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R/E/P => Klaus Heyne's Mic Lab => Topic started by: klaus on November 17, 2014, 01:57:58 am

Title: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on November 17, 2014, 01:57:58 am
Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement

I have avoided visiting my audiologist (strike that-nonsense-I have no audiologist, it’s been too long!) for more than a decade now. All around me people in their Fifties, Sixties and Seventies (Bruce Swedien is 80+) still work productively, making esthetic decisions on a basis of, in most cases significantly, reduced hearing ability: high end? gone, high midrange? distorted, reduced.

How do they continue working? How do they continue to judge balance, timbre, musicality of a song or album they engineer or produce? How will I make esthetic decisions achieving “sex appeal” in a microphone when that time comes for me (for all I know, its already here, trying to knock on my door, but I am not hearing it)?  Hearing loss is not like loss of sight, function of a limb or other handicaps which we can often successfully make up by using another organ or another sense. Partial hearing loss for an engineer should mean the end of a career. But it is not.

I have observed it time and again in the professional studio environment: sound (both senses of the word) decisions are being made every day by older professionals who have lost 25dB or more of 8kHz hearing, who hear distortion when standing next to a violin bowed, or have become hypersensitive to high volume playback.

So, how do they do it? How do they stay in the game? Fakery is out of the question: one can only compensate little from memory; tracking and mixing situations are often so vastly different from place to place, day to day, that repeating what you did Monday in a Neve room will not translate to Wednesday’s direct-to-Protools date.

Here is my theory: We overestimate the importance of what the fringes on the frequency bands portend to the overall quality of sound, and we do not give enough credit to the old Paul Stubblebine adage: ”if you get the midrange right, everything else will fall into place”.

Let me expand on that: if you get a musical, esthetic, emotionally attractive mid range from any sound-processing device- microphone, pre-amp, storage medium, speaker, headphones... you have made it. I could even include the sound source in this list: the ugly, badly tuned snare drum will show up, even if two dozen decibels are gone from the engineer’s top end hearing range.

As this is not so much an issue of relative hearing volume but of quality, I believe some loss in high frequency hearing will only slightly, if at all, affect the musical decisions of the engineer or producer.

Let me know what your experience has been as a person with hearing loss in the professional audio environment. I will make an exception and will allow anonymous postings in this thread, for the obvious reason that hearing loss is a professional handicap in our world- justified or not.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: radardoug on November 17, 2014, 01:49:38 pm
Klaus, I think you are correct in that the extremes of frequency are not as important as the midrange.
Also a couple of other things.
One is that a working profesional is always self referencing, by hearing music every day and having a memory of what they heard before.
Also, the major loss area is high frequencies, and they are usually well above the fundamental notes of the instruments being listened to.
And as mastering engineers know, if you apply the 'smiley' curve to music, it almost always sounds better!
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Dinogi on November 17, 2014, 05:43:58 pm
Is it possible that as the ability to hear decays over time that the ability to listen becomes more astute?
As I'm now in my sixties, I have noticed that my hearing is much more sensitive to harsh sounds. That is, I perceive them to be unpleasant now where I may have ignored them in the past because they didn't make me uncomfortable..
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Jim Williams on November 18, 2014, 10:43:17 am
Agreed, that Pro Tools sound is ripping my ears a new one. I guess since I'm older my ears haven't been 'conditioned' growing up listening to that sort of sound. Modern, clean digital productions sans digital processing and compression sound incomparable, simply amazing. Unfortunatly, those are rare productions these days.

The Audiologist will provide a benchmark for your losses. I saw mine a year or so ago. I was very pleasantly suprized to find out my hearing at 62 is better than 99% of those at my age. She told me she now measures severe hearing losses in teenagers, worse than my hearing by far. Only small children show good hearing, only because they are too young for those deadly "ear buds". Parents, keep those things off your kids or they too will suffer hearing losses.

Decades of using ear protection starting in the 1970's has paid off. That includes years of power trio blues/rock, shooting high powered rifles and a few tours with Stevie Wonder.

The left ear has some attenuation at 8k hz, the right ear is flat and is my reference ear, so to speak.

The best advise I can give is start using ear plugs at an early age and keep them with you at all times. The world is a noisy place and ears don't grow back.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: richbreen on November 19, 2014, 11:02:30 am
Is it possible that as the ability to hear decays over time that the ability to listen becomes more astute?
As I'm now in my sixties, I have noticed that my hearing is much more sensitive to harsh sounds. That is, I perceive them to be unpleasant now where I may have ignored them in the past because they didn't make me uncomfortable..

I may be wrong on this, and (obviously) haven't researched carefully, but I seem to recall that sensitivity *increases* directly adjacent to the damaged band, so one would become more sensitive to upper midrange as one loses top. 

best,
rich
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: underblu on December 08, 2014, 10:44:47 pm
I think hearing loss is more prevalent than many of us would even like to acknowledge.   I have some minor attenuation in certain upper frequencies on my right ear along with tinnitus.   I've learned to deal with it and I'm also aware of what frequencies I have some attenuation. 

While according to my audiologist I have good hearing it ain't perfect and certainly not as good as when I was a teenager.

What I find particularly appalling and not to turn this into a rant is that in the US we live in a society that's litigation and regulation gone wild.  I mean the former NY mayor banned or tried to ban sugary drinks yet the decibel levels that is permitted at clubs, bars, live venues is absolutely mind boggling and almost certainly destructive to hearing.    Even going out to dinner in a poorly treated space can produce dangerous decibel levels.

My point is we have regulation for the smallest bs thing while  hearing which is vital for a healthy productive life, is not even considered. 

Sorry, end of rant
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 09, 2014, 12:36:13 am
In Portland, Oregon, noise ordinance enforcement by one (!) noise enforcement officer stops at the box office: as long as the noise is kept inside the venue, no ordinance currently exists which prohibits SPLs above a certain level or a certain time in commercial zones.
With that in mind, I see only three avenues available to remedy excessive, unhealthy noise exposure in environments currently not regulated by municipal ordinances:

1. enough people petition the legislative to force a change in noise ordinances

2. enough people complain or stay away from shows at venues to force a lowering of FOH volumes

3. enough fans get upset that bands will request a certain limit of SPLs at their shows

None of these avenues looks promising: legislative changes are rarely initiated by people under 30, many people going to concerts feel actually entranced and stimulated by high volumes that encourage them to loose themselves for a couple of hours, and as long as bands don't hear from their audiences that they will not attend the next concert, because their ears did not stop ringing until the next day, no luck there either.

I attended a Galactic show at a club in Portland with my son last year. We both wore musician's earplugs (-15dB), but had to leave after 15 minutes, because the new gigantic wedges installed at the foot of the stage were pumping such a high level of  low-frequencies into the hall, that it proved too much for the earplugs and our stomachs gave out form the direct onslaught on our bodies. We had to leave. Once back on the street, I looked up at the venue (on the second floor of an old building) and saw how the wall of the building swayed in synch with the kick drum.

