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How Do I Train My Ears?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by Mike Caliri, Nov 15, 2015.

  1. Mike Caliri

    Mike Caliri Active Member

    I know recording,mixing,and mastering is all ears,mixing is where I need help.A good recording is crap if its not mixed right.What am I listening for?Hi's, low's, middle's, balance?
    pcrecord likes this.
  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Your listening to the quality of the performance, tuning, song structure and arrangement, a balance between instruments, and overall, a balance of lows mids and highs, you listening for a sense of space (big and small) and dimension, front to back. A chorus, listen for a chorus lol, and tell the band to repeat it. Many songs lack the catchy melody or sound that's a true "hook". Train your ears by listening to good performances, and any living what makes them good. there's slot of room for creativity, but theirs are things that technically wonrg, and also sound bad.

    Familiarize yourself with eq tones, by boosting and 'sweeping' through frequencies to hear good and nasty. Any basic graphic eq will help you identify frequencies and what they do to music in context.

    Some people train there ears with test tones and excersises like that. Others play around with eq. It's not a bad idea to keep some recordings on a playlist with you at all times, that sound good to you. When your mixing you switch between your mix, and the refersnce song, to see how they stand next to each other. You don't have to copy the mix, just make sure your in the ballpark.

    Other than that, I'd say sit and mix with someone who's experienced and hear thru their ears. Watch what they do. And that would help a lot.

    I've always found it useful to be familiar with all (or as many as possible) genress, different levels and eq and balance choices are appropriate downing on genre. A hip hop kick, and a jazz kick, are two different animals. It's important to be able to recognize what's right for one song, may be completely wrong for the next.

    Your over in R.I, I recently rebuilt Normandy Sound, in Warren R.I. If your interested in hearing and seeing a commercial studio and sound system, feel free to pm me, and I'll show you around the shop, and we can hang for a bit, and play w the toys.
    pcrecord likes this.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    It's not just about how the track are mixed, Mike. It's also about how ( and how good or bad) they are recorded to begin with. If you don't have tracks that are well-recorded to start with, your mixes will only ever be so good.

    Successful Recording and Mixing relies on a chain of events to happen correctly, and at a certain level of fidelity - the artist, the room, the mic, the preamp, ( in the case of digital, also the converters), the monitors, ( and again the room while mixing) as well as a skill set by the person who is putting it all together for a final mix. If even one of those links in that chain is weak, then the final mix will only ever be as good as that weakest link allows it to be. Follow?

    As for mixing, I always found it helpful - and often still do - to use professionally recorded and/or commercially released songs as references for certain mixes I'm working on. I'll load up a song onto track 1 of my project; something that is similar in style and sound to what I'm working on. I always try to find the best fidelity of recording as possible; there are certain artists who are not only known for being great musicians, but who also have a track record ( no pun intended, LOL ) of turning out great sounding music - it could be Steely Dan, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Hornsby, James Taylor, Michael MacDonald, to name just a few, there are many. Those artist's albums always sound so good - not just because they are great performers, but also because of the way that their music is recorded. Records by these artists always seem to sound so incredible.

    Of course, it depends on your style; if you're getting ready to record or mix a punk band, then you'll probably want to load up something similar, maybe something from someone like Ed Stasium, who produced The Ramones, Talking Heads, etc., or, maybe someone like Mike Chapman, who engineered Blondie, The Knack, etc.
    So, if you are doing something similar in style as those mentioned above, you probably won't want to reference works from engineers like Roger Nichols or Hugh Padgham, who are ( or 'were" in the case of Nichols, R.I.P.) both known for more esoteric "hi-fi" mixes, with ultra- smooth sonics and lush sounding synths, vocals and guitars. ( That's not to say that a select few engineers can't bat for all the teams... some are just that good. ;) )

    Anyway, having a track that is similar to what you are working on, a mix that you like the sound of, and that you can quickly reference, (keep it muted and then simply hit your solo button on that track when you want to hear it) can really help you to tune your ears to the project at hand. Being able to listen to the sound of a certain kick, or snare, or how the guitars are balanced or panned, where the bass sits, what frequency range is it at its strongest, etc., or listening to the vocal - is it tucked back, or right up front in your face? Is it swamped in reverb or delay, or is it as dry as a bone? Does it have a "thick" sound? Or is it "airy" and ghostly?

