07. May 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Ramble

As I was setting up for yesterday’s rehearsal one player was warming up on his sax. It was loud. 90 decibels loud. And he was only warming up. We have a lot of saxes for this concert. And a drum set. I knew we had trouble. I talked to our concert manager about getting a sound shield and at first was told they were all in use so I couldn’t have one. I mentioned the 90 decibels with just the one person warming up. A bit later a sound shield was brought to me.

Good thing I had my decibel meter! (Thanks, Mom!)

Still, it was going to be an awfully unpleasant situation. The sound shields do a little bit, but not enough. I knew it was an ear plug gig for the entire week. Sigh.

BUT!! We were moved prior to the start of the rehearsal. I was so relieved. I would have worn my earplugs had we not been relocated, and playing a wind instrument with ear plugs in is a very unpleasant experience. I hear my tongue inside my head (really!), I hear my sound as very tinny and ugly. It’s just awful. Where we are now I don’t think I’ll need plugs at all, and I gave my sound shield to another player who is still in front of the saxes.

There’s a good article on the problems we deal with. And yes, of course it’s the nature of the biz and all to have to deal with this (I’ve read some blog entries by non-musicians who seem to think we are just big babies and should quit if we can’t handle the noise). Our hearing, as you might imagine, is quite important. Loss of hearing is not a good thing!

It seems to me that we are playing louder these days. There’s a beauty and wonder in a hushed pianissimo and I’d love to get to that more often.

But I’ve said all that before. I wonder if anyone can hear me?

1 Comment

  1. I’ve always bemoaned the “conservatory style” of instrumental playing, that stresses very loud playing all the time. When I was a young student, I took the expression “the big sound” to mean a certain resonance — a “ring”, if you will, to the tone, that was there even when you played very softly. More and more, it seems to mean just playing as loud as you can, all the time. I think one symptom of this is the prevalence of amplified sound, even for “classical” music performances.

    And, of course, this doesn’t even talk to the constant over-amplification of other musics!

    Mind you, there’s nothing like the thrill of a full orchestra all revved up (or even a solo oboist!). But it’s meaningless if there’s no context but “maximum loud”.