In their basic function, headphones are simply speakers, but they serve several functions; They can be used to isolate musicians from hearing ambient sounds, but also to enhance the listening experience by letting musicians select certain sounds to create a custom music mix. Headphones can also protect your ears from loud music.
There are four main types of headphones: Closed ear, a type of headphone that provides the most insulation and fits nicely over the ear. They cut out all room noise and are preferred when recording at a high volume level and where the sound is bleeding can be a problem. semi-closed, which also fits over the ear but allows some ambient sound. open ear, which are lightweight headphones that press against the ear and allow significant ambient noise. and in-ear speakerphones, which are small speakers that fit inside the ear and are used primarily as live performance monitors.
In music, musicians wear headphones to hear a mix of all the instruments and song being recorded. This is helpful when all instruments are recorded via a mixing console to keep their sound from ‘bleeding’ together. They are also used when instruments and vocals are added after the song has been recorded.
Earphones have different features for live performance. Many bands are performed with previously recorded tracks (strings, background vocals, keyboards and rhythm guitars) to enhance the sound of their live performance. Musicians will wear headphones to hear the pre-recorded tracks and synchronize their live performance to the recording.
Many musicians carry in-ear speakerphones on stage to enhance live screen feed; a ‘mix’ of instruments and vocals is moved via in-ear phones and enables musicians to increase mobility around the stage without losing their sound.
Musicians can also wear headphones on stage that are designed to block certain frequencies; This is especially useful for protecting your ears from extremely loud music.
Musicians who wear headphones for long hours at a time can experience physical discomfort and permanent hearing damage. Symptoms include headache, a temporary loss of sound frequencies that make a hollow or ringing sound in the ears and sore ears. Musicians should choose earphones that are comfortable and suitable for their intended use and remove them frequently to allow the ambient sound to be properly filtered by the ears. Ear phones are tools for the musician’s trade, and there are many names for them that are used interchangeably. Earphones are commonly referred to as headphones, and among musicians, in slang form, they are also called ‘cans. Some musicians refer to headphones as those that fit in your ear and headphones as those that go over your years, but regardless of their name, not all headphones are the same and musicians do not wear them for the same reason. The purpose will dictate the type of headphones, size, quality and even the name.