More cowbell! That’s what Christopher Walken insisted on…..
With a salsa band, sometimes you’re standing next to that cowbell though.
Earplugs are pretty much a necessity if you want to not have your eardrums ringing for the rest of the night and lose your hearing later in your life.
Sound intensity is measured in units called decibels. Deci being a prefix meaning 1/10 and bels being the unit. But decibels are the commonly used form.
The units aren’t on a linear scale, instead they are on a ‘logarithmic’ scale. So something that is twice as many decibels isn’t twice as loud.
Human perception of intensity and volume also do not correspond.
I have taken advanced acoustics classes… so if you really want to get into the mathematics, ask me!
What is important for a saxophone player is that anything about 120 decibels (abbreviated as dB) will cause permanent hearing loss.
Your distance from the source of sound affects the intensity level too. You can think of sound as propagating as a sphere from the source. The intensity decreases as a factor of one divided by the square of the distance. So a sound that is coming from 1 meter away is actually four times the intensity as something that is two meters away since 1/2^2 = 1/4.
So you should probably not be right next to a source of loud noise even if you are wearing earplugs.
Earplugs themselves reduce sound by different amounts of dB. A reduction of six dB is the same as being twice as far from the sound source.
So if you’re in a really loud group, get enough sound reduction. If it’s not so loud, you still want to hear the music, so don’t overdo it with the earplugs.
And in a small jazz combo, generally you don’t need earplugs, but still you probably shouldn’t stand right next to the drums.
Earplugs also reduce certain frequencies more than others, so just be aware of that.
You can get special ‘musicians earplugs’ that are specially fitted to your ear and reduce the range of pitches equally, I don’t have them yet, but may get some.