It is beyond me why people abuse their bodies to such an extent. But that's probably not any different than not following why people shoot heroin.
 
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Kai on December 10, 2014, 09:18:41 am
In Germany the maximum allowed sound level exposure for an audience is strictly regulated.
This does not mean there are no loud concerts at all (some just don't care), but the situation has improved very much.

The problem now are the musicians.
They demand very high stage level that spills into the audience.
So in theory you have to switch off the front PA system.
Or that brass bands that have an acoustic output beyond the allowed level.
Then it's a bit hard to decide what to do with the singers microphones.

Regards
Kai
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 11, 2014, 12:15:05 am
The problem now are the musicians.
They demand very high stage level that spills into the audience.
So in theory you have to switch off the front PA system.
Or that brass bands that have an acoustic output beyond the allowed level.
Then it's a bit hard to decide what to do with the singers microphones.

I realize this can be a struggle for front of house engineers, but I'd disagree that musicians are "the problem" simply for playing at the volume they need to create the acoustic ensemble blend onstage.

Some music (rock and roll) is loud. It's supposed to be played loud-- it's part of the style. Some instruments (high trumpets, snare drum) are loud. If you play them quietly, it changes the timbre, the articulation, the spirit of the performance, etc. And in my opinion, the artistic result is usually less satisfying (though the front of house engineer is usually happier).

In my opinion, it is inadvisable for sound reinforcement personnel to dictate to musicians how they must play, and how they should blend as an ensemble onstage. I believe that achieving appropriate ensemble blend and stage volume is the musicians' job. The sound reinforcement personnel's job is to take the blend of the ensemble onstage and translate it to the audience in the best way possible. If the band is lacking in their ability to do this (a matter of opinion), then nothing the sound reinforcement personnel could say will help this. I promise. Double so if the sound reinforcement personnel isn't intimately familiar with the specific music being played.

Ensembles that are loud enough to be heard without reinforcement are, as a listener, a best-case scenario to me-- not a problem. Because sound reinforcement is always a compromise. To me, asking someone to play more softly so that they can be reinforced in the house is strange (but all too common). It has so many disadvantages-- causing the player to have to think (in order to mind their level) as opposed to emote naturally in performance, upsetting the intuitive ensemble blend onstage, causing the players to have to rely on a combination of imperfect monitoring and guesswork for ensemble blend, possibly changing the timbre of the instrument from what was the artistic intent, etc.

An ensemble's interactive blend and self-generated level is sacred and of utmost importance to the art, whether you're talking about Led Zeppelin at Royal Albert Hall or the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall.

But I'll cut myself off here, so as not to drift too far off topic.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 11, 2014, 12:38:20 am
You are not straying off topic at all. But  you make a best case assumption: the musicians on stage are aware of, and have full control of their  individual instrument volumes. That is far too often not the case.
Last summer, Maceo Parker and his band came to town. Instead of a fine funk blend of the band, my ears were insulted by a bass player whose 1000w or more amp, fed into about 20 10" speakers at a volume that instantly stopped my dancing feet.

Here I see another problem: until a sound mixer can, without repercussion from the band, suggest to an individual player to turn down (you noticed: turning up never seems to be a problem!) that is, until the day it is no longer regarded as an insult, nothing wil change short of Kai's European solution of penalties. Too bad, but so be it.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Kai on December 11, 2014, 08:02:54 am
The sound reinforcement personnel's job is to take the blend of the ensemble onstage and translate it to the audience in the best way possible...
For me my job as an audio engineer goes far beyound that and even starts at the planning of an event.
Finally I'm an "interface" between the artist and the audience, if you look at this part of the job.
The artist cannot know how it sounds downstage - this means I have to have an understanding what is needed to make the presentation reach the audience in the intended and best possible way.
Sometimes I call this process "make it sound like music", which does not mean it isn't before, but needs to be sorted to catch the vibe.

Sound level regulations are quite strict here - I've seen at least one concert that almost was stopped due to the band beeing too loud on stage.
The only thing I could do was switching off the PA except for the vocals, and the only reason the concert wasn't stopped before the end was, the police was too late.
I have to admit that it was open air and the police president lived next door.

....Because sound reinforcement is always a compromise.
Not for me.
Very often it's an integral part of the performance -  but usually not for a philharmonic orchestra in a hall.


The strict sound regulations in Germany made us rethink things that already went wrong for ages anyway. So it's not completely bad.

The allowed level is:
- 95 dB A-weighted (this means lower frequencies do not contribute fully to the result),
- I did not find if the measurement is RMS, but I assume it is.
- averaged over 1/2 hour,
- measured at the loudest point of the audience's area.
- maximum peaks below 135dB!! C-weighted, Peak (not RMS) may not be exceeded (This would be about a gunshot on stage).

As it's an avarage, loud peaks do not contribute much to the result.
If the performance is quite dynamic, this is not a problem - for heavy metal bands it can be.

Regards
Kai
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 11, 2014, 09:29:27 am
Here I see another problem: until a sound mixer can, without repercussion from the band, suggest to an individual player to turn down (you noticed: turning up never seems to be a problem!) that is, until the day it is no longer regarded as an insult, nothing wil change short of Kai's European solution of penalties. Too bad, but so be it.

It requires trust. Trust requires good communication, or a long-standing relationship.

Earning trust quickly requires two things-- good communication and professionalism. Within the last 12 months touring the world performing in a (not very loud!) group, I've encountered some great sound, and some extreme unprofessionalism.

The most unprofessional thing of all is the preemptive assumption of incompetence. If a sound reinforcement professional walks up to the drummer as he's setting up, before he has played a note and starts talking about how "this room is very small, we have to make sure we keep stage volume low" then this is extremely unprofessional as it assumes incompetence on the part of the drummer (playing to the room is a basic skill, and a fundamental part of musicianship) and is therefore insulting.

If a guitarist is too loud, the appropriate way to bring this up is "I'm getting the sense out front that stage right guitar might have difficulty hearing herself. Would you be opposed to changing the position of your amplifier so we can find a balance that works a little better out front?"

etc.

Any musician worth his or her salt is dynamically blending and balancing all the time, based on what he or she is hearing. Volume is not the knob on the amplifier. Volume is the player's concept for blend. Sure, I can turn the knob up, but I'll just play softer to compensate. Sure, I can turn the knob down, but I'll just play harder and choke out the sound in an effort to get the balance to where it sounds right to my musical sensibility.

And if a musician doesn't have a well-developed, musical sense of ensemble blend, no directive or mandate from front of house is going to fix that. You're hosed before you've begun.

Obviously, it's a collaboration, and we must work together. But the FOH personnel's job is to serve and flatter the music, not to dictate it. Too often people get this twisted.

