Hearing Yourself

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Fountain Pen

This article is an editorial and expresses the opinion and experience of Cliff-at-Bose the author. Please post comments in the discussion page.
Thank you.

This is a different approach to amplifying your sound. The sound of your voice and/or instrument will come from an L1 Cylindrical Radiator® loudspeaker located 5-10 feet behind you. Unlike conventional approaches, you will not be behind the main speakers going to the room.

How does it sound? - It may seem unusual for a few minutes because you are hearing yourself in much the same way the audience is hearing you. This is a big difference because you will be hearing yourself in the context of the room instead of out of context in the monitor.

The Matrix is the title of a popular movie that deals with “what we think we perceive is what we perceive”. Of course, this is basically true. So, when we play music for an audience, we see our musical partners or band-mates, we see musical instruments and we see our audience. Normally, we also see a stage crammed full of audio equipment and technical complication. We also see the back of a PA system (“The Mains”) that is delivering, somehow, some part of our performance in someone else’s concept of a mix, to our audience at an unknown sound level. And, after the performance we ask our audience how it sounded. Many say “good” to be nice, independent of how it actually sounded. The sound man says the same, possibly to keep his job. Your band’s employer (club owner, party planner, father-of-the-bride, etc) may not know how to communicate anything about sound to you, but if you don’t get invited back to play, you can guess how you went over. You might think “they don’t understand my art” or “our tune selection is too esoteric”. One thing is for sure: you never really know how you sound.

When you play using the new Bose approach, with one or more L1 speakers behind you, the first thing you see is no PA “mains” and no stage clutter. But, other than a cleaner stage, it sort-of looks the same. You still see the other players, their instruments, microphones on stands and the audience. So, given this, you might conclude that it’s still the same old same-old. It sure looks and feels and smells like it.

Don’t be fooled; it’s not. Not when you start to play, and listen, and hear everything and try to realize what is so different. My guess is that this would make much more of an immediate impact on blind musicians, because our world is so visual and appearances are so important. What we see tends to be our reality. I think that this is because we are such a visually-educated and appearance-driven society. Our education and focus uses sonic and artistic training minimally.

When we use the Bose system, our artistic reality changes dramatically. It is really like being on another planet, even though many of your non-musical, non-hearing senses tell you different. It’s The Matrix. What you may not know on first experience with the Bose system, and what you have to come to grips with is this fact: What you hear; from your instrument and from everyone else’s; is basically what everyone else hears, including the audience. And so, for the first time, you know exactly how you and your band-mates sound together. No need to ask anyone else. ou know, deep down. It’s as fundamental as the difference between right and wrong. Everyone that hears it knows it, in their heart-of-hearts. The differences between this new “playing field” and the old one is truly a galaxy away. They only look similar. Establishing a firm understanding of the fact that you are finally in total contact with other players and with your audience is powerfully useful. It is actually a spiritual realization, a re-establishment of our invisible lives as artists that has been missing in amplified music since it was first conceived. It is also a paragon of simplicity. It’s like if you were breathing through gills all your life and you found out you could get oxygen direct, simply by leaving the pond and opening your mouth. It’s a kind-of leap of faith.

So go ahead and breathe.

You would think that embracing the simple truth of “what you hear is what everyone hears” would be simple and instantly-recognized. It should work “out of the box”. In one sense, it works perfectly. In another sense it doesn’t, simply because, to quote an old adage, old habits die hard. Many amplified musicians are not used to listening to everyone in the mix and adjusting their performances accordingly, or playing with dynamics or simply communicating directly with an audience. With the Bose system, you finally know how you sound everywhere. Give it time to sink in. The more you tune into listening, responding and adjusting to other musicians, the more this will make sense. Experienced jazz musicians excel at this, for example, and egocentric musicians that love to bathe in their own sound “bubble” (in their monitor mix) would have the greatest problem adapting. The best ensemble playing amounts to being a “team sport” where players help each other achieve great musical moments, or they work together to present a composition they love in the best possible manner.