Posts Tagged ‘music’

Hearing aids for musicians

October 30, 2021

Yesterday I attended (via Zoom) a seminar about the use of hearing aids for listening to music, and for those who play music. It was given by Dr Alinka Greasley (University of Leeds), and was part of the Hearing Aids for Music (HAFM) project.

The content very much agreed with my own experience with my Oticon Opn S1 hearing aids: I suffer from typical older age hearing loss (presbycusis), and my aids (binaural) have two settings: normal and music. Both are very good at making speech more intelligible, including speech in noisy environments. The speech and music settings are usable for listening to music, but in general, I prefer to turn the hearing aids off. For playing music (I play piano and clarinet) I absolutely must turn them off: they make the music appear to have a continuous vibrato at about 4 or 5 Hz, which I find very annoying. (I also note this vibrato particularly strongly from the chime of my old pendulum clock).

What is happening here, and what might be done about it? The HAFM blog (6 July 2020) suggests “removing adaptive functionality (e.g. feedback cancellation, noise reduction), alterations to compression, changes to gain”. This was also the view from the seminar speaker, and other attendees.

My own experience suggests the same: but in addition, being able to switch quickly from the speech settings to either entirely off, or some other simpler program and back again would be most useful. For example, I often run the Dunblane Folk Club, a sing-around with instrumentalists as well. I need to be able to play, and then take part in the craic! And similarly, for being in a jazz band practise: I need to be able to quickly go from playing to talking to the other performers, and back again.

My own hearing aid is integrated with an app on my iPhone, and this allows me to change programs, reasonably quickly. But turning them on and off is relatively slow. What I most probably need is

1: a simple music program, one that amplifies the higher frequencies, but doesn’t have any of the other clever features that improve speech perception (but not music!).

2: the ability to switch quickly between these programs.

How do I go about achieving this? Can I get a program development tool that would fit my hearing aids? I know that my audiologist has a system that can reprogram the hearing aids, but I understand that the actual programs are developed by Oticon. Can they be made open source? Could I get to experiment with them?


“Prosecco for breakfast”

December 23, 2020

At Dunblane Folk Club, we have gone virtual, and hold a Facebook Watch Party on Sunday nights. After the last one, one of our stalwarts, Terry O’Neil said that at Christmas she would be having prosecco for breakfast. Now, there’s a well known tune called “Whisky for Breakfast”, so I reckoned that “Prosecco for Breakfast” would be a good title for a tune. Perhaps a jig…

And here it is.

and here’s a piano version…aaargh.. I can’t upload sounds to this page. I have put it on SoundCloud: here’s the link to it.

Lats night’s gig at The Crook

August 6, 2017

Last night, Angus Scott (Saxophones) and I (piano) played a gig at The Crook Bar, in Bridge of Allan. We played three 50 minute sets, in this very noisy, busy gastro-pub. It was a huge amount of fun – for us anyway – and I think the customers liked it too, though some groups were so noisy that I could hardly hear myself play. As I get towards retirement, I’m looking to play more music (whether jazz, blues, folk or whatever), and this seemed a good way to get going. I’ve been playing with Angus for a while now, mostly just practising (though we did play the Dunblane Hotel’s beer festival last year, and one or two other charity gigs), but now I think we’re ready to get out more! Listen to us on SoundCloud (just 2 tracks right now: been having problems with the USB interface on this old laptop).

We’re hoping to play at The Dunblane’s beer festival again this year. And looking for other gigs (nearby!) too… Contact me if you are interested: lestheprof at gmail dot com.


Playing at the Kinbuck Beer Festival

April 25, 2015

Just back from playing piano (electric) at the Kinbuck Beer Festival. Kinbuck is a small village just north of here, and they hold an annual beer festival, which I’ve played at before. But this time I played solo piano for about 50 minutes. A beer festival audience is not one given to subtlety, so I played a mix of old blues numbers and fast standards, with lots of bass and decoration. They seemed to like it! Maybe I’ll get another gig or two from it…though I can play with bit of subtlety as well.

A Public Lecture

May 15, 2014

This evening, I gave a public lecture at my University, entitled “Hear here: from the ear to the brain”. And last year, in the same series,  I gave a talk about Artificial Intelligence. Both went well: but I’d really like to give these talks elsewhere as well. And I don’t know quite how to organise this – I’m not really quite up to pushing myself on to a science festival (and often they go for professional science publicists, rather than plain old professors!). Is there another career for waiting for me there?

Today’s talk was interesting from my viewpoint too. the audience age ranged from about 11 to about 75! Some were retired academics, some were locals, and some were the children of academics. I think I managed to target it well, but it’s a tricky business: not losing (or boring) the younger, less experienced part of the audience, yet attempting to keep the interest of the older ones. But judging from the questions at the end I managed OK. Interestingly, it felt more like a performance than a lecture: more like I had played a gig on the piano, than stood up and spoken for a while: not really like a standard lecture at all.

And yet: what I’d really like to do would be to mix together the various skills I have and give an illustrated public lecture illustrated with music, played on the piano. Perhaps that would be a bit hard though I did manage to give a musically accompanied speech at my late father’s 80’th birthday, more than 20 years ago. What sorts of music might illustrate artificial intelligence? The musical accompaniment to the sound and hearing talk might be easier, however.

And now? Quietly sitting, writing, having quaffed a few beers, just to relax. Back to the everyday grind tomorrow!

David Vernon and Dick Lee play the Tolbooth, Stirling.

June 2, 2012

I went to see David Vernon and Dick Lee playing at the Tolbooth in Stirling this afternoon. David plays the accordion, and Dick plays clarinet (B flat and base), and together they played an eclectic mixture of tunes. Starting off with a Jewish tunes medley, and then a mixture of Balkan and Scottish tunes, with some unusual blues thrown in for good measure. I particularly liked the jazz-influenced Scottish tunes – some were the sort of thing that you can get thrown out of a very traditional folk club for playing: jazzing up and improvising over traditional tunes. Now, I occasionally play piano behind fiddlers in a local pub (The Tappit Hen), and I’d dearly love to be skilled enough to do what Dick was doing and mix the traditional with the jazzy, even if I’m not entirely sure what the locals would make of it!

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon that listening to David and Dick playing, and making the odd joke at each others expense. And even listening to David playing their Scottish Surprise, where he plays Scottish tunes whilst changing key as fast as possible, while Dick improvises a jazz line over them! It was really good to hear. I’ve heard Dick play in many different bands (I have no idea how many bands he’s played in), even back to having his band Swing ’87 who played at my wedding. He’s looking very well – he looks a lot younger than me, but I’m sure we were the same age when we first met!

A little light music: All of Me

August 8, 2010

And now for something a bit different. Recorded in the Garage here, with me on the (electric) piano, and Jonathan Smith on drums and trumpet (not actually simultaneously), here’s an old standard, All of Me. I’ve been playing piano forever, and Jonathan is about to start studying electronics and sound technology. So we thought we’d try this. Enjoy.