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Author Topic: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?  (Read 2528 times)

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arty

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In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« on: April 14, 2013, 05:36:06 PM »

I have only been playing for a few months but I have been going to listen to a group of musicians who play in a pub every Friday night, in order to familiarise myself with the tunes. Usually about 10 musicians turn up playing a variety of instruments including 2 fiddles, 2 whistles, a melodeon and a piano accordion, 2 guitars, bodran etc., etc. They are really very good indeed and great fun to listen to.

I was really chuffed when they asked me to go along and play what I could last Friday. I played Planxty Irwin followed by Fanny Power and they were really kind and encouraging. Now, I have always thought of the melodeon as quite a loud instrument and so I was completely taken by surprise by the fact that I couldn't hear myself playing. I mean I couldn't hear myself AT ALL which I found really disconcerting and I know as a result I got a bit tied up in knots a couple of times. I was able to get back into it fairly quickly but it wasn't what I expected! After I had finished, I told the guy next to me who said: "Yes it's like that, you may not have heard yourself but we could hear you and it was fine!"

Is this normal? I know that group make a lot of noise when they are all playing but I didn't expect that!!!

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Andrew Wigglesworth

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2013, 05:49:36 PM »

Yes, it's normal, and your hearing will change to pick out what you play. It is a very different experience playing with others to playing on your own. Be glad that you're not on stage where you can't hear yourself without foldback even if you're doing a solo. Stages seem to be giant black holes sound wise.

The sound issue is also why I prefer small sessions. Excepting at festivals where the hurly burly of a big constantly changing session can be fun, I like to be able to pick out and play with other individual players rather than muddle along with the whole "river of sound" kind of thing.

Your session is probably at the limit of what I would like for a regular session, but it all depends on how people play, how many are playing at the same time, and what they are playing. There are no other melodeon players at my regular session for instance.

malcolmbebb

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2013, 06:37:45 PM »

I find it very scary  and extremely disconcerting.
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bretelles

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2013, 07:12:19 PM »

I think it‘s a normal thing in a large group like that, and I can imagine how disturbing it can be at the beginning!
I never had this experience with the accordion or melodeon but I‘m very often in this situation during carnival
(here‘s an exemple:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE_UHURYI5U),
but everybody says that it‘s a good sign when you‘re not hearing yourself, it means you are playing well.... if you can hear yourself it can mean that you‘re playing wrong notes....
In the beginning it troubled me a lot, because I always thought I couldn‘t control properly what I‘m doing. It takes time to let yourself go with the flow of the music and the playing of the group. During rehearsals I sometimes sit or stand in a corner a bit away from the rest and turn my back to them, it helps when you‘re playing tunes that you have not practiced a lot...
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GPS

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2013, 07:27:17 PM »

Short answer - no, not very well.  But then I'm surprised by the number of people who say "That box of yours is loud, isn't it?", even when I've not been playing very hard.
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pbsalt

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2013, 08:00:11 PM »

Personally if you  really couldn't hear yourself play  in a session with 10 musicians then I'd say that someone is playing too loudly and that it is bad session etiquette to drown out the person who started the tune.   
Paul
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Andrew Wigglesworth

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2013, 09:02:24 PM »

Personally if you  really couldn't hear yourself play  in a session with 10 musicians then I'd say that someone is playing too loudly and that it is bad session etiquette to drown out the person who started the tune.   
Paul

Very true I think. I always scale right back the volume of my box so that I can hear the quieter instruments.

Chris Ryall

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2013, 09:36:15 PM »

To repeat myself, listening is the most important skill in a session. I was sat next to a PA player at lunchtime.  Egregious error I know, but I'm  pretty sure he eased back a bit. If so I'm grateful.
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GPS

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2013, 05:45:24 AM »

There are degrees of not being able to hear oneself, though, aren't there?  Even in the largest festival sessions I've been in I've never been totally unable to hear anything I'm playing. Sometimes it's difficult to hear how accurately I'm playing or if any bits of "my" way of playing a tune are clashing horribly with others, and many of the nuances get lost. It also depends on the instrumentation present - in the last session where the loudness of my box was commented on I was the only melodeon player in the company of guitarists, fiddlers and whistle-players.  In the same week I was in a session with some of the same players plus three other melodeonists, but we were spread around among the other instruments and I had no trouble hearing either them or myself - or, for that matter, the other instruments. For the record, the box count was 2 Castagnaris, a Dino Bafetti and my Saltarelle, and although the tones of each were quite different I didn't notice any great differences in volume.

Graham
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arty

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2013, 07:18:23 AM »

Well thank you all for your comments, I feel better now!  I have to agree with Malcolmbebb - it is scary and disconcerting - but at the same time I enjoyed it and look forward to the next time.
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Andrew Wigglesworth

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2013, 07:29:40 AM »

To repeat myself, listening is the most important skill in a session. I was sat next to a PA player at lunchtime.  Egregious error I know, but I'm  pretty sure he eased back a bit. If so I'm grateful.

