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Re: Can Musicians Practice with Hearing protectors?

Some have asked about the relevant literature on the degree to which
feedback alterations through hearing protectors. 

With respect to the effect of latency for auditory feedback on production,
there is a vast literature, dating back from the 50's, showing that time
delays on the order of hindered milliseconds do indeed have a "disastrous"
effect on performance (e.g., Yates, 1963, Psych Bulletin), although delays
on the order of milliseconds have more subtle effects (Aschersleben & Prinz,
1997, Journal of Motor Behavior).  Some have claimed that 200 ms delays
impose maximal disruption (MacKay, 1987, The organization of perception and
action), although this may be more a function of relative time (Finney &
Warren, in press, P&P, Pfordresher & Palmer, 2002, Psych Research).

As regards the effect of filtering the sound through ear plugs - the
existing evidence from speech production implies that such variations of the
spectrum will have litter effect (Howell, Powell & Kahn, 1983, JEP:HPP).
You may even be able to eliminate feedback completely without much effect
(for piano at least - Finney, 1997 Repp, 1999; both in Music Perception).
Hearing an incorrect pitch may in some cases be disruptive, according to
some of my own recent data, but altering the timbre (e.g., by low-pass
filtering) doesn't seem to do much.

In general, it appears that time lags have the most robust effect in terms
of disrupting performers, at least from the Psychological literature. In
fact, most of the data are not consistent with the intuitively appealing
idea that musicians compare the auditory output of production with some
reference of correction in order to engage in error corrections.  In short,
Mikael's suggestion that musicians are indeed "flexible" appears to be true,
and that the benefits of proposed ear protection devices will outweigh their

Note that the research with which I'm familiar has focused only on speech,
rhythmic tapping, Morse key tapping, and speech.  I am not aware of studies
concerning wind instruments or singing (see e.g., Roland's note on

Peter Q. Pfordresher, Assistant Professor 
Department of Psychology and Institute for Music Research
The University of Texas at San Antonio
6900 North Loop 1604 West
San Antonio TX, 78249-0641

Office Phone: 210-458-4396
Office Room:  HSS 4.05.07
Fax: 210-458-5728
Web: http://imr.utsa.edu:16080/~pfordresher/

-----Original Message-----
From: Andy Vermiglio [mailto:avermiglio@HEI.ORG]
Sent: Friday, September 13, 2002 8:57 AM
Subject: Musicians and latency

It is true that church organ musicians routinely work with long latencies.
However, few church organists work in jazz fusion bands where precise timing
is much more crucial.  The several hundred millisecond delays, while
tolerable for the church organist and an individual singing the national
anthem at stadium events, would have disastrous musical consequences in
contemporary jazz settings.


-----Original Message-----
From:   AUDITORY  Research in Auditory Perception
[mailto:AUDITORY@LISTS.MCGILL.CA] On Behalf Of Mikael Fernström
Sent:   Friday, September 13, 2002 6:06 AM
Subject:        Re: Can Musicians practice with hearing protectors?

About the issue of MIDI versus "real" instruments and latency:
I think that musicians are extremely flexible people ;-) For example, a
piano player that learns to play church organ. Suddenly you can have
latencies up to several hundred milliseconds, primarily due to the
mechanism, secondarily due to the speed of sound if the pipes are far away
from the console. And still, excellent music can be made.