Tag Archives: resources

When the Sound Won’t Stop – 3 Ways to Battle Tinnitus

For musicians, tinnitus is an occupational hazard. Beethoven was famously afflicted. According to Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR), nearly 60% of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s inductees are hearing impaired, many suffering from bouts of tinnitus. Although almost always described as a constant ringing in the ears, there is a litany of sounds that sufferers ascribe to the noise: clicking, humming, hissing, buzzing, piercing, throbbing, roaring, whooshing, or chirping—much like an orchestra of cicadas. 

Following a deafening noise, a car accident, or an especially loud concert, the average person will experience some form of tinnitus, but only a small percentage of the population lives with it. A rare kind, called objective tinnitus, or rhythmic, is associated with circulation and vascular problems because it often keeps time with the person’s heartbeat. A doctor can hear it with a stethoscope which, although still aggravating for the patient, can at least be heard by someone else. Subjective tinnitus, on the other hand, the most common kind, is only heard by the sufferer, but emits a seemingly phantom, yet deafening, noise.

Research shows that hearing loss results in less external sound stimuli reaching the brain. In response, the brain changes how it processes different sound frequencies, called maladaptive neuroplastic changes. Delicate hairs in the inner ear move to the pressure of sound waves, which triggers cells to release an electrical signal through the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside the inner ear are bent or broken, they can leak random electrical impulses to the brain, resulting in ear ringing.

The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) estimates that 20 million people have “burdensome” tinnitus, and two million have “extreme and debilitating” cases. Most patients develop tinnitus as a symptom of hearing loss caused by age, long-term damage, or acute trauma to the auditory system. When the ringing occurs on one side of the brain it may be indicative of something more sinister, like a tumor. Ménière’s disease also affects the inner ear, causing vertigo, ringing, and eventual loss of hearing. 

3 Ways to Battle Tinnitus

People with tinnitus can find relief by using hearing aids and other sound-amplification devices. Like a microphone, amplifier, or speaker, hearing aids can supplement the volume of outside noise and increase the amount of sound stimuli received and processed by the body’s auditory system. A good sound therapy plan takes into account individual needs, but the most important factor is to provide background sound in a consistent, systematic way to encourage habituation.

Ear-Level Sound Generators—Ear-level sound therapy devices are worn on the ear, like a hearing aid, and deliver a variety of predetermined or programmable therapeutic sounds. They are appropriate for individuals with minimal hearing loss.

The sounds most commonly available are broadband sounds that many tinnitus patients find tolerable—rainfall or flowing water, for example. Some devices offer preset broadband sounds, and some offer broadband sounds that can be modified.

Any of these devices can deliver a controlled, consistent sound to the ears. This should provide not only some relief but also a feeling of control over tinnitus, which will aid habituation. The volume should be set to a very comfortable level that does not interfere with your ability to concentrate or communicate.

Hearing Aids—Normally intended to improve speech comprehension in a wide range of listening environments, hearing aids can also be programmed in ways that provide therapeutic intervention for tinnitus. The frequency of tinnitus is usually within the range of frequencies included in an individual’s hearing loss. For some people with tinnitus, the use of hearing aids to amplify sound in the range of their hearing loss can also help reduce their perception of their tinnitus.

Combination Units—A combination unit is an ear-level device combining the amplification of a hearing aid with background sound like a sound generator. The devices have an assortment of background noises, including a preset broadband noise, an adjustable broadband noise, and random chime-like tones. Look for a device that allows you to adjust the hearing aid volume and the generated sound volume separately. 

Now that most hearing aids have wireless Bluetooth capability, it is possible to stream additional sounds through hearing aids and combination units. As a result, any Bluetooth-capable device can be made into a customized combination unit.

Stretches That Every Musician Should Do Before Playing

Stretches That Every Musician Should Do Before Playing

by Janet Horvath, author of Playing (Less) Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians available at musicdispatch.com

Stretches That Every Musician Should Do Before PlayingEditor’s Note: In this article Janet Horvath suggests some stretches she devised to help musicians alleviate body stress. Always check with a physician before trying stretches, especially if you have an injury. Always stop any movement that causes pain.

When I was a young student I was criticized for moving too much when I played. “Don’t beat your foot! Don’t wiggle! It’s too distracting,” said my teachers. Unfortunately, these mantras were more important than just limiting comfort and self-expression. Although playing music is expressive and creative, we sought to quell the tendency to move and flow with the music. We were admonished to never “stick out.” As a result, we often sit like statues.

