I can still hear my Father banging on the floor above me, and shouting, “Turn down the damn music!” In an odd twist of life, now I get texts from my teenage daughter with the same message. What is it about guitar and volume? Recently, I was having a strange crackling in my ears. The sound was similar to that of a crackling speaker caused by a loose wire. I made an appointment at my eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor, who I haven’t seen since my early 20s (I’m 53 now). His immediate response was, "Of course you can’t hear, you’ve been blasting music for most of your life." So he went through the standard hearing tests and — much to both of our surprise — my hearing was perfect. The problem was in my sinuses. But, back to the conversation about volume, after playing guitar for 44 years, and going to hundreds of shows, I acknowledge the connection between guitar and volume is an issue. But what is it about volume? I’m not talking about turning up an amp because you are trying to get power-tube saturation, because I think it’s much more primal than that. My take on why I like music loud is more to do with pressure than volume, and this is where the ear doctor and my sinuses came into play. The thing that was causing the crackling in my ears was the actual sound pressure pushing against my ear. It’s the same pressure you feel in your chest at a concert. Sound has an actual physical presence. That is what I think causes us to crank music. We want to not only hear, but feel the power of music. I’ve tried amp modelers, headphones, mini amps, and attenuators, and I still find I don’t enjoy playing the same as I do when I push the volume to the point where I know a floor banging or text message will be coming. So what are you doing to find a middle ground between your need to feel and your family's or roommates' need for tranquility? Brian Drucks lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. His music can be heard here.
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