Hearing issues

MushCreek

New member
I'm having a problem when singing that I didn't see coming with old age- I sometimes can't hear myself well enough to know whether I'm in pitch. I sing in a church choir, and that's when I have a problem. I think some of it is in the choir loft, too, but mostly it's just my fading hearing. Singing alone, I'm fine. I see that a lot of singers now wear what looks like a hearing aid- I assume it's a monitor? That's great, but they all seem to work through a PA. Is there such a thing as a headset and mic that just feeds right into the earphones? I need a self-contained way to hear my own voice in a crowd, if that makes any sense. Right now, I mostly use muscle memory, with mixed results. I don't want to be 'that guy' that everyone wishes would just retire.
 
Hi,
This can be a downward spiral - The less you hear yourself the less confident you are then the quieter you sing.
First off I'd speak to the guys either side and in front and let them know where you're at - That alone might take the pressure off a bit and let you sing out with confidence which, on its own, might solve the problem.

Sometimes the problem isn't so much hearing yourself as finding and focussing on yourself.
When playing a mix to someone and saying "do you hear the synth?". With a subtle part often the answer's no until I hit solo then unsolo - That's enough, then, to get a 'lock' on it.
Try throwing in an off-script passing note or harmony here and there to see if it helps you get a focus on your own voice.

I think most people with in ear monitors are more likely to have them for some backing track or reference rather than to amplify themselves.
I'm not sure I like that idea too much - In a loud environment it can be hard to gauge just how loud the monitor is and that could be even more damaging, long term.

However - I'm always very aware of how loud my voice seems to me when I'm wearing earplugs - Even if I'm causing a racket with an angle grinder or sander.
If the above doesn't help maybe try popping in one earplug? It might be totally off-putting but, on the other hand, it might just help!

Certainly a lot of people have trouble singing with headphones on for music/backing reference - It's very common to slide one cup off which would be sort of similar.
 

MushCreek

New member
This is in a very small church choir, and I'm the 'best' of the three basses we have. One sings OK, but doesn't read music, and the other one sings whatever he feels like. They lean on me to get the right notes.

I don't want a regular monitor. We don't use a PA anyway, so there's nowhere to get a signal from. It would be cool if there was a mic that just fed your voice back into your own ears. We used to train kids with a gizmo made out of PVC pipe fittings. They sing into it while holding the other end near their ear so that they could hear their own voice. Of course, it would look odd to see me holding such a thing during the church service LOL.

The pitch issue also surfaced when I was playing in a brass band. I played alto horn, which doesn't tend to stick out anyway. I used a tuner on my music stand to be sure I was A) playing the right notes, and B) in tune. Useless for fast passages, but good for tuning up slower stuff. Again, muscle memory helps, but on a 100 y/o instrument, you do need to hear it to make sure you're in tune.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
As a confirmed In Ear Monitor wearer, I love them because I can turn it down, not up. The drums and the insanely loud guitar amp no longer make my ears ring. In ears, as you say need feeding with audio - so the best thing for you would be a visit to a proper audiologist and buy a hearing aid. Some are even not that expensive, but they're not just for deaf people - they'll do exactly what you need - plus they will tailor the audio to adjust your balance, spotting where you're weak and where you're not. For what you want, maybe just one will work and with the proper mould they are comfy and effective.

Here in the UK, the musicians union did a scheme for hearing protection and lots bought proper moulds at reduced prices. Some just for reduction, but others like me had IEMs fitted. They're really the best things I've ever bought. I now DI my bass and sing and wear in ears. When I go back to cabs and wedges for some festival stuff I hate it.
 
Try using 1 earplug. Even the foam ones will work when you get it sealed good. The pitch will resonate louder in your head. I've done this while doing high harmony. It's pretty strange feeling , but it makes a Big difference. mark
 

Chili

Site Moderator
Try using 1 earplug. Even the foam ones will work when you get it sealed good. The pitch will resonate louder in your head. I've done this while doing high harmony. It's pretty strange feeling , but it makes a Big difference. mark

I like this idea. I might give it a go at my next gig. Sometimes it is hard to hear where my harmony part should fit in with the lead singer and I end up singing the melody line. Or, whether I'm on pitch. Playing bass, I can't just stick a finger in my ear to block it.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
If you sing harmonies, it really struggles with your brain to play bass. I do the middle parts in the band and usually have to sing one line and play a bass part that often has different rhythms too! The only way I could do it was to learn the bass parts so well it was automatic, and then concentrate on the harmony line as if it was a melody. I still think its odd to see my hands playing on their own!
 

