Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mastering Music: NOT on the Dance Floor

Don't expect to master the music on the dance floor!
(Sorry--don't shoot the messenger.)

Let's be clear: I don't consider dancing the same as focused listening time. It's hard to have a great relationship with the music without some private time. You can do it with your "significant other" (S.O.) around, but I don't recommend it if they are the jealous type.

If you hear a tune enough on the floor you may remember some elements of the tune, like a few of the breaks and the melody, but I consider that a bonus. Experienced ears can also predict many of the breaks and will hear the section changes, because music isn't random.

While dancing, your focus includes the music, but your partner comes first, then the music and then your own moves and patterns. Don't expect to have enough attention to master the music when you have an attractive partner in front of you, especially if you are newer to the listening relationship game.

If you are also a newer dancer, then you are already multi-tasking up a storm. Critical listening is extremely difficult when your plate is already full with a partner, lights, and a large set of variables on the dance floor. Simply too much going on at once.

Focused listening requires you to repeat sections, and yelling to the DJ to repeat the introduction or the percussion solo isn't workable at most clubs. Live bands like that even less.

If you are new to focused listening, you should spend some quality alone time with just the music and you, along with the rewind/repeat buttons. As you grow your "ears", you can do 60 to 80% of your listening while doing things that don't require your full attention. For most, that includes driving, eating, showering, exercising, and other recurring tasks you do regularly.

Some focused listening requires alone time, with few distractions. You can do those sessions in five and ten minute chunks (quickies) around the rest of your life, with an occasional longer listening.

When driving for to a club for 30 to 60 minutes I've set my iPod to repeat one song the whole time, while sometimes using the reverse button to review a snippet 20 times or more. I may be listening to the vocals, a horn part, one or more percussionists or something else I find interesting.

Sometimes I may be bouncing between instruments and sections and/or counting parts of the tune to clarify the song structure. I've often listened to the same song on the way home, but focusing on different sections. It's amazing what you hear after extended reviews.

The more mature your ears become, the more you hear while multi-tasking, including being on the dance floor. Ultimately that's the pay-off.

You may not tell your S.O. about your music relationships, and we'll just keep that to ourselves. When they dance with you'll they'll quickly realize you have an intimate relationship with the music, and they'll love you for it.
When choosing between two evils, I always like to take the one I've never tried before.
--Mae West

Dance Books by Don Baarns:

Related Articles:
Listening to Music 100 Times or More
The Irony of Teaching Music

Suggested Videos:
Music4Dancers: Free YouTube Series

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This site and the Music4Dancers video series are supported by your donations. No other ads!
All contributions appreciated!

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This article was originally published Nov 2008. I've done some minor revisions before this republish.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Questions? (or, Am I Stupid or What?)

Some people think I'm the dumbest person in a class, and a few treat me like I have a big red "S" on my forehead, like a tattoo that screams "Stupid!"

All because I ask more questions than many others. I want clarity because it pays back dramatically over time and often I pass my "smarter" peers over time.

If you practice an exercise or motion incorrectly for a couple of weeks or months, you have to go back and unlearn that motion, then learn the correct motion, and often that takes much more time than getting it right from the start.

I've been humbled greatly in classes. Sometimes the movements didn't work for me that day, and I had to see it in a second or third class before I got it. In some cases my initial learning is significantly slower than some others. I can be confused, or frustrated or just hoping they slow things down for a few minutes, so I can see more details. If I let my ego get in the way, it's discouraging because "all the other kids get it" and I don't initially.

I want excellence, and I know if the fundamentals aren't clear to me, it will require relearning later, so I ask now, rather than practice the wrong thing because I'm missing something. You want the details if practical, so you "know that you know." You can then build on those fundamentals and go beyond the initial lesson, so ultimately you are much further ahead, even if the start up is slower.

Once you get the proper motion at a slower tempo you can refine it and within a few days or weeks, accelerate the movement.

The time I minimize questions is when I knowingly attend a class way over my head.

