A guitarist’s set involves the following items: a guitar, an amp, and depending on the style, a pick.
That’s pretty much it.
What’s interesting, though, is when guitar players add headphones to the list.
They might seem unnecessary, but headphones serve a purpose.
Guitarists wear headphones to listen to themselves and the rest of the band.
During live performances, it is easy for musicians to mishear both their own and their partner’s instruments. A set of headphones can block outside noises and guide the player throughout a show or studio session.
If you are eager to understand more about this sometimes omitted tool, then keep reading.
Headphones are more important than you think they are.
If you were actually thinking of earplugs instead of headphones, here’s an article I wrote on that matter:
Why do guitarists wear headphones when playing live?
Live performances are rather messy.
Noises and lights are coming from every place.
Add the flood of emotions and adrenaline that hitting the stage brings in, and the result is an overstimulated head.
Sometimes you might miss sounds. Sometimes you might miss timing.
The solution? Headphones!
Headphones allow guitarists to evaluate themselves.
That is to say, it is easier for them to listen to what they are playing.
After all, many headphones have external noise isolation. This helps to avoid distractions coming from the outside, and instead, to have all the attention on their instrument.
What is more, headphones too help to hear what the rest of the band is playing.
Overall, efficiency improves drastically when spotting the proper sounds.
Why do guitarists wear headphones in the studio?
When playing live, it is not uncommon to fail on certain notes. It’s neither impossible not to stick to the actual speed of the song, thus playing slower or faster.
However, studio recordings tend to be stricter.
After all, studios are a place where mistakes can be corrected.
And trust me, there’s always a lot to correct.
So, a way to avoid committing such mistakes is by listening to the demo track.
Picture it this way.
The guitarist takes his headphones on and listens to the song as a reference.
Then, he records the guitar track individually.
They too can listen to an isolated track, generally the drums.
It is absolutely necessary to get the right rhythm.
Rhythm too can be followed by listening to a click track, which avoids getting the player lost.
What do guitar players listen to in their headphones while playing?
There are distractions everywhere during live performances.
Visuals, audience’s screams, fireworks, explosions.
Every stimulus is a possibility to get lost. Anything can interfere with the sound of the instruments.
As a result, guitarists prefer having guidance.
Generally, guitar players listen to their guitar in their headphones.
It provides a cleaner and clearer definition of what’s happening on the stage.
Now, headphones are there to provide other references as well.
Sometimes, what they are hearing is a custom mix of the rest of the band.
If not, they might be following a click track.
Click tracks come in handy for studio sessions, and they come in handy in live performances too.
Time coordination is of paramount importance.
Therefore, a pair of headphones eliminates the chance of not following on time properly.
Is there an alternative for wearing headphones when playing guitar live?
The alternative used to be monitor speakers.
These speakers provide a flat frequency response, which translates into a faithful reproduction of what is being played.
The problem, though, is that monitor speakers are noisy and create feedback issues.
Thus, one could argue that the music that blares out from a monitor speaker is not as faithful as one believes it to be.
Which are the alternatives nowadays?
On the one hand, custom-fit in-ear headphones.
As the name explains, these earphones are custom-fitted to the unique shape of the player’s ear.
They are comfortable, practical, and provide noise isolation.
On the other hand, well… headphones again!
The only difference is that some players prefer a bigger set of headphones. They don’t care about customized, tiny earphones.
Size doesn’t matter in the end.
What’s important is to find the right set. The one that suits you the best.
Truth is, headphones seem to be the N°1 choice by a guitarist who wants to listen properly.
Do guitar players wear headphones to focus on what they are playing?
There’s a fair point in claiming guitarists wear headphones to focus on their playing.
As I mentioned before, headphones block external rackets and dins.
Still, the main reason a guitarist chooses to wear them is to listen to both themselves and the rest of the band.
In a way, this is a form of focusing.
The thing is, they don’t focus on themselves exclusively. They focus on the overall band.
Are the headphones guitar players wear special in any way?
Musicians’ headphones aren’t special at all.
They don’t come with brand new features. They are just regular headphones.
The special ones are the custom-made earphones that I mentioned earlier. Of course, they are special because they are built to fit an exact ear.
More than that, do not expect shiny characteristics.
Headphones worn by guitarists are regular headphones that use a wireless system.
You can get them at any store.
Should you wear headphones when playing guitar?
Headphones are a fantastic tool.
While they aren’t THE most important object a musician can get, their importance is doubtless.
Always bear in mind the context.
If the context involves difficulty in hearing what you need to hear, then sure, get headphones.
Now, remember that not every musician must use headphones.
Some of them have no problems at all following time and identifying the rest of the instruments.
However, many of them do. This doesn’t mean that one musician is better than the other.
It means that if there’s a problem, then it should be fixed.
So, if that solution is to get headphones, get them.
Wear them proudly.
Here’s a list of the main reasons guitarists wear headphones while playing:
- Helps the guitarists to concentrate
- Makes it easier to hear the guitarist’s instrument
- Makes it easier to hear the rest of the band’s instruments
- Can be used to listen to a click track and not miss the time
I hope this article has guided you in some way, whether it helped you understand why guitarists wear them, or whether you decided it is time to get a set for yourself.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.