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I have been a fan of earplugs for a long time, but it wasn’t until I lost my custom moulded pair that I reflected on my long term relationship with these little silicone live savers. My dad was working for GM at the time, and they had these simple disposable foam plugs that blocked nearly ALL sound from your ears. I can’t remember the exact brand that I first tried (they may have been Etymotics, which I recently re-discovered after I lost my custom plugs. When Dennis fell ill and I stepped in on a weekly basis, I realized that I needed to start protecting myself. You can understand why I would be so upset when I forgot my plugs at my current regular Monday night gig at Smoke with the Bill Mobley Big Band! I have one more little tidbit of information I learned from my good friend and guitarist Tony Romano.
In conclusion, if you think that wearing ear protection hinders your ability to have fun and make music, then I would like to suggest that you probably haven’t found the right ear plugs yet. My string of choice for the acoustic bass is Pirastro's Evah Pirazzi orchestral gage string. Riding with ear bud type headphones is also pretty sweet, and some of my friends swear by it.
Radians Deviator™ UF foam ear plugs feature a bell shape, sized to fit most average to larger adults, a high visibility color, and a very soft, low pressure design that offers a comfortable fit for all day or all night wear.
I would stuff the plugs deep into my ear for every tune that I was playing electric bass on, since I didn’t have to worry about intonation. At first, I was subbing regularly for the legendary Dennis Irwin, which turned into a full time position when he became ill.
By that point, I had been subbing with the band for about eight years, so I was pretty comfortable with the music. Everything looked great, with only a slight notch in my left ear, which was most likely due the fact that I played with the Vanguard Band the night before.
I scheduled another appointment and made sure to clean my ears the night before with an over the counter kit I bought at the local pharmacy.
They’re pretty weird looking, since the are the exact opposite shape of your inner ear.
I went back the next week, but they were lost in the shuffle of acts that come through the club every week.
Even a mere 9db of noise reduction saves pressure on your sensitive ear drums, so you should at least wear something. I’d seen and heard that a lot of riders used ear plugs, but I always wore full faced helmets and never thought the wind noise was too bad.

I’ve never found a pair of phones that did well at noise canceling at the same time as playing sound, so you have to crank the sound up really high, and this makes me worry about potentially damaging my hearing.
The unique one size UltraFit fits most ear canals comfortably and provides a high level of attenuation. You could walk down the hotel hallway and pick out who was in the band by listening for TVs.
The problem was, I was having trouble making music with them stuck in my ears, since they hardly let ANY sound in. When I was just popping in for a gig or two here and there, I took my chances and left my earplugs at home.
The trumpets were behind me and to my left, so I was getting a really good blast on that side of my head! Because of that, they fit amazingly snug into your ear so that no sound can sneak past them. Especially for long highway journeys, ear plugs are key; they keep you focused on the road and your head clear and present. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized my roommate finally eased off of the TV volume. On the acoustic bass songs, I pulled my left plug out a little bit so that a little more sound could come in. The dynamic range of that band is huge, and I was having trouble adjusting to playing with plugs in during the quite piano trio sections, which are a hallmark of that band.
The only entry into your head is through the center of the plugs, which are blocked by a small circular baffle that has a db rating.
Since the bells of the trumpets were a bit in front of me and high above, this was the safest side of my head to let some sound in. On a recommendation from a friend, I picked up a 20db pair and was amazed at the sonic difference. Since I would just do a  gig a week for a few weeks in a row at first, I thought that making sure I sounded my best outweighed any potential damage that I may incur.
The audiologist squeezes a bunch of goop into your ear, which solidifies and creates a mould of your inner ear so that they can make the plugs. I needed something that could protect me ASAP because I had the entire trumpet section literally one foot from the back of my head!
We’ve all had a temporary case of tinnitus at one time or another– a faint ringing in your ear. That being the case, Maynard was playing into a microphone which was being piped though two stage monitors at his feet.

I quickly woke up to the fact that my hearing was less sensitive after a few weeks of gigs. I did this for a few tours until I discovered that there were companies that actually designed earplugs made especially for musicians. Even the slightest bit of ear wax will create imperfections in the mould that will result in a less than optimal fit. In the time between tests I started wearing one plug in my left ear at the Vanguard just to be safe.
They were all on small risers, which placed the bells of the trumpets were pretty far above me. I was curious to see if maybe my left ear was a little fatigued at my first test since I played at at the Vanguard 12 hours before hand.
These are by far the best sounding type of plugs that you can get, and they’re also the most comfortable. If you’re a drummer, you are going to experience this same type of hearing damage because of your ride cymbals. I was standing three feet from the legendary Maynard Ferguson, in a small room, whilst he played double Cs into a PA system! Of course, all of that comes at a price– a trip to the audiologist, sending the moulds to an ear plug company, multiple sets of baffles cost a little more, and return shipping. Then there was the (not so) small matter of Maynard, who was directly in front of me with two monitors facing back at us. Fortunately, the American Federation of Musicians has a program to help subsidize the cost for it’s members, so my grand total was $170. Just having that one pitch being played in close proximity to your head is enough to begin the process of notching your hearing.
Considering you can buy the ribbed musician plugs for $12, that’s a pretty hefty price difference.
I made do with them for a month until I could get fitted for another pair of custom fitted plugs.

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