Studies today indicate that humans are born to move. Being static, still, and motionless is detrimental to our health. Static effort, or holding a position, is also much more strenuous on the body. Muscles tighten, blood flow is constricted, oxygen is not replenished, and waste products are not flushed out. Static positions make us tire sooner, and then we hurt. On the other hand, we can engage in a dynamic movement for a long time because blood is replenished with fresh oxygen.

There are unobtrusive ways to reduce tension build up and give our bodies mini breaks. I have devised a series of moves I call Onstage Tricks™ to alleviate tension even while performing. The essential guiding factor is to do the opposite motion of the positions we are required to hold while we play.

Sitting properly is the first step. Make sure that you are sitting in the optimum position for your height and instrument. Your chair should be high enough so that your knees are lower than your hips. If you are diminutive, sit forward so your feet don’t dangle. Your weight should be forward with a slight lumbar curve in your spine and feet flat on the ground. Keep your shoulders down and facing forward. Avoid turning or twisting your torso, leaning left or right.

Starting with those targeting the top of the body, try some of the following moves during practice or performance, or whenever you have a few bars of rest. These exercises are effective even if you only have time to do them once. However, if you are able to do them more than once, it’s all the better.

The following are stretches that every musician should do before playing

For the neck:

  • Keep your head erect and tuck in your chin gently. This is a very small movement.
  • Tuck your chin as above. Keeping your shoulders relaxed and down, slowly turn your head to the right and look over your right shoulder; return to looking forward. Repeat, turning your head left, looking over your left shoulder.
  • Again, start with a chin tuck. With shoulders relaxed and down, slowly tilt your head so the right ear is over the right shoulder. Return to neutral. Repeat on the left side.

For shoulders and pectorals:

  • Do one big shoulder shrug bringing the shoulders toward the ears, while taking a deep breath. Relax, release your shoulders, and breathe out.
  • Do one big shoulder circle. Bring your shoulders forward, then up toward your ears, then back opening your chest, and relax bringing your shoulders to normal. Repeat, reversing the direction of the circle.
  • While keeping your shoulders down, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Clasp your hands behind your back, and while keeping your elbows straight, but not locked, pull your shoulders gently backwards.

For the arms:

  • Let your arms uncurl often and hang by your sides. (If you must hold your instrument, do one arm at a time.) While keeping your elbows fairly straight, but not locked, turn your palms outward, with your thumbs pointing away from your body. Moving slowly, reach gently backward.
  • Place your hand palm down on the chair behind you. While keeping your elbow fairly straight, but not locked, lean gently onto your hand, stretching the inner arm. Repeat with the other arm.

For the back, spine, and pelvis:

  • Take a deep breath in and then empty your lungs. Now, contract your abdomen. Imagine pulling your belly button inward. Release.
  • Roll your pelvis forward and back, putting your back into a “C” curve. Momentarily press your lumbar spine backward and then return to neutral. This is a very small movement. Rock from one gluteus to the other, side to side.
  • Squeeze your buttocks and release. This can be done while standing or seated.

For the hips:

  • Keep your feet on the floor and turn one knee inward as you sit, rotating the hip joint. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Adjust the position of your feet often.

For healthy overall circulation:

  • Keep your heels on the floor and lift your toes. Then, keep your toes on the floor and lift your heels. Do circles with your ankles.
  • If you are able to, alternate playing seated and standing. While standing, avoid locking your knees; keep them slightly bent with feet apart. Avoid overarching your back and crouching or slumping forward. Keep your head and torso erect and face forward with shoulders down.

Awareness is the key to injury prevention. These and many more “moves” for musicians are displayed in my book. Make up some of your own as well, with the goal of maintaining fluidity and ease, while avoiding tightness and tension. You’ll feel better and you’ll play better too.

The Worship Bass Book: Bass, Espresso, and the Art of Groove

Worship Bass BookThe Worship Bass Book is a fun, informal, practical resource for bassists playing in the worship environment. It covers a broad range of considerations to effectively function as a rhythm section for a team-oriented worship group, plus valuable instruction and helpful direction regarding bass techniques, musical concepts, and important relational considerations for any bass player, in or outside of the worship realm. Topics covered include musical phrasing, tools of the trade, fingerboard familiarity, musical styles, slap and tap techniques, bass and drum synergy, solo bass arranging, real-world groove lessons, and more.

The Worship Bass Book: Bass, Espresso, and the Art of Groove, by Norm Stockton, www.halleonard.com.