For example, in a beginning class it's fair game to ask all sorts of questions, because in theory everybody is just starting. Sometime I may take a more advanced class because I'm taking privates from the instructor. It's way over my head but I know that if you surround yourself with people at a higher level, you grow faster.

When I attend that type of class, I simply stand in the back and take in as much as possible, knowing I'll miss some things and at points I'm simply an observer, and/or I'm investing in future growth. Too many questions because I haven't done my homework and that's a drag for everybody. There is a balance.

Exercises or movements that are easy for most of the class may be impossible for me with my current experience (or lack thereof), so I save those questions for my privates, where the instructor breaks it down to my level.

(Side note: Try taking a jazz dance class in your mid forties, having NEVER attended a jazz class in your life. It’s extremely humbling and allows me to relate to new dancers in my beginning classes. When someone struggles with a move in my class, I know exactly how they feel!)

When I'm teaching, and there is someone like me who asks questions, I might have to say, "That's an excellent question; let's deal with that after class, and anybody else who wants clarity on that issue is free to join us." Let the instructor handle it if you ask questions that are outside the scope for the class in general. Nine out of ten times, though, the question you have is the same one that six others are thinking but are afraid to ask.

The rule is: Be bold and ask! Your dancing will improve much faster than those who pretend to "get it" when something is unclear. You can just laugh to yourself. Don't rub it in, just keep on getting clarity while you're learning.

In the long run you will be way ahead of others who don't get the fundamentals.
Most people over estimate how much they can do in a short period of time
and under estimate how much they can accomplish over a longer time frame.
-Mickey Carbin

Related Article:
Breaking In At A Congress Or Event

Dance Books by Don Baarns:

Suggested Videos:
Music4Dancers: Free YouTube Musicality Series

Donation Page:
This site and the Music4Dancers video series are supported by your donations. No other ads!
All contributions appreciated!

Connect with me: ("Like" the page)
Twitter: @UnlikelySalsero
Google+ (Don Baarns)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Careful: You Become What You Watch

Someone once said, “You’ll become what you think about most.” It doesn't always work. If it were totally true most guys would have been a beautiful girl by the end of high school. And a few older guys would be a hot dancer by now!

Still, you'll eventually dance like people you watch the most. View great dancers consistently, and some of their moves and styling will become yours. You should find a set of excellent videos and watch them over and over, providing your mind quality input to draw from as your dancing matures.

In other words, find ways to be around great dancers and some of their experience will rub off on you too. Sometimes that's physically close, including taking their classes and watching them perform. For a wider world, find great videos on line via YouTube and/or purchasing instructional DVDs.

Find dancers years down the road from you. Ballet, jazz, salsa, hip-hop, tango, house or virtually any other style are all showcased in amazing detail on-line these days. Build your private playlists and watch.

Think about our speaking voices. It doesn’t happen in a month, but wherever you live you’ll pick up the regional language tendencies over time. Southerners say "New Orleans" distinctly different from someone from New York, California, or London. It's all "English", and it's all good, but once you move into an area, your accent will gradually change to fit within your environment. You may never lose the accent from your childhood, but gradually you'll move toward the norm in your current area.

The same effect applies to dancing and you want to take control of those influences. Watch master dancers regularly, and especially watch those you like over and over. It's a very gradual process; some influences will show up in weeks or months, most will come out years from now. If your favorites are famous, established dancers, buy their instructional DVDs. Watch them over and over and over, 20-50 times EACH!

There is nothing like the details they tell you while breaking down the moves; it's way beyond just watching people do patterns in a club or live performance.

I have my money where my mouth is on this one... I have over 30 DVDs from world class instructors and I have folders on YouTube where I archive and watch great dancers across a range of categories.

A few years ago most of the dance videos onYouTube were weak or just plain bad examples. If you watch them repeatedly, you'll find yourself imitating those people someday. Today there is some amazing dancing on YouTube, but you still have to weed through lots of junk to find the great stuff.

