Why does my drumming improve when I practice with headphones on?

Muns

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Messages
39
Reaction score
25
Location
USA
Just retuned to playing after years off. Never practiced with over the ear headphones years ago. Today I have some relatively inexpensive bluetooth headphones. When I practices with them on (vs speakers or just no music) my drumming improves. Even the backing track seem slightly slower...?
Odd but true.
 

Muns

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Messages
39
Reaction score
25
Location
USA
Welcome to DFO.

To answer your question, you can't hear yourself.

Heck, I'm kidding. I have no idea.
Ha!
Wonder of it's related to this speculation?:

"...headphones are giving you better high-frequency response and better isolation from room noise than your speakers are, so your higher-frequency percussion and rhythmic instrument transients (which I'd guess are subdivided more finely than, say, your kick drums) are becoming more subjectively audible. Following the above rule of thumb (more subdivision = slower perceived speed), the track sounds slower in headphones than on speakers."

No matter - just an interesting and happy coincidence!
 

CC Cirillo

DFO Veteran
Joined
Feb 20, 2019
Messages
2,992
Reaction score
5,923
Location
Northern California
Hello, Muns!

I’m mostly self-taught and learned a lot by playing along with the radio using headphones. During Covid, I started that practice again after decades of only playing with live musicians.

I noticed a similar anomaly. Then it hit me: I think I sound better for a few reasons---One is the headphones equalize everything. All overtones are gone and the kit sounds close-mic’d and perfect, much like the kits in so many of the recordings I admire.

The other effect, I think, is purely psychological. Let’s say I’m playing along to Bernard Purdie with Steely Dan. Well, I’m hearing Bernard Purdie in my headphones and not much me. Bernard’s pretty good at the Purdie shuffle. I am not. He’s carrying me along with him providing perfectly placed and balanced tempo, feel, and ghost notes. I am, probably, not.

What I do is listen, play along, then turn off the music and play alone attempting to lock the feel without the crutch. I do this both with hearing protection, and then a bit without so I can hear the overtones, etc. Then I take a quick snapshot recording on my phone of just the groove portion of the song. Do I sound anything even close to the drummer on the recording?

Regarding tempo, I too notice that a lot of songs I’ve heard for years sound, well, slower, up close and personal. I think it’s not as much the song as I’m probably, on the whole, pushing the beat, not necessarily rushing, but playing a little more forward than the drummer on the recording did. So, again, I take that feedback and work with it, work against my tendency, which, with a little luck, is making me better.

As far as the recording being slower, if you are saying that tongue in cheek, well I’m with you on that---I have a lot of defective metronomes that always rush the tempo.
 
Last edited:

Muns

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Messages
39
Reaction score
25
Location
USA
Hi CC - I have some hearing damage so I suspect the reduced overtones with the headphones just helps reduce "noise". Yes - playing along with track it's easy to lean on the recording - I do the same as far as listening/playing then going alone. I need to start recording myself to really get an appreciation of how I'm doing. Thanks for the insights!
 

Piggpenn

DFO Veteran
Joined
May 7, 2012
Messages
1,768
Reaction score
1,348
Location
Eastern Iowa
Hello, Muns!

I’m mostly self-taught and learned a lot by playing along with the radio using headphones. During Covid, I started that practice again after decades of only playing with live musicians.

I noticed a similar anomaly. Then it hit me: I think I sound better for a few reasons---One is the headphones equalize everything. All overtones are gone and the kit sounds close-mic’d and perfect, much like the kits in so many of the recordings I admire.

The other effect, I think, is purely psychological. Let’s say I’m playing along to Bernard Purdie with Steely Dan. Well, I’m hearing Bernard Purdie in my headphones and not much me. Bernard’s pretty good at the Purdie shuffle. I am not. He’s carrying me along with him providing perfectly placed and balanced tempo, feel, and ghost notes. I am, probably, not.

What I do is listen, play along, then turn on the music and play alone attempting to lock the feel without the crutch. I do this both with hearing protection, and then a bit without so I can hear the overtones, etc. Then I take a quick snapshot recording on my phone of just the groove portion of the song. Do I sound anything even close to the drummer on the recording?

Regarding tempo, I too notice that a lot of songs I’ve herd for years sound, well, slower, up close and personal. I think it’s not as much the song as I’m probably, on the whole, pushing the beat, not necessarily rushing, but playing a little more forward than the drummer on the recording did. So, again, I take that feedback and work with it, work against my tendency, which, with a little luck, is making me better.

As far as the recording being slower, if you are saying that tongue in cheek, well I’m with you on that---I have a lot of defective metronomes that always rush the tempo.

Man you really nailed it. I was being a S A$$ in my first post so to Muns I apologize but reading your post, very insightful makes you think. I especially like how you describe your drums while wearing headphones. I couldn't have said it better and for those that don't experience what you describe really are missing out. I enjoy practicing with ear protection and my drums are very harsh if I play right after removing them. Good post!!!
 

davidaldridgedrums

New Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2014
Messages
1
Reaction score
0
When you can clearly hear the sounds you are producing, you focus on making them consistent. A lot falls into place as a result. I discovered the same thing a few years ago when I bought my first electronic kit. I could hear everything, and I really enjoyed focusing on producing a sound, and multiple sounds, not just keeping a beat and playing time. Those things really did fall into place on their own.
 

Muns

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Messages
39
Reaction score
25
Location
USA
When you can clearly hear the sounds you are producing, you focus on making them consistent. A lot falls into place as a result. I discovered the same thing a few years ago when I bought my first electronic kit. I could hear everything, and I really enjoyed focusing on producing a sound, and multiple sounds, not just keeping a beat and playing time. Those things really did fall into place on their own.
Good point thanks!
 

fusseltier

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2018
Messages
309
Reaction score
153
Location
Earth
Maybe it's because you can't hear what you're playing when you're wearing headphones and you think it is better.
 

SY-ya-nara

Very well Known Member
Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2017
Messages
642
Reaction score
500
Location
Oklahoma
Maybe it's because you can't hear what you're playing when you're wearing headphones and you think it is better.
You may be right but I wouldn’t really think so. You can still hear what your playin’. As a musician, learning to listen is an acquired thing actually. Wearing headphones could calm the noise/loudness to a point where your brain is able to make distinctions without as much effort. And that is a good thing! Yes it is psychological.

Playing along to recorded music is never like driving the bus yourself, but it does exercise those little listening muscles. I like to find the drumless tracks or use Moises to create them.

Record yourself and listen back. Only you can teach you, and that’s what practice is four.

Edit to add: for.
 
Last edited:


Top