Coping - music

Lets agree were talking about music we like - you listen to it or make it. One way or another, whether listening through your stereo or head phones music is usually a totally pleasurable experience. Sometimes tinnitus or hyperacusis gets in the way of enjoying music but it doesnt have to. Strange actually the way a series of audio frequencies produced according to extremely complex mathematical formulas (formulae if you insist) can effect all kinds of emotions. It can make you happy, melt into your couch, sad, bop up and down etc. and is a powerful tool you can use to make life a good thing.

Listening to music is simple - turn on your stereo or, pop in a CD or tune to your favourite radio station. Set it to a volume level (see volume control) youre comfortable with and there you go, instant pleasure. The trouble with lower volumes is, it often doesnt sound that great. But, that does not necessarily mean you have to turn it up louder either. What happens at a lower volume is that the speakers loose too much of the top and bottom end. The bass and treble tones are gone and you end up hearing mostly the mid range sounds only, no wonder you think it sounds tinny. Most stereos have a feature to overcome this shortcoming in the sound: the loudness switch. It's designed to boost the bass and treble at low volumes to bring it up to the volume of the mid range sound. It is not designed to get you an extra fifty Watts on the cheap. Equalizers give you even greater control over the "missing" sound ranges. They are especially handy if you happen to have hearing loss at a certain frequency range. When the sound is all there its a lot more enjoyable. If your stereo doesnt have these features maybe its time to start dropping hints to Santa.

Making music - the enjoyment of listening times a hundred. You get to play what you want and reflect the mood you want. Considering tinnitus, this could be a problem - some instruments are really loud and because of that, they might not get along with your ears right now. Giving up music is a huge sacrifice to make. Not only the enjoyment, but might badly affect your pay cheque. Some instruments are harder to come to terms with than others, most though can be "tamed." These are some of the things you can try:

Stringed instruments:
use a mute
use a lighter gauge
use a softer pick (felt instead of plastic)
forget the picks
use a lighter gauge or nylon strings
use a mute
dont lean on them
close the lid
use practice pads
use electronic pads
Still a problem:
change to an electrified instrument
Electrified instruments:
see volume control

For most all instruments you can simply change the way you play - less loud. Dont dig into the strings the way youre used to, dont bow as vigorously, dont blow as hard. "No way, no how is a plug-in gonna sound like my grand." Of course it isnt and of course it is going to sound different, absolutely no question about that. Several thoughts:

  • think of it as a challenge to yourself, an exercise in dynamics
  • new sounds allow you to further explore your instrument
  • new sounds let you further your musical ability
  • lighter or no picks may require a different style - see above

Who on earth would wanna shove a bunch of towels up a five thousand dollar Martin? No kidding eh, but would you really wanna just hang it on the wall? And that little Caz, or Yami, no problem taking that to work to play during your lunch break, is it. Try that with your Steinway eh... Or how about that gorgeous Stelling, theres always clawhammer, isnt there. And them soft horns, not quite Louis Armstrong, but mellow is mellow, aint it? How about Eric Clapton, sounds mighty fine unplugged, dont he ever. Good music comes from you, from the heart. Its the language of the soul, so what if it speaks with a foreign accent for a while. Music is music, regardless of what instrument you play it on.

When music is your livelihood there too are things you can do. Not much point to try and fool the audience with Chet Atkins picking when theyre expecting a heavy metal show - musicians ear plugs is where its at. Dont bother looking for them at Harrys Funky Guitar Emporium, theyre custom fitted to your ears at your local audiologists. Look one up in the hearing aid section of the yellow pages. They cost less than a decent pedal and fit only you so you wont have to worry about the drummer ripping them off. Whats more, theyll chop off all kinds of noise without cutting out the sounds you need to hear like your monitors etc. While youre at it, think business and turn down the amps a smidgen - you cant hustle CDs to deaf fans... If you're doing a studio gig, guess what, youre wearing headphones - see volume control.

Whether just listening to music or whether you play it, it all boils down to this: when you enjoy music you associate it with pleasure. Music is sound and when you associate sound with pleasure, couldnt hurt could it...

Foot note:

  • Volume control - a gizmo that usually looks round - use it!
  • Headphones - let you listen to your hearts content without bothering others, get one with a volume control (see volume control). From all my years of selling hifi equipment, by far the most popular Christmas present parents buy their teenage kids.

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