I've seen lots of people pick up a pattern from someone else or a YouTube video, but the way they do it makes it obvious they don't know what they are doing. You can find good examples there, but the quality varies greatly and until you are a very seasoned dancer, some instructional videos from recognized instructors are a good idea.

Ask your favorite dancers who they like and who they recommend as influences.

As a mature drummer, I sometimes hear myself play a variation on something I heard over and over when I was a young musician. I have music that I listened to hundreds of times, and I'm amazed when 20 years later something just comes flying out without my thinking about it. I didn't plan on playing something from the past, but the moment was right, and my brain outputs something based on input from many, many years ago, without me consciously thinking about it. That works because in parallel I studied with some of the world's best studio musicians in LA, kept growing and when the time was right, I had the ideas deep in my head.

As you become a more seasoned dancer, you’ll be able to tell who influences other dancers as you watch them. For example, it’s easy for me to pick out the dancers who really like one of popular LA instructors, because they do their signature moves, patterns and styling.

You'll see Michael Jackson influences in Usher, Fred Astair influences in Michael Jackson. It's a time honored tradition to stand on the shoulders of giants before us.

If you watch a quirky style constantly, you'll pick that up too. Be sure you're watching great dancers and over time you'll find yourself dancing variations on their style, just like picking up regional accents in your speaking voice.

Let me know who you like to watch.
Who inspires you?
Have you built you DVD library from the world's best instructors?
What DVDs or YouTube videos are you watching?
At the ballet you see girls dancing on their tiptoes. Why don’t they just get taller girls?
-Greg Ray
Suggested Videos:
Music4Dancers: Free YouTube Musicality Series

Donation Page:
This site and the Music4Dancers video series are supported by your donations. No other ads!
All contributions appreciated!

Connect with me: ("Like" the page)
Follow me on Twitter (@UnlikelySalsero)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Repetition: The Mother of All Learning

An old Russian proverb says, "Repetition is the mother of all learning."

That's a huge concept for growing dancers. Some moves start out difficult, but after repeating them hundreds of times, they become second nature. Repetition is the mother of all learning.

Of course, this applies to dance moves, music, sports, new languages, computer programming or virtually any other subject you decide to learn. No matter how you slice it, repetition is the mother of all learning.

Too few repetitions and it doesn't stick. Repeat it many times and it does. It's deceptively simple and very powerful if applied correctly.

How many guys have you heard complaining, "I don't remember those patterns" or "I can't remember the moves from class" or "I can do that slow, but once the music starts I can't remember that sequence." I suspect you can guess why.

My early drum teacher told me over thirty years ago; "If you can't do it effortlessly in a performance, you haven't practiced enough."

He was constantly reminding me that quality practice (repetition) was a requirement for excellence. One of the few excuses he allowed me to use when I couldn't do an exercise was, "I didn't practice that enough." I didn't like hearing it as a teenager, but over time his words stuck in my head and I realized he was absolutely right.

How many times do you repeat a new move before you own it? In some case, it may be a few times and others it will be hundreds or thousands of repetitions or more. The "few times" is an exception, and often the result of something you previous learned. In most cases it's hundreds or thousands of repetitions before things become mindless.

Newer dancers often under estimate how many times advanced dancers practice a move. That practice may have been on the dance floor, but owning a move is often the result of countless repetitions, over many months or more.

You forever see guys trying new moves with minimal practice because they see the more advanced dancers doing something similar. The advanced dancers make it look so easy, it's not obvious they repeated a sequence hundreds of times to make it look so comfortable.

If you want to learn a move, remember a pattern, step or feeling, do it over and over again, with attention to detail. Do it at different speeds, from painfully slow to burning fast. It's not magic, but it is a process.

Repetition is the mother of all learning, but be sure you are repeating things you actually want to learn. Mindless repetition, without refinement makes it easy to learn bad habits if you're not careful, so work toward repeating the habits, moves and patterns you want to master.