CrowsofFritz

Flamingo!
If you sing harmonies, it really struggles with your brain to play bass. I do the middle parts in the band and usually have to sing one line and play a bass part that often has different rhythms too! The only way I could do it was to learn the bass parts so well it was automatic, and then concentrate on the harmony line as if it was a melody. I still think its odd to see my hands playing on their own!

Another reason why I think Macca is an awesome bassist. Especially with so many screaming girls messing things up, too.
 

Chili

Site Moderator
Sorry for going off-topic, OP.

If you sing harmonies, it really struggles with your brain to play bass. I do the middle parts in the band and usually have to sing one line and play a bass part that often has different rhythms too! The only way I could do it was to learn the bass parts so well it was automatic, and then concentrate on the harmony line as if it was a melody. I still think its odd to see my hands playing on their own!

Yeah, there are some songs where I can't do both and I have to step away from the mic. One band I'm in, we are a 4-piece and do classic rock and classic country for redneck weddings. It's a hoot. Lead singer owns the wedding venue and the band is part of the package deal. It pays okay. So, having the 3 vocal parts really make a difference than just 2 vocal parts and we get a lot of compliments for it. The good thing is, a lot of country songs are simple for bass and it's easy to sing harmonies to them.

and back to our regularly scheduled topic. :)
 
After re reading all the responses , I noticed "steenamaroo" had already mentioned using 1 earplug. I missed it the 1'st time thru , so it might be more common than I thought. ms
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I kn ow it sounds silly and counter-intuitive, but have you actually tried some hearing protection - just the gentle one - either the light foam, or the proper ones with 10dB or so filters in? If you stick them in, you hear your voice so much louder. You do need to be a good singer and experienced to have 1. the courage to sing out, and 2. the physical sense that lets you sing at the right volume. The old folk singer trick, where they stick a finger in their ear to hear themselves better?
 

Chili

Site Moderator
I was going to try it this past gig on saturday, but the sound guy gave us IEMs. It was kind of a mess sound-wise. I left one IEM in and one out so I could still hear the kick drum. The sound guy said vocals sounded great, harmonies and all. I had no clue how we sounded.
 

MushCreek

New member
You want to try something strange? When you do a growl on a saxophone, you hum while you play to give that raw jazz sound. BUT- you don't want to hum the same note that you are playing! I was trying to teach my son to do that when he had the solo in 'Harlem Nocturne', but he chickened out.

I guess I'll try the one ear plug trick. To be honest, I wasn't planning on going back to singing- ever. I've stopped singing and playing trumpet during the pandemic, and I anticipate it will be another 6 months before enough people are vaccinated. At age 67, maybe it's time to let someone else do it.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Chilli - pre-covid we moved across to IEMs and with personal mixers, had the best mixes ever - BUT - at festivals it went horribly wrong. Festival sound guys with few exceptions are old rock and rollers, or young people first outing in the industry and their monitor mixes with wedges are at best average. I realise there will be some excellent guys out there, but we just met few of them. With wedges if your mix is totally screwed you can usually hear enough to play - a struggle but you get through. The commonest thing is they are so far away, they cannot tell who you are or even what role in the band you have, so can I have a bit more keys in the mix please probably gets the keys players mix changed not my bass! With IEMs it's intolerable. With them in you really need a balanced mix and a quick line check is NOT going to work. What we did (for 5 or 6 shows before Covid was buy an X32 rack and stick it in our usual stage rack. We rigged a festival system. We could pre-rig our 4 vocal mic cables with a Y splitter and drum overhead plus bass, guitar and keys feed - just 8 mics/DI and we and our sound guy we always take with us could unplug their 4 vocal mics, add our splitters and replug, plus the DIs, and one boom stand we put over the kit. This gives us all our vital feeds and the stage or FOH festival people get their pre-labelled sources. My bass amp and the guitar amp have DI out, and the keyboard just needs a DI box. It works really well. It means we're totally independent - our personal mixers are network cables so we can get rigged quickly, ready to play because we don't need to do our mixes.

I find the IEM mix in just one ear very difficult to play with. Festival stages are only good with IEMS if you have proper soundcheck time and our band have four part harmonies in every song - and in my case, if I lose the keyboard channel, I have no idea if I'm in tune. At one festival the stage level was criminal and I played one entire song in Eb, for getting we'd decided to play it in E for a change. I did the whole song wrong - but never heard a thing as I'd pulled my ears out because the mix was so awful. I play my bass by remote control, so could still play the right (but wrong) notes without hearing them. I only knew when the sound man told afterwards. I've even played a gig with the ears in and the pack off because it was so loud.
 
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