Like that little sensation you call hearing? Then protect your ears.
A friend of mine, a true iron man of music—
a horrific secret: he's Beethoven-deaf. Currently
he works as a guitar tech for one of the most
famous guitarists in the world. I can't reveal
his identity because it could cost him his job if
his boss knew that his tech couldn't hear the
highs coming out of that stellar rig. Here's an
example of his staggering deafness: you know
that scene in the movie Poltergeist where the
little girl gives that prolonged scream after she
encounters the ghost? When my friend recently
watched that scene, he heard nothing; he literally
thought his TV had stopped working. He
got up off the couch and walked up to the TV
to investigate. When dialogue kicked in, he
discerned that the problem was his ears, not his
television. That is cochlear damage.
There are thousands of tiny hairs in the cochlea that are stimulated by the pressure of sound waves, like wind moving in a wheat field. Different frequencies of sound stimulate specific sections of these tiny auditory hairs, causing them to move; this discharges electrical impulses through the auditory nerve, which our brains interpret as sound.
Here's the bad news: these tiny hair cells and auditory nerves are easily damaged by either a sudden loud sound (such as a feedback spike), or an extended long period of time exposed to loud sound (like regular gigging). When these tiny hairs get bent or broken, they send electrical impulses randomly to the brain which are interpreted as sound, even though there might be a complete absence of sound. That's tinnitus, the ringing in your ears. I've heard a theory that it is a little bit like phantom limb syndrome—you know, an old soldier still reaches down to itch a leg that was blown off in Da Nang forty years ago. The line to the receptor still exists, even though the original receptor is gone (in this case the tiny auditory hairs). These receptor lines are active and will interpret any stimulus as sound. For example, you squint your eyes just right, the damaged receptor in your cochlea is stimulated, and you suddenly hear a high B-flat note ringing loud and clear. Cochlear damage is almost like a faulty electrical connection.
A live stage punishes your ears, making cochlear damage an occupational hazard. The hell of it is that often it's not even your amp that's robbing you of your precious hearing. It's your drummer's bashing and the occasional brain spike of painful feedback. Even the warm lows of the bass that don't feel painful are still laying waste to part of your cochlea. Unless you're on a tour with a killer in-ear monitor system and a quiet stage, protecting your ears comes down to wearing earplugs. Playing guitar and wearing earplugs is the sonic equivalent of suiting up with a couple condoms. Sure you lose sensation, sure it feels unnatural, sure it's not as fun—but much like our Trojan friends, these foam protectors should be kept with you at all times.
I've advocated earplugs since I was fifteen, working in a music store employed entirely by musicians. I was the only person on staff who could hear the phone ring! I began gigging with an older coworker who set his amp with all highs and no lows because 1K and above were gone in his ears. Earplugs were the only safeguard against sharing the fate of my old rocker co-workers. I bought expensive fitted plugs but found the cheap, yellow E-A-R Classics work the best. Now I buy plugs by bulk, stashing them in all of my guitar cases, glove box and backs of amps. Every pair of jeans I own has earplugs in the pocket that go through the wash-and-dry cycle then back in my ears. I'm the geek you see wearing earplugs at bars when the music gets loud. They not only protect me from deafening music but also from the drunken moron standing next to me shouting in my ear. I put them in when I board a plane to avoid the painful announcements from the flight attendants.
Because earplugs color your tone by stealing highs, you have to set your rig plug-free, really playing with all of your settings: clean, dirty, etc. Stand back as far as your cord will let you, giving your ears the highs of the tonal spectrum that your audience hears. Once your tone is dialed, don't touch it, trusting that your rig sounds like God Himself rocking.
The other day during sound check for the Nashville Star Live tour, I set my rig sans plugs on a big, open arena stage where you can move some air. I cranked my ValveTrain amp up to six and it really came alive—the kind of good tone that almost makes you drunk. I cranked it up to eight and I began hearing cool overtones that aren't normally there. I was beginning to feel a little giddy. I cranked it wide open and it became sublime. Inspired, our drummer came on stage and began pounding away, then our bass player followed, and it turned into a Spinal Tap jazz odyssey. I had more fun during the trance-inducing ten minute jam than I had had for the entire tour. We blew through sound check with the singers and kept on jamming until the stage manager ran us off so they could open doors to let in the crowd. As I flipped my amp to standby, a buzz in my left ear swelled into a clear F# and I wondered if I would ever hear that tone naturally in a mix again.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville guitar slinger who has
recorded and toured with over 30 major label artists. His
songs and playing can be heard in several major motion
pictures, major label releases and literally hundreds of
television drops. For more info visit johnbohlinger.com
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.