow electric guitar players to listen through headphones, but these usually plug into the guitar itself and won't take external mics.

 

You will need a pair of mics, one for each end, with some way of attaching them to the instrument. Many mics need phantom power from a mixing desk, so you will need ones which have batteries or don't require power. You'll then need some sort of amp to connect the mics to your earphones. It's important to understand that the signal from mics is at a different level from electric guitars ("line level") so gear designed for guitars may not work. 

 

If you're considering this, go to a good music store and explain exactly what you're trying to do. Something like this might work for you, but take expert advice.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/JUST-MIXER-Audio-DJ-Mixer/dp/B01LPT8JY8

 

This doesn't provide phantom power so you'll need mics which don't require it.

Thanks for that.  Looks like I could really go down a rabbit hole with this!

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Before you go down the rabbit hole, try a few more workshops and sessions. You may find that with more experience you become better at picking out the sound of your own instrument.

 

A less techy, but simpler and possibly cheaper, solution is to wear a wide-brimmed hat. Some find it helps to focus the sound.

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4 hours ago, hjcjones said:

Before you go down the rabbit hole, try a few more workshops and sessions. You may find that with more experience you become better at picking out the sound of your own instrument.

 

A less techy, but simpler and possibly cheaper, solution is to wear a wide-brimmed hat. Some find it helps to focus the sound.

Haha, love the hat idea!  Yes, I think I'll work on getting more experience before getting diverted into another project.  Thanks for your suggestions. 

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