Of course, some people can’t back off the volume knob when they speak or laugh. There are such things as sound bullies, the folks who cackle or shout to their tablemates so loud in a restaurant that your own conversation is hijacked. My glare of “stop” at these folks is as effective as a singing “Kumbaya” at the Gaza Strip. It doesn’t work. These monster mouths are forever at 11 on the loud dial, though they think they’re somewhere in the five or six range.
But my wife isn’t one of these people. No, she’s a four of 10 on the loud scale. Her inner voice rings loud in her head. But her words are still soft. I know our miscommunications will increase in years to come, with my need for repetition grating on her nerves more and more, and me saying, “But you have to speak up!”
Her replying, “Why would I ever call something a ‘Coke bot?’ It makes no sense.”
“I know, but that’s what it sounded like from in there, Coke bot.”
“Ugh, just forget it, nevermind. That’s not even close.”
No doubt, it’s not just aging that affects my hearing. It’s behavior. When I was 19, my girlfriend at the time bought me a solid state Laney amplifier. It was a great gift. I couldn’t believe she got it for me. I cranked it up all the time and she eventually dumped me for another guy, perhaps tired of all the sorry solos from behind the college apartment wall. But I kept playing that amp. Eventually, I got more serious about music and started playing out in clubs with bands. I wanted something better. So I purchased a 30-watt tube Orange Class A amp with Celestion speakers. The amp was totally orange and quite ugly, really. But man, it sounded so good. And the more I played, the more I realized the difference between really great music and just OK music is getting the right equipment and milking the most out of the quality sound it provides. One note can hold such power if the tone is right. In fact, I believe the tone matters as much or more than the composition of notes.
I already had a red American Stratocaster, which I bought after watching a guy play beautifully for a band named Thorny Hold at the Downstairs in Athens around 1992-3. Mike Mantione of Five Eight was also playing a Strat. And I wanted to play like those guys, angrily and aggressively, lots of riffs, feedback, with stutter starts and stops that kept a listener off balance. I grew my hair long and went to extended family functions getting raised eyebrows, which only made me feel better about my choice to grow out my hair. Cliche, I suppose, but the feeling for music was genuine. I wanted to hit people in the chest with what I wrote.
And it only felt right one way — loud, really loud. Earplugs diminished the experience, too. Sure they protected my hearing, but I wasn’t so concerned about that. And what came through was a muddy mess that wiped out both the feeling and subtleties.
So, I spent a good 15 years playing out and going to shows on a regular basis. It was fun to hear a good band and try to rip off some aspect of their guitar work. I could never match what a lot of other guitarists did. My goal was to make good songwriting decisions that didn’t require virtuosity, which I certainly didn’t have.
Even now when I listen to music, I want to hear it loud. And my “loud” is probably far more ear-shattering than others would find comfortable. I listen to music all the time on headphones, always thinking that I’m not doing myself any favors when the moment requires that cool part be turned up. Because how else can you listen to the best part?
Naturally, this is not a good admission for a reporter, right? If my hearing is suspect, then that could cause problems with my work. So, I now often find when I’m interviewing people that I’ll essentially ask the same question in a different way, trying to make sure I heard it right the first time.
Because who wants to see “Coke bot” in print?
Even if my hearing went, I’d never hear the end of that.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
Article source: http://www.madisonjournaltoday.com/archives/8134-OPINION-Talking-guitars-and-tinnitus.html
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