This isn't news to you, but this concept applies directly to your mastering the music.
Over a year ago I wrote an article titled "Listening to Music 100 Times or more" and it documents some of my experience with repeating music hundreds of times.

Repetition is not the only factor is learning, but it's a key factor and often under appreciated.

Let me know your experiences with repetition via the comments link below. And don't forget; repetition is the mother of all learning.

Suggested Videos:
Music4Dancers: Free YouTube Series
We know too much for one man to know much.
-- Robert Oppenheimer

Originally published in Jan 2009. It's been tweaked before this re-publish.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Listening to Music: 100 Times or More (Revised)

I'm reposting this article to let you know I was wrong. Time to own up to my original mistake. 

Over 7 years ago I wrote this article (June 07) and after working with thousands of additional dancers, I've figured out I was too conservative. When originally written I thought listening to a song 100 times was reasonable, but that was just before I installed iTunes and purchased my first iPod. 

In my teen years, I wore out many vinyl albums, requiring me to buy a second record to continue listening (long before CDs became the norm.) I had no idea how many times I listened; I just knew it was a lot, and way more than my 'normal' friends.

Once iTunes was installed, I found it counts how many times you listen to songs. What I've found surprised me. I've listened to some songs over 200 times (and more) in the first couple months, and I'm still finding new, interesting sounds in the background. In a few cases, I'm still trying to figure out a few words, or a bass line, or what the percussionist is playing during the intense part of the tune after many months of very intense listening. Sometimes I'll hear something new a year later.

In other words, I'm still learning, discovering and enjoying songs after hundreds of listenings. I don't listen to every song 100 times, but the raw numbers are far higher than I expected. Without software that tracks how many times I listened, I'd have stuck with recommending 100 times, thinking it was a big number.

So do the math; if the average song is 4 minutes, and you listen 4 times per day (twice morning, twice before bed), it will take you less than a month to hear a song 100 times. (A month allows a few days off for good behavior.) You can listen to one song 10 times some days, and parts of a tune 30-40 times during long commutes.

The interesting payoff is the more you hear in existing songs, the more you'll hear in new songs. As your ears continue to mature, you hear things in the background sooner. Find a few of your favorites, and make them part of your day for a few months. Let me know your thoughts.

I've made a few minor edits in the original article (below) but every time you see a "hundred times" reference, please double or triple it. You'll hear even more in the music.

Again: I admit it, my mistake! I should have started with 200 or 300 times, just to get everybody on the same page. Please forgive me.


Have you ever listened to one song or a set of tunes 10 times, 20, 30, 50 or 100 times? All within a few weeks or so?

Have you ever listed to the same song repeating for 30-60 minutes, then did it again a few times that same week? Only to repeat the exercise again over the next few weeks or months?

You should! Start doing it on your next drive! You will not believe the insights you'll get into music just by listing to a set of tunes over and over and over and over and over. You want the music flowing out of your pores, because so much is inside you it just has to come out or you will explode.

Every dancer should be listening to music when they're driving, jogging, working out or otherwise in a position to hear music while doing something else. Have music playing in your bathroom after showering, when doing your hair, make-up, and/or picking out your dancing clothes. There is magic in hearing the same tune(s) 100 times or more, focusing on different aspects of the music.

The goal is to find a few tunes you love, and play them to death, 50 or 100 times (or more). Then leave them for a few weeks and do it again. A few months later, do it again. Listen to different instruments, trying to hear each one by itself (something that takes practice, just like dance movements).

In my car, I have set my CD player or iPod to "repeat" one song over and over while driving 45 minutes to a club. Then on the way home I let it repeat the same tune again, for another 45 minutes. A couple of times per week I drive 20-45 minutes to get to specific clubs I like. I use that time to play tunes I like, trying to find new sounds I never heard before. Look for opportunities to use your iPod, CD, MP3 players or whatever to hear more music.

If I find a new song I really like, I often play it 20 to 50 times in the first two weeks I have it. Sometimes I'll listen to the same tune in my car during those club drives, singing along with different instruments. (Nobody is in the car, and the windows are up, otherwise I might set the local dogs howling.)