I'm lucky to get to play with some of the world's finest musicians on a regular basis. And I find that while a significant percentage of reinforcement personnel are professional and competent, a different large percentage treat these world-class players like your local bar band. Many have very curious, heavy-handed ways of approaching the job (and often with unfortunately large and unpleasant egos, as well).

The best ones are musicians themselves-- and good ones-- who understand what it feels like to blend and listen in a dynamic, high-level, professional ensemble.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Nob Turner on December 12, 2014, 03:28:47 am
It's not only music that is, at times, excessively loud in our world. I went and saw the film "Interstellar" a few days back, at an imax theater. While I enjoyed the film and the wrap-around screen, the soundtrack was at times pretty danged loud. There's a motif to the music/fx in this film - basically, a 40-hz tone that swells and holds at a pretty unpleasant volume many times over. My wife and I plugged our ears each time it occurred, which of course interrupted our immersion in the film.

My assumption is that the film director and sound mixer chose to do this for the (rather overwhelming) effect. And it does make the experience visceral, but not in a good way to me. However, I'm significantly older than most of the audience I saw at the theater. I suspect most of them just found it exciting.

I'm going to see Cirque du Soleil in a few weeks, and plan to bring my ear plugs.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 12, 2014, 08:54:42 am
For me my job as an audio engineer goes far beyound that and even starts at the planning of an event.
Finally I'm an "interface" between the artist and the audience, if you look at this part of the job.
The artist cannot know how it sounds downstage - this means I have to have an understanding what is needed to make the presentation reach the audience in the intended and best possible way.
Sometimes I call this process "make it sound like music", which does not mean it isn't before, but needs to be sorted to catch the vibe.

Agreed with this, however I'd add one caveat--

I contend that the best way to "make it sound like music" and "make the presentation reach the audience in the intended and best possible way" is to create a circumstance for the musicians that feels natural, and comfortable-- allowing them to express and emote. Performance IS sound-- the best performance trumps any sonic concern, whether on recording or live, in my experience. I feel that the hippocratic oath should apply here-- "first do no harm" to the musicians' ability to play together, cohere, and form a great ensemble blend and group dynamic. As a performer, the worst case scenario is to have a circumstance where musicians can't hear one another, or are compensating for unnatural-feeling balances or blend. That causes the performer to be taken out of the (emotional) moment, into a "thinking" space. A passable performance is possible by a seasoned professional-- an inspired one becomes nearly impossible.

There are other pitfalls to getting a good stage ensemble blend-- some of which are controlled by FOH and some which are not. This is a great discussion, because I think there needs to be more dialogue between true professional musicians and true professional FOH engineers.

So while we're at it-- and this relates to the overall loudness issue, too-- Another one that's problematic are setups where subwoofers are turned up too loud near or under a hollow stage. It soaks up so much sonic room that even if the band is not playing loud, it becomes impossible to hear any midrange detail.

At a festival I played in Hamburg recently, switching the subs off was literally the difference between nobody being able to hear one another, to an entire 10 piece ensemble-- from drum set and electric bass to a string quartet-- being able to hear each other and blend effortlessly.

Another huge problem is musicians requesting too much stuff, and too loud, in floor wedge monitor speakers. Huge problem that I could prattle on about but that is a conversation for another day.


Quote
The strict sound regulations in Germany made us rethink things that already went wrong for ages anyway. So it's not completely bad.

The allowed level is:
- 95 dB A-weighted (this means lower frequencies do not contribute fully to the result),
- I did not find if the measurement is RMS, but I assume it is.
- averaged over 1/2 hour,
- measured at the loudest point of the audience's area.
- maximum peaks below 135dB!! C-weighted, Peak (not RMS) may not be exceeded (This would be about a gunshot on stage).

As it's an avarage, loud peaks do not contribute much to the result.
If the performance is quite dynamic, this is not a problem - for heavy metal bands it can be.

Regards
Kai

This is very interesting, Kai. I've done a bit of playing in Germany in the past few months, in a few different cities (perhaps I've encountered you and didn't realize it!) and I never was aware of these. Of course, the group I have been traveling with is "moderate" in loudness and extremely dynamic (which could set up another rant re: gates and compressors, but I'll refrain!) so I doubt we pushed up against those limitations, ever.

Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: boz6906 on December 13, 2014, 11:09:23 am
"To me, asking someone to play more softly so that they can be reinforced in the house is strange (but all too common)."

In my experience, this never happens.

Usually, it's a electric guitar or bass player causing a problem by being much too loud.
This brings up two issues; one, the on stage is too high for the singer to hear themselves so up go the wedges, which now fill the venue with nasty tone from a midrangey wedge driven to distortion. Two, I end up taking the guitar or bass out of the PA and just trying to get the vocal on top of the mix so the audience can hear the lyrics.

In my opinion, the problem is driven by a guitar/bass player assuming the FOH is incompetent, the musician believes his superb lead just isn't loud enough in the hall.

One of their favorite techniques is to 'sandbag' during soundcheck, then turn back up at show time.

This happens to me in over half of the pop/rock shows I do.

We can have a great blend in the house at soundcheck, then at show time the guitar player starts sterilizing the first 6 rows of the audience not to mention totally wrecking the monitor mix for the other singers/musicians.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 13, 2014, 01:00:21 pm
... then at show time the guitar player starts sterilizing the first 6 rows of the audience

Priceless! I'll remember that term.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 13, 2014, 01:40:26 pm

One of their favorite techniques is to 'sandbag' during soundcheck, then turn back up at show time.

This happens to me in over half of the pop/rock shows I do.


From the other side--

This happens, but among real professionals it's not "sandbagging" on purpose. It's the fact that the hall-- the way the room responds, the way it feels, etc.-- changes radically when 500-1000 bodies (or more) get in the hall.

A 500 cap room that's full and we're talking about an extra 2500 sabins of absorption in a medium-sized hall-- this is appreciable, and a stage blend that might have worked fine in an empty hall suddenly no longer feels  in-balance or appropriate.

That terminology in and of itself-- and the (frankly) dismissive attitude toward the musicianship that it implies-- is part of why there is a sometimes contentious relationship between the musicians (who the audience is there to see) and the FOH personnel (who is ostensibly there to serve the musicians' and audience's interest).

If I'm a performer, I'm doing what I can to make the show great. I assume the FOH personnel is doing the same. If there's a disconnect between our respective needs to accomplish that mutual goal, it's not exactly comforting to feel that the person who is supposed to be on my side is assuming I'm doing things like "sandbagging" or behaving otherwise selfishly. There is undoubtedly some "talent" that does this. But I think the most professional course is to assume that there is a cause for the discrepancy, and to seek to resolve that cause.

