I have a question I'm hoping someone may be able to help with. I'm 52 years old and have been a professional musician all my life. I play violin, viola and cello and these days do mostly remote session playing. Intonation has never in the past been a major problem for me but as I get older I'm finding an increasing number of intonation mistakes when editing my own material that only become apparent when I layer parts. I have also noticed that I find conversation difficult without facing a person and am unable to hear high pitched noises that other people can. I acknowledge that I'm probably losing some high end hearing, a consequence of a lifetime listening to unmastered music on headphones. Does anyone know if there is a link between this kind of deafness and the ability to accurately intonate? Thanks.
velvetcave, I also have high end hearing loss. I use hearing aids to help bring the high ends back in, that said, my hearing loss SOMETIMES causes me NOT to hear certain notes which will screw up my intonation. I still play, but wear my hearing ends and over the ear headphones, instead of in-ears and I find my intonation to be good as always! I second the advice to have your hearing checked. If you're near a Costco, they'll do it for free AND their hearing aids (Kirkland brand) are at least a thousand dollars cheaper (per pair) than other brands and work just as well !!
I think what's happening is this:
- Your hearing gets weaker.
- You turn up the (right-ear only) headphone louder than you used to, so you hear the backing well.
- As a result of 1.+2., now only your left ear hears your instrument properly, and only your right ear hears the backing. Whereas when your hearing was better, the left ear also still caught some of the instrument's direct sound.
- Relative pitch perception gets worse. It's well established that a single ear can detect pitch differences more accurately than two ears separately can. A single ear with two signals will receive the beat of the difference between the frequencies; with two individual ears this does not work. Even if you also have your mic in the right-ear phone, this won't come through as well as it would in a properly balanced two-ears mix.
Fortunately, this problem can be solved easily: just abolish the one-ear monitoring technique. I've never found that to work well anyways, even with good hearing.
In fact I believe the only reason that method is standard is because studios used to have not enough buses to give every musician (in particular, everyone in a whole string section!) their own monitor mix. One-ear headphone is then a simple hack that allows everybody to share the same mix. But nowadays with digital consoles, that's not an issue anymore, and particularly not when you're playing alone anyways. So just set up a proper monitor mix for both ears, and use normal headphones or in-ears.