Grand Auditorium

Grand Auditorium Taylor Guitars

Trio of Tonewoods

Grand Auditorium Taylor Guitars has introduced limited run Grand Auditorium shaped guitars in a trio of stunning tonewoods. Options include quilted sapele (for projection and warmth), flamed mahogany (visual appeal and strong mid-range response), or blackheart sassafras (striking blonde and brown hues, plus dry, woody response), paired with a premium Sitka spruce top. Each model is a dramatic, hand-crafted Florentine cutaway. Attractive appointment packages accent these hand-selected woods—Indian rosewood binding and curly maple edge trim, and “Capstone” inlay of mother-of-pearl and rosewood on the fretboard and rosette. Each is equipped with Taylor’s award-winning Expression System 2 electronics, featuring a piezo pickup design that gives players authentic amplified acoustic tone. The guitars come in a hardshell case.


Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner: The Lighter Side

Richard WagnerThis unique, entertaining, and eclectic book about Richard Wagner features a wide range of curious facts, lively anecdotes, and thought-provoking quotations relating to the man and his music. Author Terry Quinn presents hundreds of tidbits and features on each of the composer’s 13 operas and the challenges encountered in staging them. He explores Wagnerian directors, conductors, singers, key people in his life, as well as his dysfunctional family. The book is illustrated by colorful photographs, old and new, as well as reproductions of rare ephemera.

Richard Wagner: The Lighter Side, by Terry Quinn, www.amadeuspress.com

A View from the Side

A View from the Side: Stories and Perspectives on the Music Indust

A View from the SideA View from the Side is a unique look at the music business through the eyes of Local 802 (New York City) bassist Michael Visceglia. In this book he provides an insider’s look at the lives, aspirations, misadventures, phenomenal success, and tragic failure of some leading bass players. Visceglia has many years of experience playing professionally and has toured with Suzanne Vega and John Cale, and played bass for the Broadway show Kinky Boots. He includes revealing interviews with some of today’s top bassists, such as Lee Sklar of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and fellow Local 802 members Will Lee and Tony Levin.

A View from the Side: Stories and Perspectives on the Music Industryby Michael Visceglia, Wizdom Media, www.wizdom-media.com.

The iPad in the Music Studio: Connecting Your iPad to Mics, Mixers, Instruments, Computers, and More

The iPad in the Music Studio: Connecting Your iPad to Mics, Mixers, Instruments, Computers, and More

The iPad in the Music Studio: Connecting Your iPad to Mics, Mixers, Instruments, Computers, and MoreiPads can bump up spontaneity and creativity in music production. The iPad in the Music Studio takes readers on a tour of the latest iPad-related music hardware and software. It includes information on technological innovations like hardware to link mics and instruments for live multi-track recording, controlling desktop software with an iPad, using iPads and iPhones with mixers, iPad and Guitar EFX software and hardware, DJ equipment and apps, and using the iPad to publish and distribute music through social media.

The iPad in the Music Studio, by Thomas Rudolph and Vincent Leonard,
Hal Leonard Corporation, www.halleonard.com.

Electronics Concepts, Labs, and Projects for Media Enthusiasts, Students, and Professionals

Electronics Concepts, Labs, and Projects for Media Enthusiasts, Students, and Professionals


Electronics Concepts, Labs, and Projects for Media Enthusiasts, Students, and ProfessionalsThis book is designed to introduce musicians to concepts, techniques, and tools in the fields of audio, video, and multimedia recording. It includes everything from basic electronic theory to practical lessons on soldering. “Even if you never open up a piece of gear, an understanding of the concepts of electronics will add to your ability as an audio professional,” says the book’s author Alden Hackmann. “This book will be extremely helpful when troubleshooting gear, such as bad cables, faulty microphones, malfunctioning preamps, consoles with bad power supplies, speakers with intermittent output, and other issues.” An accompanying DVD contains lecturers and illustrations that support and reinforce the concepts in the book.

Electronics Concepts, Labs, and Projects for Media Enthusiasts, Students, and Professionals, by Alden Hackmann, Hal Leonard Corporation, www.halleonard.com.

Dentistry for Musicians

by Caroline Blouin, DDS and Member of AFM Local 406 (Montreal, PQ)

Your passion for playing your instrument or singing means that you practice every day, year after year. Then, suddenly, nothing feels right. Changes in sensation or “feel,” over-development of the muscles of the mouth, constant, prolonged pressure on the mouthpiece—or chin rest in the case of violin and viola players—and tooth movement can lead to physical problems that compromise playing technique, sound, or the formation of the embouchure in wind instrument players.