With guitarists and bassists, it's very often something that can be addressed: proximity or orientation to one's own amplifier has a huge impact; a flawed monitor mix (usually the musician is to blame, but they could be professionally guided through that process to encourage a helpful, as opposed to deleterious, foldback strategy), an inordinate amount of sound from too-loud mains messing with the stage sound (and this changes radically with bodies in the hall), etc etc etc.

Rather than saying "the guitarist sandbagged me during the soundcheck and then cranked it up", perhaps a healthier approach would be "wow, something must have changed radically between soundcheck and show onstage to make him feel he had to do that-- I wonder what we can figure out next time to make the soundcheck experience less incongruous with the show experience", etc etc etc.

Easy to point fingers, more productive to work together.

Real professional musicians play/react to the current realities of the room, and hall. The more sensitive (and the better) the musician, the more prone they are to change things with their level, blend, and timbre once the hall is full of bodies. Because they're in the moment, listening, and reacting like a good musician should.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 13, 2014, 02:50:25 pm
Quote
Rather than saying "the guitarist sandbagged me during the soundcheck and then cranked it up", perhaps a healthier approach would be "wow, something must have changed radically between soundcheck and show onstage to make him feel he had to do that-- I wonder what we can figure out next time to make the soundcheck experience less incongruous with the show experience", etc etc etc.

Quote
If a guitarist is too loud, the appropriate way to bring this up is "I'm getting the sense out front that stage right guitar might have difficulty hearing herself. Would you be opposed to changing the position of your amplifier so we can find a balance that works a little better out front?"

Brad, your diplomatic skills are laudable, and your gentle approach shows a skill whose value for the success of the evening is on par with the technical execution of a live mix.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 13, 2014, 04:25:43 pm
well, most of my experience comes from the other (performer) side, so perhaps the advocacy for a diplomatic approach is selfishly motivated in the end!

I just find that for every good, helpful FOH engineer (and there are so many competent, helpful ones out there!), there's one that behaves in an almost contemptuous manner toward the musicians-- even when it's extremely unwarranted (is it ever "warranted" to do so?). And it's a shame.

The ones I get on with best tend to be those with extensive performing experience themselves.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: boz6906 on December 14, 2014, 08:10:12 pm
Yes, I'm sure our different perspectives lead to different opinions...

"A 500 cap room that's full and we're talking about an extra 2500 sabins of absorption in a medium-sized hall-- this is appreciable, and a stage blend that might have worked fine in an empty hall suddenly no longer feels in-balance or appropriate."

I haven't observed a guitarist who cound accurately mix the show while standing 3 feet from his Marshall stack and washed by 5 front-of-stage wedges full of keys, vocs, etc not to mention drum wedges and bass amp.

That;s why we have a FOH engineer in the house.

I've heard bands mix their sound from stage... it's not pretty.

"assuming I'm doing things like "sandbagging"

I'm not assuming you are doing anything, I'm speaking of observing guitar players doing soundcheck with their guitar volume pot at 50% of FS, then rolling it up at showtime.

In my experience, it's not the FOH who complains...

It's the other singers/musicians on stage who can't hear their wedges because they're 10 feet from that Marshall stack.

And/or it's the broadcast engineer who says "less stage volume!"

And/or it's the producer/promoter who's watching the first 6 rows flee the venue and comes to the FOH and says "turn down that guitar" (whereupon the FOH shows that the guitar is muted in the PA).
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 15, 2014, 10:34:20 am
Yes, I'm sure our different perspectives lead to different opinions...

"A 500 cap room that's full and we're talking about an extra 2500 sabins of absorption in a medium-sized hall-- this is appreciable, and a stage blend that might have worked fine in an empty hall suddenly no longer feels in-balance or appropriate."

I haven't observed a guitarist who cound accurately mix the show while standing 3 feet from his Marshall stack and washed by 5 front-of-stage wedges full of keys, vocs, etc not to mention drum wedges and bass amp.

But when a professional musician is playing, she is mixing the show, of sorts-- at least for an audience of one (her) at the spot where she's standing, so that she may be in the most effortless, creative space to perform her best. This is an instinctual, and inevitable, aspect of musicianship.

The more musical (and the better listener) she is, the more she will be "mixing herself" all the time. She does this by way of balancing herself by ear relative to the loudest acoustic source (typically drum set) and her ability to hear the lead voice (typically a vocal, sometimes a lead instrument). Again, not just the level of her amp-- how hard she physically digs in, the timbre/tone she chooses, and even the accompaniment part she plays (assuming the music calls for improvised accompaniment).

"Ability to trust my sense of ensemble blend" is right up there with "being able to know that my instrument is in tune". It's that important to performance. I'm not going to listen to a vocalist in her high register completely unsupported by the accompaniment and trust that it will be right in FOH (especially on a one-off or the first few shows of a tour!). I'm going to support her. I've got her back. Actually, my ability to support and frame a lead voice is probably why I have the gig in the first place. I've got to do my job and make it right.

It's a odd that this has become an unusual or even contentious concept. I suppose it reflects an era when there are fewer occasions that musicians play together without reinforcement. I grew up playing acoustic jazz in small spaces, and the ability to blend with the ensemble (in front-line ensemble passages as well as accompaniment, since I'm a guitarist) was one of the most basic tenets of musicianship, and indeed part of what made it enjoyable/expressive to play. The group dynamic. I carry this over to all of the work I do now inside and outside the jazz idiom.

Quote
That;s why we have a FOH engineer in the house.

I'd actually say that the FOH engineer is in the house because people paid for tickets to see the artiste. Otherwise NONE of us would be there-- sideman, FOH engineer, or anyone else!


Quote
I'm not assuming you are doing anything, I'm speaking of observing guitar players doing soundcheck with their guitar volume pot at 50% of FS, then rolling it up at showtime.

In my experience, it's not the FOH who complains...

It's the other singers/musicians on stage who can't hear their wedges because they're 10 feet from that Marshall stack.

And/or it's the broadcast engineer who says "less stage volume!"

And/or it's the producer/promoter who's watching the first 6 rows flee the venue and comes to the FOH and says "turn down that guitar" (whereupon the FOH shows that the guitar is muted in the PA).

We might be talking about a different type of musician.

It sounds like, for a start, that your hypothetical guitarist here might not have a very highly developed sense of ensemble blend. In that case, it's probably not going to sound right no matter what you say, or suggest. Condolences.  If the musicianship is lacking, then there's nothing you can do-- he's going to do what any player (good or bad) would do, and make it sound right to him where he's standing. If that's not a very high standard of "right," then you're hosed.

Or it's possible that, for the music, the stage volume is just supposed to be really loud. There's music that works best this way (I wouldn't want to see My Bloody Valentine neutered with a FOH-imposed stage volume limit, for instance).
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: boz6906 on December 15, 2014, 03:38:18 pm
I will say that the classical, traditional jazz and acoustic (bluegrass/old-time) musicians I work with often have an excellant sense of ensemble and blend, many of these groups sound great on just 1 or 2 mics. (eg Del McCoury)

As I posted, the problem seems to be mostly pop/rock groups, with multiple electric guitars.

