Topic: protecting ears from timpani

Hello, double-reeders,

In one of the orchestras I play with, we are using a new setup where the timpani are right behind the bassoons and clarinets.  I would like to ask if anyone has had experience with plexiglass sound shields for the timpani? (the kind that would sit on the floor in front of the timpani)  I haven't tried sound shields that directly attach to the chair..and I'm wondering if they would even be effective since the sound of the drums come from a wider area than just the head.  I've got ear plugs and am using them but we all know how they affect one's ability to connect with our sound (in order to judge color, projection, etc.).  Any advice on this situation?  Thanks!

Richard Ramey

Richard Ramey
bassoonhipster@gmail.com
bassoonbonanza.com
javalinapress.com

Re: protecting ears from timpani

The shields I have used in the past don't go around the offending instruments, they wrap more around the head of the player, like this (let's see if this works)

 ___
/ o \

Where the "o" is the head of the player.

This protects you from direct sound from behind your head. It worked well against trumpets. I would think that it would work well against timpani, as long as the shields were tall enough to get to your back and slightly over your head.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: protecting ears from timpani

Opera musicians probably would know more about this, as opera pits are small compared to orchestra stages.

oboe (French, Viennese, baroque), bassoon (German, French, baroque), shawm, dulcian

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Re: protecting ears from timpani

Richard; does the timpanist have any room behind him (or her) to move back? Even a couple of feet will help. Shields are only somewhat effective, in my opinion, but better than nothing. Earplugs are awful to use while playing, but a neccesary evil in such circumstances.

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Re: protecting ears from timpani

When I did the StarWars in Concert tour, the bassoons were sitting directly in front of the tympani and trumpets!  Shields were in place and they did help, but the main help was from professional earplugs, made to the contours of my ear. Local 802 in NYC provided these free of charge at the time.  These plugs were great because I could move them slightly for solo work and hear myself, but still offered protection from the noise behind.

James Jeter, D.M.A., NYC Bassoonist
"To love human beings is still the only thing worth living for; without that love, you really do not live." Soren Kierkegaard
"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Mahatma Gandhi  "Mach' es kurz! Am Juengsten Tag ist's nur ein Furz!" Goethe

Re: protecting ears from timpani

Earplugs aren't all that bad. You get used to playing with them. It's a much more tactile way of playing than without. As in, you have to trust the feel of the reed and your body that you're producing the sound you want since it sounds so different. Practice at home with them, maybe gradually putting them in all the way to block the sound more totally so you get used to how they change the sound of your own instrument.

Timpani are nothing compared to a rock drummer, a guitarist with a 60 watt tube amp with a 2x12 speaker cabinet, and a PA system that everything is run though. But even before I was playing in that kind of situation with my bassoon I was playing in orchestras with earplugs. Couldn't make it through a Schostakovich symphony without them.

I use these: http://www.etymotic.com/hp/er20.html
Which are really excellent for sound compared to the foam ones, and <$20 for a pair. Be warned, they come in two sizes, regular and large fit. The regular fit ones are quite small, in my opinion, so unless you have quite small ear cavities (how do you know? don't ask me.) get the large fit ones.

Last edited by Trent (2013-04-30 07:05:17)

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: protecting ears from timpani

I agree with Trent:  earplugs can be got used to.  I use one similar to the etymotic one Trent described which I bought years ago at the fixed base operator's shop in an airport, and since I sit right in front of the trumpets (very enthusiastic trumpets I might add) they are an absolute necessity.  We use the plexi straight shields behind our row but quite frankly I don't find they make much difference.  I still use the earplugs.  With all the noise of everyone else, I actually find I can hear myself much better with them in than without.  In band I wear two, in orchestra I don't wear the one on the clarinet side, and that system works just fine.

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