Not just the most important skill, but one of the most enjoyable bits as far as I'm concerned. The listening bit I mean, not the sitting next to PA players.

Marje

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2013, 09:20:43 AM »

Small comfort, I suppose, but I think you're more likely to hear yourself if you go wrong. I don't mean that going wrong on purpose would be a good plan, but you can take comfort from the fact that what you're doing seems to be blending in well enough with the rest.

And it's not necessarily bad form for the other musicians to play strongly - sometimes the regulars sense that a newbie is faltering a bit with, say, the melody or the tempo, and try to play confidently alongside to help them through it. It may be meant to support you rather than undermine you.
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george garside

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2013, 09:49:05 AM »

To repeat myself, listening is the most important skill in a session. I was sat next to a PA player at lunchtime.  Egregious error I know, but I'm  pretty sure he eased back a bit. If so I'm grateful.

Not just the most important skill, but one of the most enjoyable bits as far as I'm concerned. The listening bit I mean, not the sitting next to PA players.

absolutely agree about the importance of listening.   However  it can be very difficult in large sessions particulaarly in long narrow rooms  as those at one end genuinely    cant hear those at t'other  so there is a danger of 2 or even 3 speeds developing.  so in that sort of situation its juist up to everybody to do there best which sometimes involves 'flying blind'' or should it be deaf!.  If there are other DG players dotted around the room ( and provided they are playing on the row) it caan sometimes help to keep an eye on what they are doing and try to synchronise bellows ins and outs.  Another thing that can help is to keep an eye of the speed of foot tapping  in the room , which should all being well be the same for everybody and therefore if your foot is at the same   speed as the majority  or the leader of the tune you should be in   hitting the right speed.

george
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Rob2Hook

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2013, 11:04:25 AM »

Sometimes I can hear myself embarassingly clearly!  Other times I can't even tell whether I'm hitting the right buttons or playing a third out.  Sadly, sometimes the two coincide...

I find that keeping tempo is quite similar to playing for a group of dancers.  I like to pick up on the body language of someone across the room to make sure both sides of the room are playing at the same speed with glances around the others to see if anyone is obviously out or looking uncomfortable.  It's easier if you have a basic grounding in playing the instrument concerned and can follow the movement of someone's bellows, the fiddler's bowing arm or even the way a whistle player tends to "conduct" with his pipe.  At worst, sometimes the leader of the tune visibly taps his foot - hopefully in time with his playing!

Rob.
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deltasalmon

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2013, 12:50:53 PM »

When I play by myself I'd say about 90% of the time I play with MM voices, and 10% with LMM. In a session I'd say I do the opposite just because that low reed bank sticks out from all the fiddles so it makes it a little easier to hear myself. I also sometimes will angle my accordion so that the grill is facing towards my face and I'll bend over a bit to listen.
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malcolmbebb

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2013, 01:08:43 PM »

It's easier with a concertina.
You have even more trouble hearing it yourself, but you just look at the faces of the musicians alongside you - if they wince when you hit a key, you're doing something wrong.
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IanD

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2013, 01:11:08 PM »

It's easier with a concertina.
You have even more trouble hearing it yourself, but you just look at the faces of the musicians alongside you - if they wince when you hit a key, you're doing something wrong.
Or you're Ralph Jordan doing some harmonisation/improvisation... ;-)
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Strigulino

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2013, 02:00:33 PM »

One thing you'll get, especially at Melodeons and More I find, is what I call "Workshop Neck".  You spend so much time with your head bent round so your right ear is pointed at your treble grille, you end up with a cricky neck.  I was thinking of inventing some kind of ear trumpet arrangement.
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Rob2Hook

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2013, 02:14:50 PM »

Never bothered to do it myself, but you could use a microvox through a belt amp to an earpiece, so you have foldback in one ear and the other to hear what the rest of the world is doing.

Rob.
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EastAnglianTed

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Re: In a session, can you hear yourself playing?
« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2013, 02:27:14 PM »

    On tunes I know I play hard enough to hear myself (not to drown others out) but it's key to realise when, although you may not be able to hear yourself, the poor bugger next to you might be having his ear drums tested by your treble end, so he plays harder and this goes on and on...
    Often, a session can become a lovely, subdued, amalgamation of sounds and in this case, not hearing yourself can be a pleasant experience. There's beauty in the subtlety.
    Short answer, no, it's not uncommon to not hear yourself, just pleeaaassseee ( ;D) don't start belting out tunes if you can't hear yourself! Find a nice volume where if you're unsure you can stick your ears nearer the box, as opposed to squeaking rnamdo notes out. This is what I learnt  >:E >:E >:E >:E >:E >:E >:E
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