When the broadcast engineer calls up on the God Box and says 'all my mics are now guitar mics" something has to change.

And I understand the need for tone, I've even stacked foam cushions from the Green Room couches around the Fender Twin that just has to be at 11 for that killer tone.

And I'm thankful for the rise in popularity of IEMs, it saves the musicians' hearing and cuts stage volume for a better overall mix for the audience.

In my experience, most FOH decisions about loudness/mix are made by the guy who hired the FOH engineer.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 15, 2014, 07:47:20 pm
Right. It's possible (and preferable) for rock and pop groups to blend just like acoustic groups. To me, an electric guitar + amplifier setup is an acoustic sound source, of sorts, in that it produces a sound onstage at the instrument that (ideally) blends with the rest of the group.

Sometimes that balanced blend is louder than others. AC/DC's stage blend would be louder than Bill Monroe's or Oscar Peterson's, but not necessarily less musical or balanced.

A big part of the job is specifying the right gear for the room. This past year of touring I requested Princeton Reverbs because the drummer on the dates was quite reserved and controlled in his dynamic, and I knew I would like to be able to get the amp to respond dynamically to my touch a bit (which only occurs when the amp is opened up a bit).

Naturally, many promoters took it upon themselves to "upgrade" my request to a Twin Reverb. This meant I had to keep the volume down around "barely on" which is, of course, not where an amp sounds its best. As the player, I'm the one who would get the dirty looks from the FOH engineer if I had decided to prioritize sound/tone over blend (I didn't, because my priority is always the ensemble). Even though I had specified the correct amp and the mistake was with the promoter or rental house.

But things happen, and we work around them to get the job done, as professionals. But there can be unprofessional behavior on BOTH sides of the issue. My biggest pet peeve as a performer is to have a FOH engineer editorialize about level or dynamics before having heard a note of that evening's music. That is, to me, the height of unprofessional behavior-- it's basically telling the performer that you assume they're incompetent/unmusical right off the bat-- and that does not set a good tone for a productive working relationship. Doubly so if they did not bother to listen to the album before the show. Yet this happens SO often... if one of the world's most gifted, musical drummers setting up his kit and a FOH guy is telling him "uh yeah, so the ceiling is really low in here, and there's a noise ordinance, and, um, we're going to really have to keep it down" then that FOH guy is extremely out of line.







Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: boz6906 on December 16, 2014, 10:14:03 am
I've done many shows where the first thing I hear from the producer/promoter is "Here's the sound meter, don't let it get past XXX"

The limit is often driven by club/venue owner or ordinance.

Here's part of New Oeleans ordinace adopted last year:

"Accepted decibel levels in the French Quarter should be returned to 1997 levels so that the maximum level in residential areas between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. is 70 decibels, compared to the current level of 80 decibels. In commercial areas, the decibel level would be lowered to a maximum of 75 from 80."

"Under the decibel regulations contained in this ordinance, you could soon find any outdoor (and many indoor) concerts, street performance or any other activity that rises above the level of a normal conversation illegal and punishable," the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans said in a statement. "It would also make it much easier to shut down venues that offer any form of live entertainment."

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/12/new_orleans_city_council_intro.html

Often it's not the FOH "editorializing", he's just trying to keep his job.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 16, 2014, 10:36:03 am
Even under those circumstances, I maintain that such behavior is still unprofessional.

If there's a noise ordinance (and a consequent maximum decibel level), we should assume those requirements have been specified to the promoter and management in advance, in the contract. This will have been agreed upon already. So for the FOH to discuss this before a note has been played is presumptuous and out-of-line. All of these terms are to have been agreed upon in advance.

Now stuff happens, and maybe the venue or promoter or manager didn't handle their end. But it's unprofessional to assume that before any music has been played.

If the ensemble begins checking a song and it becomes apparent that they will be way out of line where the level is concerned, the proper response would be: "was management apprised of the decibel level restriction we're working against?" The answer to that is either "yes" or "no," and a solution can be arrived at from there.

The ONLY professional course is to assume competence, full knowledge of the situation, and good intentions unless demonstrated otherwise. Anything less is condescending at best, downright insulting at worst. Not a way to get off on the right foot.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Jim Williams on December 16, 2014, 11:55:17 am
Nice to know New Orleans cares so much about people's ears. Too bad they don't care enough to fix up that place.

I prefer less regulation and let the market = people decide with their pocketbooks and feet.

We old farts survived the 60's without those limits. We survived Blue Cheer. A 10 cent solution is available, it's called ear plugs.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 16, 2014, 01:17:56 pm
... but with plenty of hearing loss!

The N.O. ordinance decibel limits seem to refer to measurements not at the venue's interior, where hearing loss occurs, but at the street level. Not very helpful, especially if the building is sound proofed.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Piedpiper on December 18, 2014, 02:04:22 am
As both a touring musician and FOH engineer in a small venue, I have seen a lot of incompetence on both sides of the mic. Holding up the musicians as preeminent is just as off base as the opposite, as far as I'm concerned. IME, most musicians are quite clueless about what it sounds like out front or how to facilitate that. They take care of themselves and hope for the best. Some attempt to insulate themselves from any larger perspective by demanding themselves at obliterating levels in their monitor. On the other side, as an audience member, I have given up hope in even mediocre sound quality, let alone non-deafening SPLs, at most concerts. I almost never bother to see someone outside my own venue anymore. Luckily, I'm mostly too busy playing and running sound. As a sound man, I am one of those guys who talks to the band ahead of time if I sense that there may be an issue to try to give them a sense of the somewhat unusual community and venue that I work in, that overwhelmingly prefers relatively quiet levels. Most people are happy to work together to an appropriate mutually agreeable end, and are very receptive to my observations and suggestions. I think it's usually pretty clear that I'm on their side, but occasionally that perspective is not shared. The result is that the venue has become a favorite for most of the performers who come through, as well as for the audience. Personally, I like to strike a well considered balance, but my sense of where that is and someone else's may obviously differ. Some bands require a louder volume to achieve their sound and I honor that, but always within context. Sometimes we will provide ear plugs at the door for the more sensitive. In the end, I know my room and my audience and the artist doesn't. IMO, the artist and the sound engineer have equal responsibility to the audience. One does not trump the other. They simply play very different roles to a common end that may well involve mutual flexibility.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 18, 2014, 08:35:07 am
As both a touring musician and FOH engineer in a small venue, I have seen a lot of incompetence on both sides of the mic. Holding up the musicians as preeminent is just as off base as the opposite, as far as I'm concerned. IME, most musicians are quite clueless about what it sounds like out front or how to facilitate that. They take care of themselves and hope for the best. Some attempt to insulate themselves from any larger perspective by demanding themselves at obliterating levels in their monitor. On the other side, as an audience member, I have given up hope in even mediocre sound quality, let alone non-deafening SPLs, at most concerts. I almost never bother to see someone outside my own venue anymore. Luckily, I'm mostly too busy playing and running sound.

