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Practising Exercises with headphones

I sometimes like to listen to the exercises in my headphones as it's easier to hear, but I was wondering whether this would have any kind of detrimental effect to my practicing? (I do try and keep the volume of the exercises low so I can hear myself clearly).

In the webinar about tone and pitch Ken said that if you take your earphones out when listening to a song and the same song is playing on the stereo it can sound flat. So I'm wondering whether practicing with the exercises in my headphones will affect my pitch in the wrong way?


  • sspatricksspatrick Enrolled Posts: 1,278
    It would be better to practise without the headphones if possible at first. You may tend to over sing with them in. Avoid singing with one earphone in and one out, as that will affect your pitch.
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,353

    As Scott said, never listen to headphones or ear buds with only one ear on and the other without. 

    If you do practice with earphones, you would need to have your voice included in the earphone mix, which would not be possible with an ipod situation.

    I practice all the time with the music or exercises in my phones and my own microphone mixed in at an appropriate level.  You have to be careful, because you can walk around with your ears ringing if you run your phones at a higher level.  You could damage your hearing with any headphone use whether singing or not. 

    All professional recording is done with phones on, and it's when someone uses only one phone that they start losing pitch discernment.  You would need a mixer, a mic, an ipod or CD player, and headphones in order to get all the elements together to do this properly.

    If you are using an ipod, and the exercise is in the phones but your voice is not, you may be walking around singing flat or sharp and not know it.  That will NOT help you to train your voice. 

    I would also agree with Scott regarding it is better in general to practice without the phones.  You need to be able to do it both ways if you like doing it with the headphones. You don't want to be addicted to the phones and then choke out if you have to sing live without them.


  • joestrongjoestrong Enrolled Posts: 8
    Thanks a lot for your input guys!
  • dustydusty Enrolled Posts: 2
    edited December 2012
    Wow, this is really interesting for me, and I guess my problem fits in this thread, though it is kind of the opposite issue.
    I've always had massive problems in the studio. I recently spent 8 hours recording A SINGLE LINE to get the pitch right (pretty high notes).
    It's hard for me to relax in the studio. I end up going home with muscle ache in my entire body, including, I kid you not, my butt cheeks :-)

    I have a very, very loud voice, and I have the feeling that I cannot hear the music properly because my own voice is so loud in my head.
    I end up wearing only one ear bud (so I have at least a little natural echo) and cranking it up to the point of destroying the earphones. It's a complete mess.
    When I am in a natural room in a live situation, my pitch is OK and my singing is more relaxed, but the whole headphone thing makes me feel all tense.

    Luckily, I still have the ears of a dog (I hear a lot of high frequencies from electronic charging devices, I hear those high frequency thingies for cars that are supposed to chase rodents away from a mile away, and the high humming of light bulbs, etc that nobody around me can hear).
    But I fear that my bad habits will be very detrimental to my ears and pitch, as I've been doing it the wrong way for years now. I just ordered the course, and I hope it will help me with exactly that kind of problems - the right kind of hearing, relaxing in a recording situation, dealing with the fact that your live band is not with you in the room and you don't have the natural echo of your own voice, etc. I want to learn to sing in a more controlled way, healthier to my ears and voice.

    One thing I hate is the dead environment of recording booths.
    I desperately long for a real echo, and I feel lost without it.

    Does anyone else have these problems in the studio?
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,353
    edited January 2013


    The reason that using only one headphone is so difficult for you is the pressure differential.  Sound is variance in pressure waves that our ears detect.  When you wear studio headphones, the cups create a pressurized capsule around your ear(s).  This pressure affects the pitch you are hearing in the phones.  When you have two phones on your two ears, both ears are in similar pressurized capsules, and you are monitoring your voice from within the phones, so you are able to match the intonation of the playback.

    When you take one ear out of the phones, you now have a differential pressure of the booth and the phones.  Your brain doesn't know which pitch is which, or even that there is a subtle difference. It messes with your equilibrium.

    If you need proof that pressure affects pitch then listen to a car horn or a train horn as it approaches, and then passes by.  That pitch shift that you hear is called the Doppler effect and is the result of greater pressure and an increase in frequency as the train/car approaches you and the lessening pressure and decrease in frequency as the sound source moves away from you. In the case of the headphones, the pressure differential is static, not changing, but it is different in each ear, and is something you should not do to add to the confusion of trying to work on difficult pitch discernment while recording difficult tracks.  The pressure differential alone is enough to drive you psychoacoustically crazy!

    The next KTVA Webinar is on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM and is on the topic of Studio Recording.  Ken may go over this phenomenon during the discussion.

    Here is a link to that webinar: https://www.fuzemeeting.com/fuze/60f55bc4/17874699

    You won't hear much real echo in a dead vocal booth.  I'm a fan of too much reverb (TMR), but it will get you into trouble and is addictive in nature.

    Loosen up those cheeks.  Jim Carey is the only guy I know of who speaks or sings from there! Ha, ha!



  • dustydusty Enrolled Posts: 2
    Thanks a lot of the quick response, I'm already starting to see a silver lining here :-)
    I'm familiar with the Doppler effect of course, but not in that context! I'll try to work with both cups in the future.
    That 'too much reverb' thing may be something for me, after all I can just put it on my monitor track without affecting the recording.
    I'll definitely attend the webinar and try to learn more about this stuff.
    Oh, and Happy New Year to you!
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