Earplugs and playing

drummingman

New Member
I'm considering taking up horn or baritone, but need to wear earplugs as I find bands a big too loud. Do any other blowers wear plugs(and I wear ACS moulded ones) can you play OK? Many thanks
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I'm considering taking up horn or baritone, but need to wear earplugs as I find bands a big too loud. Do any other blowers wear plugs(and I wear ACS moulded ones) can you play OK? Many thanks
As it happens I’m on-line and do know people who wear ear plugs whilst playing. I might also have suffered some hearing loss but aren’t certain of the cause (Brass Banding or due to something(s) else). Bands are variable on their sound output and some seats are better protected than others. I don’t like to be sat near some drummers ‘cause they’re too loud for me (plugs in when that happens) and being sat in front of a Bass Trombone Bell would encourage me to have some ear plugs in my case ready for use.

Baritone is perhaps a bit un-loved. However I would prefer to play a Baritone Horn to a Tenor Horn and/or a Flugelhorn. The Baritone has more in common with the Trombones and Euphoniums whereas the other Horns, to my mind, look towards the Cornet Section.
 
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J. Jericho

New Member
Even with musician's earplugs, the sound changes, and you have to figure out how to judge your timbre. Recording yourself when you practice can help you correlate what you hear to what the audience hears. BTW - This works for playing in general, too; you'd be surprised what the audience hears, compared to what you hear behind the bell. Nevertheless, if overall volume in the room is a concern (and it should be, if you value your hearing) you might consider earplugs. Decibel meters are affordable and can help you with this decision. Besides, it's illuminating to discover the sources of noise around you every day; what you thought of as quiet might not be.
 

Mello

Active Member
Without delving into H&S which these days seems to overrule everything. I am just glad I never had to wear them whilst playing .

I do know that recent H&S regulations have messed up what I considered the balance - and tuning, of many bands where the rules are strictly applied. Take the Army brass band as an example...when the Cornets (back & front rows) are playing into baffle boards on one side of the band , & Troms into Baffle boards on the other, the distortion & balance starts to affect the ensemble sound .

Add to that, the wearing of earplugs by the musicians and you can imagine how difficult things can be to blend. A musical directors nightmare. I have to confess , I break the rules when teaching , and ask the players NOT to wear them during my 121 lessons so they can really hear themselves.- the same as I hear them... I just wouldn't dream of wearing them myself when teaching .

Many amateur bands are choosing not to wear them, but I wonder how long it will be before contest rules make them compulsory ( to avoid future damage claims or prosecution ? ) .
I shudder to think what will happen ....maybe everyone will be using Silent Brass systems thru a general mixing desk fed thru a speaker into the adjudicators box. !! On the other hand..... How many more court cases will there be - claiming compensation for ear damage. ...... I dont have any answers , I just know H&S taken to extremes could change the sounds of our bands (albeit inadvertently ). Food for thought maybe. ...maybe not. I guess disclaimers may be a way round it ...I just dont know...do you ?
 

drummingman

New Member
I've been in bands where we bave to screen the drums off due to noise but then the director asks to remove them because he can't hear the drums... You can't have it all.... Or screen the trombones off but then the director says "can you play louder, I can't hear you".. Thats the point!!
 

CousinJack

New Member
It's not seen as out of the ordinary for professionals or students to wear ear protection, and if you have good protection designed for musicians it won't affect your playing (once you get used to it of course). Most seats in the band aren't really affected by direct loud sounds, but some seats are known for being in the firing line. Principal cornets players are often deafened by soprano cornet players, likewise 2nd baritones deafened by bass trombonists, or a tuba player may have a particularly cutting bit of percussion in an ear. Sound screens can be used to remedy this, I know Tom Hutchinson of Cory band has a sound screen behind him to protect him from Steve Stewart's playing, and a tuba player in an old band had a sound screen in front of the woodblock in Dan Price's Darkwood. Pros and cons to sound screens and ear protection, it sounds like ear protection is more what you're after. I say go for it because, as said, it's quickly becoming the norm in student and professional environments and won't ruin your playing if you get a good set and if you get used to them.
 

Mello

Active Member
I've been in bands where we bave to screen the drums off due to noise but then the director asks to remove them because he can't hear the drums... You can't have it all.... Or screen the trombones off but then the director says "can you play louder, I can't hear you".. Thats the point!!
As you say, If the MD cant hear the drums and hardly the Troms , neither can the audience ....or adjudicators !
I played regularly for 3yrs with a Radio Band , recording stuff for such progs as Nightride. The percussion was always screened off , watching the MD thru the window.. However, the balancing was done on the mixer in the sound room....the studio sound was rarely balanced , but when played back , ( mixed of course) it was perfect.
Thats my point ...the Baffles /screening & earplugs used by the players spoil it for a live audience, unless of course as with big bands with players miked up, the sound being corrected as it happens by a mixing desk situated in the audience area.....As the James Last band does. Its interesting to see the techies constantly moving the sliders up and down the desk to compensate.
 

