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#2041378 - 03/01/13 02:08 PM Musician earplugs (again)
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2361
Loc: NYC
I'm not a tech, but since subject has been discussed here before, I thought to ask here.

Until I can afford to replace my rock-hard hammers, I want to practice using earplugs. Maybe you can advise me about fit.

The problem is, I like to work in c. 20-minute intervals. I think it would be a pain to remove and insert earplugs throughout the day. So my question is:

Can one buy a set of headphones that really work like earplugs? (Easy on and off)?


Once the earplugs are in, being musician's earplugs, can you just keep them in and still hear everything you need to hear in the outside world when you're not practicing?



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#2041438 - 03/01/13 03:29 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3411
Just get a pair of Etymotic ER20s. They're like $12 and do the job very well; I used them in practice rooms at school, I use them when I tune, and I use them when I go to bars or when I'm in other loud environments. While you should be able to hear most things with them in your ears, you will look silly. And, I will go out on a limb and say that having to take out ear plugs every 20 minutes, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that much of an inconvenience. Sheesh.

Also, while the notion of replacing "rock hard hammers" is nice, it definitely isn't necessary to achieve a different sound. Yes, your technician will probably hate you for asking (I would), but you can have your hammers voiced down quite substantially, and it will be cheaper than replacing hammers.
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

#2041441 - 03/01/13 03:34 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
Zeno Wood Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/07
Posts: 492
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Most times, the Etymotic earplugs come with a string, so you connect the plugs with the string over your shoulders and the back of the neck. When you take out the plugs, just let them dangle.
Zeno Wood, Piano Technician
Brooklyn College

#2041444 - 03/01/13 03:35 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: beethoven986]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2835
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I have a pair of these that I like quite a bit.
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

#2041456 - 03/01/13 03:51 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3706
I switched from the cheap earplugs and noise headset to the custom made ones with LINEAR damping. The problem with the cheaps is that the damping is not linear and that your playing sounds funny. That makes it hard to balance the hands properly and to voice chords properly. Also they often dampen too much, making it hard to impossible to hear yourself when playing soft.

you may check this

and the ER15 filter whcih is most linear

These custom plugs are made to match the exact shape of your ear and fit like a tailor made suit. Yet after a little practice they are not so hard to get in and out, takes about 10 seconds.

#2041461 - 03/01/13 03:59 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
RonTuner Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 1697
Loc: Chicagoland
Hey Joe - those $20 ones from etymotic are the way to go. Even the guitar centers have them now. Flat response, with a little stem that makes them easy to pull out and put in. Or, just leave 'em in, it's kindof like being at the beach with sunglasses and then walking inside, you can still see, it's just muted a bit...


There are two sizes, blue is for smaller ear canals- I have a custom pair as well, but prefer the off the shelf kind for fit and sound.
Piano/instrument technician

my piano videos:

#2041488 - 03/01/13 04:43 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: malkin]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4260
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Originally Posted By: malkin
I have a pair of these that I like quite a bit.

Best set I have ever owned so I purchased another pair. Great for attending sporting events too. Stadiums can have excessive and unhealthy decibel levels.
Dan Silverwood
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

#2041508 - 03/01/13 05:16 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
Kent Swafford Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 91
Loc: Kansas City
Why worry about taking them on and off? I carry Etymotics everywhere I go, just a tiny carrying case with 2 plugs in a pocket. It's a habit. I put them on and take them off several times a day. Hardly even think about it anymore. Wouldn't tune, or drive, or listen to loud music without them.

#2041514 - 03/01/13 05:30 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2117
Loc: Suffolk, England
Earplugs like Etymotic ER-15 Musician's Earplugs have a good attenuation profile for a piano with hard hammers:

They cut down the unwanted higher overtones and leave the rest at pretty much the same relative levels.

To get an idea of the effect on Mason & Hamlin sound try listening to this with and without (any old) earplugs.
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

#2041574 - 03/01/13 07:28 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: Withindale]
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2361
Loc: NYC
Thanks for all of these replies!

The reason I was concerned about taking plugs in and out repeatedly is because I am used to the very basic foam ones: stick one in your ear, WAIT 30 seconds for it to expand, repeat with other ear. That gets old when done several times a day.

Does not seem to be a problem with these more exotic ones.

Also interested in the headphone style...will look into all of these ideas more fully.

It is a Mason CC -- you can imagine what sound level it is capable of. I know the hammers need replacement, as they were overlacquered 10 years ago. They were fine for a long time, but now they've reached a point of no return.

I really appreciate any and all of your help!


#2041598 - 03/01/13 08:43 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2835
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
The foam ones are much slower to insert than the flange-ey ones. I think the foam ones are not as comfortable, but I still use them quite often too.

I also have earplugs from Alpine Hearing Protection.
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

#2041681 - 03/02/13 02:09 AM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
chopin_r_us Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 1067
Loc: UK
Er.., you couldn't play softer??

I voiced my own (blood on the felts to prove it). I chose the one hammer that sounded nice and copied the tone - it worked a treat. Sadly the piano went to the dump last week.

#2041784 - 03/02/13 09:53 AM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: chopin_r_us]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2835
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: chopin_r_us
Er.., you couldn't play softer??

For me it is a problem with my hearing, and I need to reduce my exposure to sound. And I still need to practice an appropriate dynamic range.
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

#2041941 - 03/02/13 04:47 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
chuck belknap Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 36
Loc: Oklahoma
I don't know if I could tune without the Etymotics around my neck. I hear partials sooo much easier, and if I want to pound a little harder, I just stick them further in my ear. Playing softer, I can partially pull them out. They are wonderful, and I feel that they will increase my productive years. I also wear them when I teach beginning band. If they can make that more tolerable, they will certainly help you.


#2041960 - 03/02/13 05:25 PM Re: Musician earplugs (again) [Re: RealPlayer]
terminaldegree Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2864
Loc: western Wisconsin
Chalk me up as another who uses the Etymotic ones. Not uncomfortable, and nice to have on-hand when going to the movies and rehearsing with sopranos and trumpet players in my small office. Tried another brand, Alpine Music Safe plugs as well, and thought they isolated a little too much and didn't fit my ears as well - gave them to my piano technician to try out (don't know if he uses them or not).
Pianist, teacher, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Casio px-200 (Blüthner pro-88 on the way!), Bechstein A190 @ home
NY Steinway A, B @ work
Schimmel 130T, on loan


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