Any deaf players out there? How does it affect your playing?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Chris Lee, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. Chris Lee

    Chris Lee Member

    Trying to get some feedback here from deaf players and how they cope. I play Eflat bass and my hearing is mostly gone by around 1KHz (about 2 octaves above concert pitch middle C) with aids.
    The main and obvious problem is that I often fail to hear the conductor telling us what piece to play next, but obviously I also miss out on the complex harmonics that affect the timbre of each instrument, including what I am playing (the effect of missing the harmonics is that you actually hear a very nice pure tone without any harshness - but that's not what everybody else is hearing!).

    Also, although I can't figure why poor hearing should affect this, it sometimes seems that accurate pitching is difficult. Maybe this too is down to losing the harmonics and therefore the quality of the note.

    Any other deaf players care to share their difficulties and perspective of deafness on their playing?

    Appreciate your feedback.

    Very Best, Chris Lee
    Newbie(ish) EEflat Besson Sovereign
  2. pbirch

    pbirch Active Member

    there are a number of things here, congratulations on continuing to play when it would be quite easy to give up. One of the most famous deaf musicians is, of course, Evelyn Glennie, she plays without her shoes on, and gets some feedback through her feet, so you could try that.
    there is also and equality and diversity issue that you need to overcome with the conductor. Anti-discriminatory practice is often poo-pooed as political correctness, but the conductor needs to ensure that you can participate effectively with out being singled out, or being made to feel that you are holding the band up, and you should communicate your needs to the conductor. He could, for example, give you a copy of his schedule for the rehearsal, and there will be other imaginative ways that can be used to overcome the problems to enable you to continue to contribute to the band and gain from participation.
  3. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    Oh dear pbirch, you have just opened a right can of worms. Are you saying a person should have a right to stay in a progressive band and use their disability as an excuse for not being able to keep up with the band? Assistance to help overcome any disability yes - special dispensation to play sub-band-standard definitely not. That's patronising.

    Perhaps a discussion for another thread.

    One of my friends played at the highest level being totally deaf in one ear. The seating was rearraned so that his good ear was facing into his section and the rest of the band. It never seemed to hold him back and his strong point was always considered his sound and he won many solo prizes on the strength of it.
  4. pbirch

    pbirch Active Member

    that is an entirely different question, kick him out because he doesn't meet there required standard, harsh but acceptable, it's the way of the world, but if the disability is the only issue then we need to make reasonable adjustments to enable participation, giving a player with hearing problems the rehearsal schedule, ensuring that instructions from the conductor are properly communicated are I think entirely reasonable, the example you give shows that such reasonable adjustments allow such participation and a actually makes my point, there is nothing patronising about it at all
  5. Chris Lee

    Chris Lee Member

    Hmm. Now there's a thought PB. Might have to wash my socks and try that.

    Incidentally, I'm not saying that a disabled person should play on to the detriment of the band. A band as a whole is greater than the sum of the individual players (ho ho - wonder if I'll get away with that comment) - but I DO think that a band should make efforts to encourage a badly disabled person to play, maybe in a subgroup with other players of his standard. For example training band, or brass quintet and so on. (I'm sure most of you have a B band, maybe even a C band - we have a little group we call the Z band, if you get the idea...). After all, we all pass our peak at some stage, but that doesn't mean that we don't have advice and encouragement to pass on, or that we no longer enjoy playing.

    Your comments about the role of the conductor also strike home. It seems that typically while the cornets are aware of what's going on, the basses in the back row have to rely on Chinese whispers. A good strong opening is totally dependent on knowing:
    1) You are about to play the same piece as everybody else
    2) Roughly the speed and exactly the beats per bar (e.g cut common conducted in 4-time)
    3) Exactly when to come in.

    All that depends on good clear communication, especially where conductors don't like to make a flamoyant show of counting you in.

    That surely applies to all of us and not just the deaf.

    Anyaway thanks for your comments and your encouragement . Be pleased to hear from anyone else with a view.

    Very Best,

    Chris Lee
    (Newbieish, EEflat Bass)
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011

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