Queeg2000

Active Member
Maybe I'm stating the obvious but if for example the sop player turned his seat a little so he's playing towards the conductor rather than the back of the principal cornets head he would be quieter from the principals perspective and the audience could hear him better so could reduce his volume as well.
 

CousinJack

New Member
Maybe I'm stating the obvious but if for example the sop player turned his seat a little so he's playing towards the conductor rather than the back of the principal cornets head he would be quieter from the principals perspective and the audience could hear him better so could reduce his volume as well.
A conductor would be standing in a very odd place if the end chairs need to look out to see what he's doing!
 

drummingman

New Member
Actually, having the band incline to the front has been done in concerts by bands(Parc and Dare being one) however you would indeed need a larger rehearsal space to use it constantly(which would be the aim to reduce noise)
 
Many of our players use hearing aids so I just can't get my head around this thread.
Sop player will hopefully sit slightly outboard of the Principal and swing the bell towards the audience and avoid terminal earache for the front row. Tiering the seats so the back row and troms are higher than the front is a great idea, sit them on bar stools, but how often is excess volume actually a real problem? In my experience the real problem is lousy practice areas with low ceilings and lousy acoustics, which leads to lacklustre dead performances when the Band plays outside or with decent acoustics. As I tell players "Any Bloody Fool can play quietly." You have to practice playing loud, its no good expecting individuals or the band to suddenly double the sound output when you get outside. My own playing is great in the bathroom, but in the Bandroom, a converted chapel I struggle anything above about MP. I once watched a top Euph player with a championship band play Venetian Carnival I was in the 4th row of the audience and didn't hear him play a single note.

...the Baffles /screening & earplugs used by the players spoil it for a live audience, unless of course as with big bands with players miked up, the sound being corrected as it happens by a mixing desk situated in the audience area.....As the James Last band does. Its interesting to see the techies constantly moving the sliders up and down the desk to compensate.
That is interesting, Miking up the Band and bringing the sound down on the loud bits and up on the quiet bits is what audiences are used to from TV Radio and Records/CDs. Its very annoying for 90% of people to listen to music which constantly goes loud and then quiet for no apparent reason. Many good players might just as well mime when they get below MP because \at a Bandstand job no one will hear them, I sometimes have difficulty myself. So ear plugs? No. Get a decent rehearsal room.
 

Queeg2000

Active Member
Acoustics and volume of other instruments all have an impact. I've lost count of the times I've been told to play louder when I'm marked piano, then a few bars later told I'm much to loud when marked mezzoforte, but other instruments have reduced their dynamic or are resting.
 
I am always doing that exact thing, telling folk they are playing too quiet in Piano passages and too loud at MF. I think its because old music tended to go PP P MF F FF with MF the mid point and more modern stuff goes PP P MP MF F FF with the mid point between MP and MF. Thus on older music Folk read P to MF as 2 steps where I believe the composer probably only wanted one.
 

Tom-King

Well-Known Member
As I tell players "Any Bloody Fool can play quietly."
Couldn't possibly disagree more with this line.

Yes, playing loud and projecting properly takes practice (though proper balance within a band will make it sound louder).

But playing quietly, properly, is arguably the hardest aspect of playing - everything gets harder playing quietly, particularly clean articulation and intonation (especially in higher registers).
Loads of good championship bands can play very loud - when you listen carefully, you'll notice that the best can play quietly with control and the rest will either play it safe or give away their discomfort.
 

R900

New Member
Couldn't possibly disagree more with this line.

Yes, playing loud and projecting properly takes practice (though proper balance within a band will make it sound louder).

But playing quietly, properly, is arguably the hardest aspect of playing - everything gets harder playing quietly, particularly clean articulation and intonation (especially in higher registers).
Loads of good championship bands can play very loud - when you listen carefully, you'll notice that the best can play quietly with control and the rest will either play it safe or give away their discomfort.
Totally agree. Playing very quietly, with a nice sound and good accuracy is really difficult.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Many of our players use hearing aids so I just can't get my head around this thread.
In my experience the real problem is lousy practice areas with low ceilings and lousy acoustics, which leads to lacklustre dead performances when the Band plays outside or with decent acoustics.

As I tell players "Any Bloody Fool can play quietly." You have to practice playing loud, its no good expecting individuals or the band to suddenly double the sound output when you get outside.