I might focus on the bass player or the piano, or pick out one percussionist, or focus on the horn section, trying to ignore all the other instruments. I may figure out how many horns are playing in a section (it varies at different points in the song), how many vocalists are singing, the combination of percussion instruments at different points and how it all fits together. (Edit: If there is a singer in English, I almost always try to figure out the lyrics without looking them up. A great way to improve your ears.)

Sometimes it's fine NOT to focus on anything specific during some of the listenings, instead letting it wash over your brain without worrying about the details. I let it play in the background while thinking about other things. The idea is to go back and forth between picking out specifics and occasionally just taking it all in as one complete work.

I also listen to the same music at different volume levels, varying between a whisper and roaring, and different points between. Your ears hear different things depending on the volume, so don't only listen at one level. (I am careful about overall volume levels being too loud. See my previous article on club music being too loud.)

Any music you like is fine. Great music has depth, and you'll hear different things as you listen over and over, especially when you return to a favorite tune two months from now. It's like seeing a great movie over and over. You pick up things you didn't notice the first few viewings. In the music you'll start hearing instruments in the background that were too subtle to hear in the first 25 listenings.

Going to Palm Springs one time to teach at the SalsaMambo Festival, I repeated one song for the complete trip (three hours with traffic). Admittedly, it wasn't "We Will Rock You", but the title tune from Havana Nights (Do You Only Wanna Dance - Julio Daviel Big Band Conducted by Cucco Pena). I love the way the tune flows, the trumpet solo, the way the different instruments combine to create interesting textures, the build-up to a climax, and the great finish. (Ah, the mind starts daydreaming...)

In time, your dancing will reflect a new-found intimacy with the music. In a few months you'll be hearing music with a completely new set of ears, and your dancing will grow as well without your directly trying.

This is one of those "secrets" that few believe because it's so simple. Dancers who enjoy music over and over start hearing things their friends don't hear, and they grow faster than their peers. Get it started today. Find your tune(s) and see how many times you can hear them over the next month, then repeat in a few months and start adding new tunes slowly.

You'll love the results and your dancing will improve even when you're not on the dance floor!
Success is sweet; but it usually has the scent of sweat about it.

Using Your Eyes to Hear the Music
Hearing But Not Listening: Part 1

Monday, October 5, 2015

Micro Practices: Quickies Are OK!

"Two or three minutes? That's not even one song!" he said when I told him I did a series of quickie practices over the day. “That doesn’t sound like enough to me.”

Micro Practices:
When Time is Short
He’s missing the point. I call them “micro-practices” (MP) and everybody should integrate them into their daily routines. They also work for partnering, but they're an excellent tool for upgrading your individual dancing skills like turns (spins), spotting, footwork, body motion, posture, and other body control exercises.

When you’re a pro, you get up each day and can practice for hours, refining your dancing on the way to the next level. You're paid to dance, and practicing is a way of life. However, if you’re working for a living and want to advance your social dancing, sometimes it's hard to carve out chunks of time for practice.

That’s where micro-practices (quickies) can be a winner for you. Like your love life, they shouldn't be all you do, but in balance they keep things moving in the right direction.

It may be counter-intuitive, but a set of quickie practices often beats longer sessions, assuming you do enough of them. Often they're gold, where the combined effort of a dozen "under five-minute" practices gets you further than one forty-five minute session. Some techniques require longer practices, but the micro-practice beats the heck out of, "I didn't dance today because I was too busy to carve out thirty minutes for practice”.

There is magic in repeating something over and over, every hour or so, for a couple minutes throughout the day. Time management gurus always say when you’re interrupted from a task, it takes you time to restart. Micro-practices use that principle to your advantage, because the start-up time is reduced if you repeat an action often enough. You "relearn" things each practice.

The series of little practices gets you to the point where you can hit the move immediately, rather than after 10 minutes of warm up. It’s amazing how much you can advance with micro-practices alone, although you can gain even more when combining them with intermittent longer rehearsals.