I agree with all of this-- it's all consistent with my experience. There are some difficult players out there. I think it would be easier on everyone if players had experience mixing, and if FOH engineers had experience playing. Sometimes this is true, and those are always the people who "get it."

My larger point is that it's a "foul" to condescend to a professional player (or really ANY player). Sometimes I feel like I'm atoning for the sins of every unmusical, selfish hack guitar player that walked across that stage before me, and that's not fair or necessary. We've got work to do, so let's get down to business. Likely as anything else, I just stepped off a long flight, barely on time after a stressful morning as the airline screwed up. It's my 5th show in 5 days, I'm trying to set up and do my job-- I don't need to be lectured on how loud I can't be by a sound guy who doesn't know anything about my musicianship and hasn't even bothered to listen to the music in preparation for the show. I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation.

Quote
As a sound man, I am one of those guys who talks to the band ahead of time if I sense that there may be an issue to try to give them a sense of the somewhat unusual community and venue that I work in, that overwhelmingly prefers relatively quiet levels. Most people are happy to work together to an appropriate mutually agreeable end, and are very receptive to my observations and suggestions. I think it's usually pretty clear that I'm on their side, but occasionally that perspective is not shared. The result is that the venue has become a favorite for most of the performers who come through, as well as for the audience.

Well, good communication is important. There's a way to communicate almost anything that shows respect and assumes competence. A friendly, disarming greeting, followed by "so just to help me as I'm setting up-- what's this band's dynamic concept like? lots of louds and softs, pretty aggressive, pretty restrained?" That conveys an interest in doing the job well, and doing right by the music, and is unlikely to be interpreted as a hostile line of communication. If they reply "well, we're pretty aggressive-- the drummer is a hard-hitter, but the vocalist is a screamer who really gets over the top and needs that dynamic support" then you know you're up against a group that's loud, but loud for a reason.

This is NOT the same as-- world-renowned, award-winning drummer setting up the kit, tuning the drums, "tap, tap"... sound guy runs over in a panic, arms flailing-- "OK, so we're really going to have to keep stage volume down tonight... there's a noise ordinance, and the room is small, and, and...."  Guess which happens more?

Quote
Personally, I like to strike a well considered balance, but my sense of where that is and someone else's may obviously differ. Some bands require a louder volume to achieve their sound and I honor that, but always within context. Sometimes we will provide ear plugs at the door for the more sensitive. In the end, I know my room and my audience and the artist doesn't. IMO, the artist and the sound engineer have equal responsibility to the audience. One does not trump the other. They simply play very different roles to a common end that may well involve mutual flexibility.

Again, I agree with all of that. And I'd probably enjoy playing at your venue (who knows, maybe I have!)

The funny thing is on a tour when you're playing larger (500-1000 cap) rooms but not traveling with your own FOH. That was the past year for me, and it was eye-opening, the range of experiences. We had so many sound guys tell us "I didn't have to move a fader-- you guys mix yourselves! I just sat back and enjoyed the show!" including on the very first show of the tour. We also had one or two running around like a catastrophe was occurring. Did we suddenly forget how to do our jobs, or did the latter guy just never know how to do his? Of course when he talks to his sound guy buddies, he will blame the band.

Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: boz6906 on December 18, 2014, 10:30:30 am
"Of course when he talks to his sound guy buddies, he will blame the band."

Now, now, that's just a mean-spirited assumption.

Some would even assert the players are there to serve the composition...

Advancing the gig is the best method to avoid conflicts, a current, REALISTIC tech rider and stage plot is key.

Do all artists provide such?

Bus guy:
"Oh, where'd you get that rider, that was last year's tour"

Me:
"I downloaded it from your website last week"

Bus Guy:
"Well, it's all different now and the lead singer picked up a fiddle player at the airport so we need another vocal with a fiddle mic and DI, he'll need his own wedge"

This has happened to me, and sometimes I'm all outta channel minutes much less monitor mixes...

At the most basic level we're all working as a team to serve the music in its journey to this audience and beyond.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 18, 2014, 11:05:46 am
"Of course when he talks to his sound guy buddies, he will blame the band."

Now, now, that's just a mean-spirited assumption.

Yeah, I know. You're right.

Quote
Some would even assert the players are there to serve the composition...


sometimes yes, sometimes no! For example, in the case of free improvised music, there is no "composition" as such.

Quote
Advancing the gig is the best method to avoid conflicts, a current, REALISTIC tech rider and stage plot is key.

Do all artists provide such?

Bus guy:
"Oh, where'd you get that rider, that was last year's tour"

Me:
"I downloaded it from your website last week"

Bus Guy:
"Well, it's all different now and the lead singer picked up a fiddle player at the airport so we need another vocal with a fiddle mic and DI, he'll need his own wedge"

This has happened to me, and sometimes I'm all outta channel minutes much less monitor mixes...

You're absolutely right, this does happen, and it is not ideal. But I'd contend that it's part of the gig. Not ideal, but those who are prepared to deal with curveballs get called back!

Artists don't get "called back." Their success or failure is based upon their ability to deliver performances so compelling that ever-larger audiences dish out hard-earned cash to see them play, or buy their recordings or merchandise. It's a different standard with a different set of requirements.

A good sideman or sidewoman has to have a bit of both-- they have to deliver the compelling performances and also be professional and flexible enough to keep their gig and get called back.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Jim Williams on December 18, 2014, 11:37:46 am
... but with plenty of hearing loss!

The N.O. ordinance decibel limits seem to refer to measurements not at the venue's interior, where hearing loss occurs, but at the street level. Not very helpful, especially if the building is sound proofed.

That's probably done to prevent the old paint from flecking off the exterior of the building. Paint seems in short supply in NO as it is in Cuba.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 18, 2014, 01:49:48 pm
Jim, I assume you know better.
There are few if any internal (building) noise regs in the U.S. because of business lobbying (i.e. corrupting legislators). Businesses fear the bottom line will suffer if their places of noise worship is not packed with boozed and drugged teenagers who can no longer discern what permanent damage 120 Decibels for two hours will do to their hearing.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 25, 2014, 05:46:24 pm
I am not afraid to admit that I have serious damage to my right ear probably caused by over 20 years being exposed to long hours of 120+ dB SPL in studios recording music.

Funny thing was the discussion of the hearing test with the lady phycisian at the hospital.
I described quite accurately how much loss at what frequency was registered during the tests.
She asked if I had seen the results before.
No I had not but I am a professional audio engineer, it is my business to register deviations in sound.