My own playing is great in the bathroom, but in the Bandroom, a converted chapel I struggle anything above about MP. I once watched a top Euph player with a championship band play Venetian Carnival I was in the 4th row of the audience and didn't hear him play a single note.

Many good players might just as well mime when they get below MP because \at a Bandstand job no one will hear them, I sometimes have difficulty myself. So ear plugs? No. Get a decent rehearsal room.
Couldn't possibly disagree more with this line.

Yes, playing loud and projecting properly takes practice (though proper balance within a band will make it sound louder).

But playing quietly, properly, is arguably the hardest aspect of playing - everything gets harder playing quietly, particularly clean articulation and intonation (especially in higher registers).
Loads of good championship bands can play very loud - when you listen carefully, you'll notice that the best can play quietly with control and the rest will either play it safe or give away their discomfort.
I see where you are coming from Tom but I can also see how the context of David’s comments, does to quite a large extent, make them perfectly valid (to my judgement). One has to remember that the two of you play in very different groups and that the venues in which you practice and perform will be markedly different too.

In search of dynamic range I would say that higher section bands can manage to produce a much bigger sound than a lower section one so a lower section MD would be correct in asking his players to focus on producing additional volume ... well if he wanted all of the audience to hear what was being played. Maybe saying that "Any Bloody Fool can play quietly" is a bit flippant and I would agree with you that playing quietly is actually very hard to do well. However the context of comments is everything and if all your players - and maybe the MD too - need hearing aids then what they hear is already muted.
 
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Tom-King

Well-Known Member
I see where you are coming from Tom but I can also see how the context of David’s comments, does to quite a large extent, make them perfectly valid (to my judgement). One has to remember that the two of you play in very different groups and that the venues in which you practice and perform will be markedly different too.

In search of dynamic range I would say that higher section bands can manage to produce a much bigger sound than a lower section one so a lower section MD would be correct in asking his players to focus on producing additional volume ... well if he wanted all of the audience to hear what was being played. Maybe saying that "Any Bloody Fool can play quietly" is a bit flippant and I would agree with you that playing quietly is actually very hard to do well. However the context of comments is everything and if all your players - and maybe the MD too - need hearing aids then what they hear is already muted.
Sorry 2T, but no.

Lower section bands especially suffer with being able to play loudly but not quietly (not controlled loud, but overblowing is still loud).

Yes higher section bands make a bigger sound, but that's as much down to better intonation and balance as it is to individual volume... that MD you reference would be much better served working on balance and intonation - asking for more volume at lower levels tends to lead more to overblowing than positive improvements IME.

As for context, I'll just have to suggest that examples of bands struggling to he heard (at any level) pale into insignificance when compared with examples of bands playing inappropriately loud for a given venue.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
As is quite often the case my experience isn’t a perfect match for Tom’s, but that’s to be expected. I’ve played in several non-contesting Bands and they’ve all been different. One of them certainly did play overly loud in some venues, at the time that Band was oversubscribed on members and ear plugs were a good idea. The group that I currently play with has just about the right numbers and some of the members also play for contesting Bands too (lower and mid sections) so there’s quite a wide mix of skill levels. When all the contesting guys are there we’re a pretty good sounding group - stronger players then support and carry weaker ones along.

Our MD often encourages the Band and some particular players to give a fuller ff, mostly the Band manages to satisfy requests for quieter playing without too much difficulty. The dynamic extremes present challenges and to an extent they vary between instruments, stuffing the required volumes of air through a Tuba or large bore Trombone does mean that playing low brass loud is ‘challenging’, but it’s also not easy to do pp on a Tuba either. Overblowing is perhaps more of an issues for the smaller bore instruments, it’s a long time back but I think that I once managed it on a small bore Trombone. Overall, and this is just my experience, both extremes of the dynamic range are hard to achieve. I find that ff is harder than p and pp has its challenges.
 
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Queeg2000

Active Member
Being in a section 3 band, I often find that I am being told to play louder at a mp section than I am playing at a mf section depending on the dynamics in the other bars around it to produce more dynamic contrast.

It goes against the grain for me to do this as I was always taught that the dynamics were set in stone. Regardless of the piece being played or the surrounding bars, if it says pp,p,mp,mf,f,ff etc that is the dynamic to play it. To play a bar marked mf at ff because the previous bar has a crescendo from p contradicts my better judgment.
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Yes higher section bands make a bigger sound, but that's as much down to better intonation and balance as it is to individual volume . . . asking for more volume at lower levels tends to lead more to overblowing than positive improvements IME.
The first time I heard a conductor say that to a band, I couldn't see what he was driving at - but then when I started going to see a varity of bands performing, and comparing the sound achieved by the varying ability of their players, it made perfect sense.
 
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