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If you have attended concerts or band rehearsals, you would have noticed that the drummer is always wearing headphones. While not all drummers use them some other musicians may also use in ear monitors. This might make you wonder why he is wearing headphones when he could listen to his drumming by removing them. What has led to headphones being so ubiquitous among drummers? Here is a list of the three primary reasons so as why drummers wear headphones. They aren’t some trendy gimmick; they are critical to every drummer.
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1.To hear a click track (like a metronome) to remain in sync with the band.
Rhythm is the backbone of any song, and it’s the drummer’s beat that provides the rhythm for the entire band. If the drummer misses his timing even a little, the whole song’s tempo will go wrong. Drummers typically use a click track during concerts and might have a metronome of sorts in the headphones to ensure that their timing is accurate. A click track is just a loop of click sounds at the same tempo as the song being played.
Typically the click tracks used during live performances are the same as the ones used during the studio recording. This ensures that the tempo of the live performance correctly matches the recordings. They have become extremely common during both recording and live performances. About 90% of all artists use them to keep tempo. While a few people might consider this cheating on the part of the artists, it does reduce the number of mistakes during concerts, enhancing the overall experience of the audience. Love it or hate it, click tracks are here to stay.
A headphone is significant for this. You cannot blast a click track on the speaker as your audience will also hear the click, which will ruin their overall concert experience. Using headphones, the drummer will hear the clicks without any of the audience hearing them. The fun part is when some failing in the mixing leads to the click track being played to the audience and them getting a bit annoyed at the artists during performances.
In a few cases, all the band members have click tracks in their headphones to ensure that the whole band remains in sync. This is mostly done when bands use a drum machine for the recording but use a real drummer for the concerts. In this case, they need the drummer to maintain their tempo rather than follow him.
2.Hearing the other musicians on stage (i.e., monitoring) without a click
When drummers perform on stage with the rest of the band, they will need to listen to their voices and instruments. However, it can be pretty hard to hear these clearly over the sound of your toms and crashes. Sometimes, drummers won’t even be able to hear their kick drum over these sounds.
Using headphones allows a drummer to listen to his bandmates and his kick drum. When the monitor feed is directly played on the headphones, you will hear each instrument. You can even adjust the various audio sources’ volume to let you better hear the ones most important to you. These headphones can also suppress outside noise and the sound of your drum kit, therefore improving overall sound quality. This makes them extremely advantageous compared to studio monitors of yesteryear. Those were incapable of adjusting each instrument’s sound and did not subdue outside sound even a little.
Headphones also allow the concert management to quickly pass on onstage instructions and directions to the drummer and the other band members without the audience’s knowledge.
3. To Protect their ears
Drums are the loudest instrument in any band’s arsenal. They are loud enough to damage the drummer’s hearing in the long run. The loud crashes and the high-pitched wailing of toms are just some of the things that can seriously harm your hearing in a few mere minutes. You can get tinnitus and other long term hearing problems from playing on drums unprotected.
Using headphones allows a drummer to reduce some of these detrimental impacts. Drummer headphones are capable of reducing sounds by 20db and more. This brings the overall volume down to safer levels and ensures that you can practice and perform long hours without any ear problems.
While you might worry that the drummer won’t be able to hear his playing anymore, you don’t have to. These headphones are most effective in blocking out high-pitch sounds, the most damaging type of sound. They will still be able to hear their playing, just at a lower volume. They could even play their monitor mix through the headphones at safe volumes, allowing the drummer to hear himself and his band members without any health impacts.
Monitoring via headphones is also a great alternative to loud stage noises. A few years back, all bands had to use conventional monitors and giant amplifiers to listen to themselves. This essentially led to the entire stage being an ear hazard. When drummers and other band members wear headphones, there is no longer any need for extremely loud stage monitors. Headphones can also help reduce the noise from the fans.
Well, these are the most critical reasons why drummers wear headphones. There are plenty of more reasons why drummers wear them, from listening to backing tracks to even keeping their ears warm. All this makes it very important that a drummer has a really good pair of headphones with him. Not only do they allow him to perform better, they are critical to ensuring that he doesn’t suffer from any long term ear damage. So, the next time you see a drummer wear headphones, you no longer have to wonder why he is wearing them.