No I do not use a hearing aid, yes I stopped working in an environment of high monitor levels.
I still get praise for the recordings I do. Comments from mastering engineers are strict minimum.

Many years ago my employer gave all engineers a dosi meter. A clever little gadget we were to wear during our work recording and mixing music.
This audio dosimeter by Bruell and Kjaer is similar to the instrument used by people working with radiation.

Surprise surprise! The bloody thing did not give the sort of impressive results we expected.
Only very moderate values of exposure were registered.
To get ''better'' results we placed the instruments a couple of inches from the monitor speakers.
I must admit this happened looooong time ago. 
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 25, 2014, 07:08:54 pm
Explain the dosimeter a bit more: what is it supposed to indicate? SPLs? And how did its reading differ from your subjective impression of sound levels?
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 25, 2014, 07:34:52 pm
I am not talking about subjective SPL. The actual SPL reached at the spot of the engineer was measured with a calibrated Bruell&Kjaer instrument.
Average value 110-120 dBa with peaks of 125 dBa.

The idea was to design an instrument that recorded the amount of noise that people are exposed to in a professional environment.
Meaning spl as units during a period of time.

Probably the design went wrong because it was meant and or callibrated for continuous noise like near a sawing machine that produces the typical whining noise.

The problem is hearing can be damaged by prolonged exposure to high spl but it can also be damaged permamently by short exposure to extreme high sound levels.
That happened to a maintenance engineer standing behind a military aircraft without ear protection when the engine was started by mistake.

We had a guy over from the HR department who wanted to get an idea what kind of physical effect working in a studio has on engineers.
It took him about a week with ever longer periods of time to stand the spl in the monitoring room.
Most non professional users are glad to leave after 15-20 minutes.
The threshold of hearing after a 6-8 hour session goes up 30-40dB

BTW never heard of the dosimeter again.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Piedpiper on December 26, 2014, 01:34:25 am
I'm having a hard time understanding why the SPLs were so high in your studio. Around here and every other studio I've worked in, prolonged hours, yes; high SPL, no, 80-85 dB being typical.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 26, 2014, 05:28:06 am
Simply look at what is used for monitoring and you get an idea what sound levels are possible and also used.
One rather famous studio in the record company I worked for used twin JBL 15'' bass units with midrange horns and treble compression units.
These high effeciency speakers were driven by 4x 300 Watt JBL amps.

80-85 dB SPL monitoring does not bring world acts like The Rolling Stones,Status Quo to a studio.
Status Quo managed to destroy the described monitor set up within a couple of days.
Maybe this gives you an idea what kind of SPLs engineers and producers are exposed to during their work.

Artists and producers are used to high SPLs.
They expect that a studio monitoring system is able to give what they are used to.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Jim Williams on December 26, 2014, 11:20:01 am
Excess SPL's were a fad back in the 1980's, every commercial room had to install a large set of monitors to "impress the clients". Once sessions were underway, mostly NS-10's were used with a quick gut check on the mains. Mixing for dance venues required that check to see if the tracks would translate on larger systems.

I would usually step out of the CR for those checks. One room I did maintanence on had the JBL 4430's, with dual 15" drivers, they did rap and would blow all 4 15" drivers every week. I had 8 sets of spares in the equipement room for fast replacements. The JBL power amps sounded horrible. Those were replaced with Bryston and Adcom power amps.

With the use of a dbx 120X subsonic generator, I was having sets of 15" drivers re-coned every week, Phil at LA Speaker Service put his kid though college on those speaker re-cones. Sometimes the cones would pop 2" out of the gap and they wouldn't go back. One kick hit with the 120X would do that.

With most mixing done for earbuds, I don't see those huge speaker systems used much anymore, unless it's to impress someone's girlfriend. The world has changed the hardware they use to listen to music. Gone are most home stereo systems with 12" 3 way speakers.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Piedpiper on December 27, 2014, 03:58:41 am
All I can say is better you than me... delighted to not have had the pressure, I mean pleasure...
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 27, 2014, 07:18:43 am
You do not have much choice working with rockbands.
From time to time i recorded film scores, monitoring levels were reduced by 20 dB.
My carreer moved towards classical music with more modest spl
Keep in mind monitoring and replay spl somehow must be comparable to the music being recorded.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Piedpiper on December 27, 2014, 02:22:50 pm
I hear ya... I don't mean to come off as argumentative. I just value my hearing, and also find that it serves me better to mix mostly at lower than natural volumes. I find that at higher volumes everything comes across in high relief and it's harder to judge what will recede into the mix in less than optimal conditions or background music volumes. What I've read seems to indicate that the volumes I am used to here and in the other studios I've worked in are more the norm, at least when you're not trying to impress head banger clients. Most of the rockers I work with are more in the folk rock direction than serious SPL hounds, and I'm happy to keep it that way.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 27, 2014, 06:05:55 pm
Better stay far from symphonic orchestra's.
Those guys have a reputation to beat the 100 dBa spl with ease.
Imagine what happens to the players sitting in front of the brass section
they must be stonedeaf.

Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: boz6906 on December 27, 2014, 09:45:53 pm
I find it interesting that OSHA hasn't shut down many stages for SPLs that exceed industrial exposure regulations:

https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=9735



Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 28, 2014, 02:51:56 pm
That is the privilege of music being regarded as culture.
Keep in mind the SPL limits Kai says are accepted and followed in Germany would mean a direct stop to symphonic music.
Interesting to hear why these limits are not enforced on symphony orchestra's.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 28, 2014, 05:55:05 pm
I am sure that the SPL limits mentioned accommodate peaks in the red zone, but of short enough durations that the average allowable exposure (SPLs over time) remains within legal limits.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 28, 2014, 09:45:38 pm
That us not how legislation regarding sound levels is upheld.
Go over the set limit according to a calibrated SPL measuring device and you are ready for a fine or much worse closing of the performance.

In general the SPL limits are set quite low like for instance the 93 dBA Kai mentions.
Another thing nobody questions is the measuring method and the way the results are weighed.
Keep in mind the human ear is most sensitive for midrange frequencies.
That also happens to be the range where our hearing is less good protected physically.
Knowing that it would be advisable to change the current dBa measurement to one that emphasizes midrange energy.

There is a lot of incorrect information floating around on this subject.
Too many people talking about things the do not fully comprehend.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: boz6906 on December 29, 2014, 11:07:30 am
The A-weighing isn't perfect but it's response curve is close to the ear's sensitivity curve, especially at low-to-mid levels.

Many times noise-induced hearing loss occurs at the '4 kHz notch', although there can be other causes (disease, trauma, etc).

