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Hearing Phantom Instruments

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by heffe, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. heffe


    Jun 19, 2010
    So I've got a quick question, does anyone else hear phantom instruments? I.E. Instruments not being played.

    There are times when I'm playing in a band and I can hear instruments such as a cello, or when listening to amazing drummers I've heard what sounds like a choir.

    I've searched online but couldn't find any specific term for this, so I just wanted to see if anyone else had this experience. Perhaps it is just the artist in me really wishing I was hearing that instrument at that time. I don't know.

    Share stories or thoughts?
  2. How did you get out of your nice white jacket? ;)
    When I'm playing alone I like to imagine other instruments playing, sometimes even a whole band, but it doesn't happen automatically. Just when I want it too. Honestly I find it nice!
    I also do it when I forget my headphones at home. I listen entire songs in my head.
    It's different, but not unrelated.
    I'd also like to know if this is a known condition.
  3. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Consciously imagining other parts is one thing, but there's also the effect that subharmonics and overtones can create at times; that they sound like a cello or what have you might just be your brain filling in the gaps.
  4. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    I have heard phantom instruments or, possibly more precisely, phantom melodies, harmonies etc since I was a kid.

    I remember often listing to music with my friends and I'd hum or sing parts of what I heard. Their response was "that's not how the song goes". However, what I was humming/singing fit the song.

    Personally I like it and use it as inspiration when trying to figure out parts for writing original music in a band setting. I'll record the guitarists part(s) or have them play it over and over until I "hear" the "phantom" part. I'll use this as a basis for what I'm going to write, as I believe it is what most naturally fits the song, for me.
  5. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I agree with GKon I have done the exact same thing since I was a kid also and it happens the most when I'm listening to the Beatles I've written many songs based on Ghost Melodies I keep a recorder close by always because sometimes I get multiple Ghost melodies from the same song. I say we start a club :)
  6. That´s normal, when the harmonic content of each instrument gets together, can result in a phantom instrument. Normally sounds like a cello.

    And also, please stop taking anything that you are taking....
  7. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    I have had audience members come up and ask if we have horn or keyboards, etc. tracked since they heard those instruments while we play. We are a 3 piece bass, guitar, and drums with all of us singing and nothing else ever.
  8. Captain Sunshin

    Captain Sunshin

    Aug 30, 2012
    You are not alone. I have it fairly often during rehearsals, especially whilst writing new material. When I hear an instrument that's not there, I take it as a sign that I should probably put it there. When people say the song wrote itself, this is what I imagine they mean.
  9. So apparently this has a name to it!
    Non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations. Or Musical Ear Syndrome.
    People with the syndrome swear they hear music, some of those people even being deaf.
    I can't imagine any of us have the syndrome, that the sounds are just our minds being creative or filling voids. It seems a bit far-fetched to say we're all hallucinating.
    Read about it at :
  10. heffe


    Jun 19, 2010
    Well that's inspiring. I feel like its probably my brain trying to make sense of the under and overtone information and it fills it in with "other instruments.

    I too have used for inspiration, and while I don't like the term "hallucination" i suppose that is what is happening, just triggered by the sounds I hear when playing/listening to good musicans.

    The other thing, that I just noticed while thinking back on this experience, is that I also never experience when listening to recorded music, but only live music/musicians. Which further leads me down the overtone path that doesn't come across from a recording.

    Isn't life amazing?!
  11. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    Often when listening to some acoustic guitar duo recordings, I swear I can hear some synth pads or a cello droning in a few spots. But when I watch a video of them playing the song in the studio, they aren't using anything other than their guitars and a mic.

    I always thought that it was some "studio magic" done in protools or something, but I guess it's possible that I'm hearing the frequencies making a 3rd instrument. It is two acoustic guitars playing full chords and picking, so it's definitely plausible.
  12. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    It sure is! Enjoy! :)
  13. ZenG


    Dec 13, 2013
    Near the fridge
    I've done something similar....

    Sometimes I'll go to a dance and they play something and I fill in some lead guitar parts in my head etc.etc.

    Or if I'm driving in my vehicle and listening to the radio I'll

    add whatever I think makes the cut sound better.....maybe bass or piano or whatever......

    But this is me doing it deliberately........

    I've never had where I heard other instruments "out of the blue" while listening.....