Musicians are likened to high performance athletes, using as many muscles and anatomic structures as a marathon runner. But, musicians are more than high performance athletes. They develop oral musculature in unusual and specific ways by exerting prolonged, repetitive pressure on the teeth and temporomandibular joint (TMJ), often from an early age. In the event of pain or injury, a musician must be able to regain his full ability to play or sing.

When providing oral/dental, head, and neck care to musicians, especially wind players, the dental surgeon must be especially attentive. The doctor should have an understanding of the importance of the teeth, the TMJ, and the specific musculature involved in playing the instrument, in order to provide care that is tailored to each musician patient’s condition.

The Incidence of Oral Problems in Musicians

In order to profile the incidence of oral problems in musicians, a questionnaire was submitted to 158 musicians. Responses showed that 26% of the musicians surveyed experienced discomfort and problems. Some reported being unable to play their instrument due to dental, joint, or muscle problems related to the teeth, head, or neck.

Types of Dental Problems Are Encountered

Among musicians who reported discomfort and problems, 28% experienced problems related to wearing orthodontic appliances or tooth movement. Pain in the mandible (lower jaw) and TMJ affected 22% of respondents. Tooth and gum pain affected 11% of respondents, while 6% were bothered by tooth wear and grinding of the teeth (bruxism). Mouth ulcers accounted for 6% of the problems encountered, while muscle strain or focal dystonia (failure of a muscle to respond) affected 3% of musicians surveyed. Twenty-four percent of musicians reported other various types of problems, including tension migraines, hyperacusis (lack of tolerance to normal environmental sounds), recovery time after oral surgery (transplant, implants, or tooth extractions), replacement of one or more teeth that are vital for forming the embouchure (fixed or removable prosthetic appliances and dental implants), aphonia (loss of voice), sore throat (pharynx, larynx), soft palate, pain and cracks in the teeth caused by the instrument vibrating against the teeth, and temporary loss of feeling or sensitivity in the lips.

Based on the results of the questionnaire, we conclude that musicians are affected by specific dental problems that can interfere with their ability to play, either temporarily, or for an extended period of time. These findings are consistent with those of other studies conducted on various origins of the dental problems encountered by musicians, which are often related to performing repetitive movements for long hours in stressful performance situations.

Perfect Harmony Between Musician and Dentist

While most respondents told their dentists that they played an instrument, few had asked their dentists to make a model by taking a digital or physical impression of their mouth, an essential precaution in the event of an accident (for example, a recent model of the teeth could be used to reconstruct a fractured tooth as accurately as possible). The slightest change in the position, shape, and location of the teeth could alter airflow or even the position of the tongue or mandible, which would alter how the embouchure feels and, consequently, the sound produced by the musician. Providing dental treatment without taking a musician’s unique features and specific needs into account, may mean that the mouth simply doesn’t close the way it did before. This could be detrimental to playing and even threaten or end an instrumentalist’s career.

Preventive Dental Care and Treatment

There are various ways to prevent or treat the different dental problems faced by musicians. These include lip shields, therapeutic aids to minimize discomfort during orthodontic treatment, treatment to improve occlusion (bite), chin rests for a violinists, or customized mouthpieces for trumpet players. Musicians should complete personalized questionnaires with their dentists to identify needs, expectations, and deficiencies so that the facility in playing and sound are optimal, comfortable, and easy. As often as possible, musicians should bring their instrument to the dentist’s office for consultation and treatment. This allows the dentist to help pinpoint problems and create a prosthetic appliance tailored to instrumentalists’ specific needs.

Wind players, consider this: having a model made of your dental arches every year is an inexpensive way of safeguarding your sound. And, it might be a good idea to entrust your preventive dental care and treatment to dentists with interest and expertise in conditions affecting your profession.

Dr. Caroline Blouin has her own private practice (www.centredentairecharest.com) in Quebec City. She also holds a Diploma of Advanced Studies (1st Prize for Violin) from the Conservatoire de musique de Québec, as well as a Post-Master’s Professional Studies Certificate from Temple University in Philadelphia. She is completing training in Paris and Montauban to obtain a European Diploma in Performing Arts Medicine (Music). She is studying under the mentorship of Dr. Pierre Dana, renowned Parisian doctor of dental surgery, and specialist in the treatment of wind players. Please address your questions and comments to: drecblouindentimusi@gmail.com or (418) 647-4238.