We've known this long before line-arrays and Marshall amps:

"The ''4 kHz notch'' has been known to be associated with excessive exposure to noise for more than a century. Toynbee, in his 1860 textbook1, noted a diminution in hearing ''of the 5th fork'' by patients who engaged in the hobby of sport shooting. The ''5th fork'' is the tuning fork with a characteristic frequency of 4096 Hz, or 5 octaves - and thus 5 forks - above middle C (256 Hz). This loss was also termed the ''C5 dip'' until the 1930's when audiometers began to be used, and the ''4 kHz'' nomenclature was adopted."

http://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/five-myths-in-assessing-effects-1292

We really notice a 4 kHz notch more readily because that band is crucial for good speech intelligebility.

And it's not just about peaks, duration is a major factor...

Festival stages can be a real problem, the prod crew can be onstage for 8-10 hours at +100 dB.

"You may be interested to know that the lower levels of exposure are actually riskier than the higher exposures. Because noise induced hearing loss is insidious, and because exposures below 95 dBA may be annoying, but they don't cause pain or discomfort, it is difficult to induce workers to always wear hearing protection when they are working in these levels."

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/857813-clinical

It's not clear to me why sound engineers' and orchestra members' hearing is not protected by OSHA...
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Jim Williams on December 29, 2014, 11:21:49 am
There is a lot of incorrect information floating around on this subject.
Too many people talking about things the do not fully comprehend.

Mostly from 'legislators' that have zero understanding of this subject.
A little education and some common sense will protect you far better than any legislator will.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: AlexVI on December 29, 2014, 11:38:50 am
It's not clear to me why sound engineers' and orchestra members' hearing is not protected by OSHA...

In the UK, at least, noise regs are enforced quite strictly within a professional orchestral environment. Many orchestras have nominated employees measuring levels within the band, and all have various means of mitigating against prolonged exposure to high levels (from screens and absorbers placed strategically amongst the musicians to the free provision of high-quality ear plugs).
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on December 31, 2014, 02:49:17 pm
When I was a student at the University of North Texas, they had people from the speech and hearing department (I forget what the degree program was called) come in and measure noise exposure in various chairs of the jazz big bands.

Guitar (where I sat) was somewhere in the middle, being directly in front of the drum set.

By far the most dangerous chair was the 1st trombone-- he sat directly in front of lead trumpet.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on December 31, 2014, 04:55:57 pm
Keep in mind musicians are only exposed limited time to high spl.

Engineers and producers are in a different position in CRs.
Their working days lasts 8-10 hours, day after day.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on December 31, 2014, 05:15:28 pm
When you expose only one ear to high SPLs over a lifetime, it becomes the analog to a "twin study": What damage can focussed SPLs of a certain volume do to the ear?

A friend owns a professional recording studio. He played violin in orchestras and Irish bands for decades. His hearing in his left ear is shot, and monitor levels need to be adjusted very low, otherwise he hears distortion in the left ear.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Jim Williams on January 01, 2015, 12:31:45 pm
I don't think I would want him mixing for me. That's like asking a blind artist to paint a portrait.

Kenny Rodgers said it best:

"You got to know when to hold 'um, know when to fold 'um".
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on January 01, 2015, 06:59:14 pm
There are two kinds of hearing loss:

Natural loss caused by age.

Loss caused by prolonged periods of exposure to high spl.

The first kind does not have much influence on the ability to work as balance engineer.
The second kind can in extreme cases be a handicap to work professionally.

As long as  I am still able to register virtually all incorrect equalization used by broadcast engineers on voices and hear the difference between proximity effect of cardioids and digital equalization I do not worry about my hearing.

Btw the 4kHz notch seems pretty high to me.
I would say 2 kHz is more likely.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Kai on January 04, 2015, 07:47:26 am
The A-weighing isn't perfect but it's response curve is close to the ear's sensitivity curve, especially at low-to-mid levels.
The A-curve fits quite well to the damage sound can do to your hearing, because it kind of represents the mechanical "gain" that your hearing system achieves with the pinnae, eardrum and hearing bones.

BTW: the 93dBA eff. limits are long term avarage, peaks are allowed up to 135 dB!
All measured at the audience place.
No problem for classical music to stay within these limits.
A bigger problem for classical orchestras can result from workers protectional laws, where the limits are lower.
These would be measured where the musician are, e.g. in front of the brass section.
In fact some classical musicians here in Germany have started to wear earplugs, but must don't.
They don't like it.

Regards
Kai
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on January 04, 2015, 07:02:47 pm
A friend was bass player in the Royal Concertbuilding Orchestra.
He needed more time for his Bugattis so he faked bad hearing.
He was removed from active duty and received full payment till he died.
Whenever his blown Bugatti missed a beat he was the first to notice it........
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: klaus on January 04, 2015, 11:53:04 pm
(...)In fact some classical musicians here in Germany have started to wear earplugs (...)
I met several players of the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra last Summer who do. It's not as uncommon as you might think.
Even the concert master (first Violin) of the show I attended did.
They used the Musician's type which is molded to the ear canal. The ones they showed me had the -15dB attenuation plugs.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on January 05, 2015, 09:30:54 am
I never leave home without my molded custom earplugs with the 15dB filters. I bought 9 dB filters as well. I keep them in a pouch on my keychain so they are always with me.

I live in New York City. Bus brakes, subways clattering over elevated platforms and then screeching to a stop, taxis with their squeaking worn-out brakes, etc. are more than loud enough to cause damage.

I do wear them when I perform, but their most important function for me is just generalized protection in a very loud city.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Kai on January 05, 2015, 04:17:45 pm

I live in New York City. Bus brakes, subways clattering over elevated ...
I have a copy of a study made by Bruel&Kjaer in the 60s that shows that our environmental civilization noises are the main cause for hearing loss that is usually explained as connected to age.
It seems that people living in a calm environment all their life almost do not suffer from hearing loss due to age at all!
Regards
Kai
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: soapfoot on January 06, 2015, 10:25:51 am
Interesting-- I'd love to read that study! I wonder how this relates to the fact that men historically experience age-related hearing loss more (or earlier) than women.

My dad has pretty serious hearing loss at 66. He was always working on loud race cars in closed garages, cutting down trees with chainsaws, banging hammers on stuff, etc. My mother's hearing is near perfect at 64. She spent most of her time in church!

It makes one wonder whether the historical gender-related patterns of hearing loss have a social component as well as a physiological one, and whether in future generations (as gender roles become less restrictive and neatly-defined) we will begin to see a leveling-out of age-related hearing loss among the genders?
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: Jim Williams on January 06, 2015, 11:48:42 am
Maybe, if mom decides to trade in her apron for a mechanics suit. Studies have shown small children pick the same stuff their older parents do, without any suggestions boys play with cars, girls play with dolls.
Title: Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
Post by: polypals on January 07, 2015, 06:21:38 pm
Age related hearing loss mostly means loss to register high frequencies ie above 10 Khz.
Only very rarely will you find high spl in that range.
I dare to say hearing loss due to ''overload'' of the human ear mostly occurs in the 1200-3000 Hz range.