Many famous dancers practiced turns in the bathroom at work before turning pro. The floor is tile, there is a great mirror, and they do a couple turns to the right, a couple times to the left each time they use the restroom. If nobody was around they might sneak in a few extras, but most of those practices lasted 60 seconds or less. With just 10 extra turns per day, that's over 300 extra turns each month BEFORE doing any extended practicing. Over time, it adds up to thousands of extra turns, providing the experience needed to get to the next level.

Most work days I’m at the computer all day, and each time I need a break I practice a shine, a turn combination and/or a new part of a "pattern in progress." It may be just a tiny fragment, but doing it repeatedly over a couple days (or weeks) makes a huge difference when I get to a block of time for an extended practice.

Before starting work, I often sneak in a two-minute practice before sitting at my desk. Nobody cares if I start two minutes later, and it reinforces the new materials I’m working on. Some days the quickies are the only practice I get; sometimes it’s part of a bigger practice day, where I combine micro-practices with much longer sessions or classes.

I’ve stood in line at Sam’s Club or the bank, doing footwork practice, knowing that may be my only practice for the day.. In previous articles I've mentioned I practice head/shoulder exercises in my car. (Shines and partnering are highly discouraged while driving.) When you hit the dance floor, your partners don’t care if you practiced at a dance studio, in your bathroom or in line at the grocery store; they simply notice your improvements.

Some days when I haven’t had much practice, I’ll sneak in a few minutes before bed. It may not be much, but again, it’s my way to move myself forward. It takes about as much time as brushing my teeth, so I have little excuse to skip it. I'd love to practice more some days, but that just isn't my reality at points.

You don’t have to tell anybody you’re sneaking practices around your bathroom breaks. That really falls into the “TMI” category (“too much information”). Keep this little secret between us and they’ll just think you are improving using the traditional extended practices. If you can do regular practices, that's great, but I want to grow even when I’m timed starved (the story of my life).

Try it yourself; sneak in a few micro-practices, multiple times per day, especially on those days when you can’t get to a complete session. You’ll see it makes a substantial difference if you keep it up. Once you're in the habit, you'll find little slivers of time and use them to your advantage, even if it's just working a body roll twice or an extra couple of turns per day.

Let me know how you are getting the most from limited practice time; I’m always looking to accelerate my growth and I’m sure some of you have your own best practices. Please share!
Indecision may or may not be my problem.
-- Jimmy Buffett
Suggested Videos:
Music4Dancers: Free YouTube Musicality Series

Donation Page:
This site and the Music4Dancers video series are supported by your donations. No other ads!
All contributions appreciated!

Connect with me: ("Like" the page)
Follow me on Twitter (@UnlikelySalsero)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Killer Documentary: Flamenco Dancing

It's interesting watching these young ballet dancers grow into Flamenco dancers. The clapping exercises, the timing, and the process they go through are amazing. Few of us could be that good without their background, but it's still worth checking out even if you're a casual dancer.

It's very inspirational. They start so "simple" and build!

The passion from the instructors is obvious. They clearly know the history and story behind the music and movements. They combine amazing technique with an understanding of the feel, providing depth behind the movements.

You have to love the "circle" concept (around 26 minutes), where individuals take a turn dancing solo while everybody else provides the rhythm foundation and support. Hip-hop dancers do this all the time, but obviously it's been around a few centuries before they were born. (As they say, little is truly new. Most great artists build on the shoulders of the giants before them...)

Obviously this passion is way beyond what most of us will do social dancing. When you see the results from lots of hard work it may inspire you to work a little harder so you can join the fun too.

Great dance has it's moments of intense work. When it all comes together in the end it's a beautiful, inspiring, sensual experience.It's hard not to smile and feel good watching them perform.

Special thinks to Valentine Doran for turning me on to this clip.

Let me know what you think!

