Practising with Mic and Headphones

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Sethoflagos, May 8, 2015.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    Although I've always hated listening to recordings of myself, I've been interested in trying this for a while.

    Much has been said about how we don't really get a true picture of the sound that's projected out to the folks the other side of the bell. So why not stick a microphone in front of the bell and isolate ourselves from the stuff radiating backwards with a pair of headphones while we practise?

    After an hour of playing around with my new toys (as described here), I must say that it's quite eye-opening. Obviously, the sound is duller without all the echoes coming back off the walls etc., but it gives a much clearer picture of the detailed shape of each note: the sharpness of attack, any odd little wavers of tone and intonation here and there.

    One really wyrd experience occurred while running up and down some tongued scales. They sounded okay, but then it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't know whether they were being single- or double-tongued. Without the electronic gear, I can 'hear' the difference instantly and have spent months trying to eradicate it. But through the mic, the difference just wasn't there. Had to consciously force a switch between the two a few times just to convince myself what my tongue was up to. It would be a bit irritating to discover that the differences were only in my head, and I'd been wasting good practice time working on imaginary problems!

    It's a new experience, but on the face of it, it seems my ears are getting better quality raw data on which to work their magic, especially on the fine details of articulation that can get lost among the normal acoustic mishmash.

    Any dangers or other caveats to consider?
     
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

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    My trumpet teacher used to record us on a tape recorder, then play it back at half-speed. A very painful experience, hearing every imperfection in articulation and note connection. (Later, as a working professional, I was often surprised by what I thought were bad notes in the performance actually sounded quite good on the recording.)

    The only real danger I can imagine would be damage to your ears if you listen at high volume, but I wouldn't spend all my time listening to my isolated sound. I would advise spending some time recording yourself and then listening to the recording for the bad parts but equally listening for the good parts.

    What I found works best is to mostly practice while listening to the room.
     
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    I don't think there are any dangers or caveats to consider, but in addition to that, I have always thought that recording is a great way to really dig in to what you are really doing. Recordings expose your playing for exactly what it is, and it gives you the ability to go back and listen critically, not only to what might need improvement, but also to reinforce what you are doing right.
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I have a different take. When we practice, we are building habits - muscle control, musical expression but most importantly, we are training the feedback channel from room sound to our ears and brain. That feedback trains what the brain tells the muscles to do.

    When I first got my silent brass, I practiced almost exclusively with it, the amp and some good headphones (had a new member in the family that didn't sleep well). Within a week I had serious problems playing in big rooms. The problem was not the resistance of the mute, it was the disconnect between my ears and the room - I had trained the closed box.

    When in the studio, I normally only have the headphones on one ear.

    This is not criticism of using a mic or recording, it is simply an observation with my personal (strong) chops. We need to take what we learn and find context for the results.

    I personally do not use the silent brass electronics any more. I do listen to recordings of my performances critically however, mostly without close micing.
     
  5. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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  6. gchun

    gchun Piano User

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    I think recording yourself (not using headphones) and listening back later is a great tool. Monitoring while recording is good if all the playing you do IS recording. The recording/mic setup may emphasize things that are necessary in nature live performance. Depending on the mic position, the tone may record too bright, attacks too harsh, etc.

    The danger to playing too much into the said setup is that one might make adjustments that may work for the microphone but not necessarily well for real, live performance.

    A little bit of it CAN be a learning experience. Try placing the mic at a distance that simulates where the audience hear it. Directly in front of the bell can give you an inaccurate perspective.
     
  7. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

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    My experience EXACTLY. which is why I only use the mute when practicing with it and leave the mic off.
     
  8. RRVancil

    RRVancil Piano User

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    Hi Seth,

    Liked your recordings but have to agree with the others. The micing can be difficult. As an experiment try playing the same 4 to 8 bars with the mic positioned in one-half meter increments (distance). Then, do it again and exaggerate your volumes and attacks.

    I've had similar issues. That's why my practice room is now roughly four by eight meters. I look at it like this, the trumpet is a projection instrument, close work is the exception. That doesn't mean we shouldn't play softly, but our audience is most likely to be at least four meters away. Kind of hard to hear ourselves at that point from behind the horn.

    Good luck and keep us posted. I thing we're all learning something here.

    Rick
     
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Good post, and some great observations. When I record, I almost always leave one side off, and when I gig with in-ears, I've only used one side since I started doing it in 2001. Probably not great for your ears, but to me it helps keep things in context with the room and the real feedback coming off of the horn and out of the room.

    As a drummer though, if I can, I prefer to use both in-ears, but that's more about hearing protection than it is about preferring the sound of in-ears.
     
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually Seths Audacity tests would apply here. We measure our horn in the practice room at mic distance - around 6" in front of the bell, then we do the same with the microphone positioned at the ears. Then we do the same in a large room. Now we only compare the deltas. There are still a couple of things that it doesn't quantify:if the close mic/headphone listening causes us to articulate with less intensity. To quantify this, we would need 3d MLSSA plots instead of simple frequency response.

    Again, no criticism, rather a search for context for the factoids that we are generating. Perhaps a student that did not start with proper breathing and thus developped a heavy tongued articulation to ignite the chops for each note, could use this technique to get back on track. I am not sure if the immediacy of the attack would improve, but the sense of tone would become dull when compensating for the increased high frequency response and artificial dynamics. The Yamaha Silent Brass amplifier interestingly enough has a built in compressor to limit the dynamics.
     

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