More details:
Flamenco Dancing Documentary page
Think green. Don't waste music! Once you hear it, start moving.
-Sam Carbin

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Darned Adults: Music Too Loud

I'm always wearing earplugs at classes and the clubs, and people regularly ask me about them so I decided to republish this article. Mine are not the cheap foam ones, and many don't notice I'm wearing them at first. 

The article below was originally published over 5 years ago. This was actually the second article published on earplugs and the first has additional details about the high-quality alternatives available at most music stores for under $20. If you've never had any earplugs or you're not ready for custom plugs, check out the first article here (the same links are below.)

I don't mean to brag, but I have my own audiologist! I now feel superior to many others who (like me) didn't even know that word recently. While I still can't spell audiologist without looking on her card, I have one and you should too.

I'm one of the few people who have others ask me to turn down the music if we are driving in my car. Being a drummer, I love dynamic music, ranging from a whisper to a roar. That said, I'm also very protective of my ears, because I read the studies of hearing loss and my ears used to ring the next morning after going to the club. If I do listen loud, I'm careful to not do it too long, and make sure I give my ears a break after a few minutes of intensity. I really don't want a set of hearing aids along with my AARP membership when I hit retirement age.

Over two years ago, I invested in musicians grade earplugs, and I blogged about it in the article named "Practicing Safe Salsa - Ear Protection".

Recently I lost one of my custom, musicians earplugs (shown below), using the ER-15 filters. They are designed to reduce the overall volume by 15dB, but not change the overall sound quality.

It's hard to complain as they have served me well for a couple years, but when I noticed one was lost, I realized I just spent around $180 dancing that evening. For what you invest, they give you a free little pouch to keep them in and I faithfully used it 3-4 days per week over the last couple years.

After losing one plug, I danced for about two weeks with one earplug, and left the other ear unprotected. What an amazing study in contrast. I would leave the club and one ear felt like I'd just gotten off an airplane, when my ears hadn't equalized yet and everything was still muffled. The ear that had the plug, however, was hearing clearly and comfortably.

Your ears partially shut down to protect themselves when sounds are too loud for too long, and the next morning I could hear a slight ringing after I woke up, but only in one ear! Seeing the difference, I started using a swimmers ear plug for the one plug that was lost. They block way too much sound and change the nature of the music so I used my remaining good plug and put up with the swimmers plug until my new custom fit plugs arrive.

After years of dancing, I still maintain that most of the DJs and sound engineers are partially deaf AND/OR they stand behind the speakers, so they don't get the direct effect of their volume.

This week I went back to "my audiologist" and had new molds made for a new set of plugs. She took another mold of my ears and they've been sent to a lab in Colorado where they use the mold to make my custom set. Since my original set was created a couple years ago, they have found that by opening your mouth during the fitting process, the plugs fit a little tighter and do a better job. They have this little block to hold your mouth open just the right amount to make the plugs fit better. In theory this means my new set will work even better than the old.

If you are in the LA area and want custom fitted plugs, you can contact my audiologist, Jami Tanihana (M.A., CCC-A) via "JamiTani AT" or send me private mail for her phone number. She does an excellent job and takes pride in getting the mold exactly right for you. Jami fits plenty of famous musicians with their custom in-ear monitors and she knows how to get them right. (I don't use complete e-mail addresses as spammers look for the @ sign and grab addresses used on the net. Substitute my "AT" with the "@" sign and remove the spaces to get her real e-mail address.)

My previous article also references some less expensive (under $20) plugs that are not custom, but work great for ladies with longer hair. With very short hair (mine) they are noticeable, but that is better than losing your hearing from dancing.

While I hate having to spend a couple hundred on new ear plugs, after using my old set for two years, I'm convinced that they're worth every penny. Once you've worn them a few times, I guarantee you'll never go back to unprotected ears. Years from now, you'll thank me, and you'll be able to hear me say, "you're welcome!"

Practicing Safe Salsa - Ear Protection
We were incompatible in a lot of ways. Like for example, I was a night person,
and he didn't like me.
-Wendy Leibman
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