    The more you listen with a focus on what's happening in the song, ( in any song) the more refined your listening skills will become.

    One other exercise you may want to try - and many engineers have either been told to do this in the past by their instructors while in school, or have done it on their own over the years, either for fun, or because a paying client has asked them to them to - is to pick a song you like, something that has already been commercially released and is well-known, and then from scratch, try to recreate that song, and that mix as closely as possible.

    This is a great way to learn; because you have an actual concrete goal to achieve. By attempting to clone the sound of the individual tracks, ( along with the mix in its entirety) you are learning how to achieve certain sonics through mic placement, EQ, panning, gain reduction, ambience and effects, and in doing so, you are committing to memory those processes and the purpose of the tools you used to do that. It will also prove to be very valuable in your future experiences, as you grow as an engineer.

    But, and I'll mention it just one more time - having great tracks to begin with is "mission critical" in getting a great sounding final mix. This approach seems to have gotten lost in the past few years, with the advent of technology, and newer, entry level recording guys leaning far too much on the "we'll fix it in the mix" mindset... and the proof and result of that mindset is in what's out there right now on a vast scale of mediocrity.

    Break the pattern, Mike. Don't be one of "those" guys. Pay detailed attention to what you are recording first.

    It will make your task of mixing much smoother, as well as provide the world with much better sounding music. ;)

    IMHO of course.
    Brien Holcombe and kmetal like this.
  4. Mike Caliri

    Mike Caliri Active Member

    That would be great,I,d love to see a real recording studio.Is a PM like a conversation?I can,t find anything about PM.
    kmetal likes this.
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Hi Mike !

    You got it right, ear training is what make the biggest difference because even if you have pristine equipment, it starts with knowing when it sounds good or not...
    Ear training is a bit different for everyone. Some get it fast and others take years.

    The first thing to do is simple, pay attention !! When listening to music, go deeper and try to focus on individual instruments to figure out what they do and what place they take in the mix...
    After that, it gets more technical and it's better to use a good set of studio monitors
    Recognising frequencies may be done with a tone generator and an eq with Spectrum analyser. That way you can learn them both with your ears and visually...

    Here's a little guide to do with audacity :
    kmetal and Mike Caliri like this.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yes. PM is short for Private Message, also known as a "personal conversation".

    You can start a private conversation with any member by clicking on their picture/avatar to the left of their posts, then select "start personal conversation". This will take you to your Inbox, where you can then type your message. Your message will only be seen by you and the person you are sending the message to.

    You can also start a private chat by clicking on the "Inbox" button at the top right-hand corner of the page. This will take you to your "inbox" page, where you can then send him your message... and you can also add other member's screen names as well, if you want to send the same message to multiple members at the same time.

    kmetal likes this.
  7. Mike Caliri

    Mike Caliri Active Member

    19 track song from http://www.cambridge-mt.com
    I have a ? You mix a song,sounds great, reset everything, remix it again and again.Should it sound like the first? I say yes it should.


    Attached Files:

  8. Mike Caliri

    Mike Caliri Active Member

  9. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    In my perspective, I'd say no ! I can mix a song 10 times from scratch and it won't sound the same everytime.. That's the human factor, pass the techniques and science, there is always a creativity to what we do. Creativity follows our mood and mind state and also, you'll get bored and want to here something different so you make it different.. ;)

    But that's just me...
  10. Mike Caliri

    Mike Caliri Active Member

    But you can make 10 good mixes of the same song and still not sound the same?You know what im trying to get at?Nobody is going to do that,you mix it once and that's it,so it has to be good that one time,no second chance.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying ... "no second chance"

    It's quite common to do multiple mix versions of a song in the studio, intentionally, to see which mix the artist or producer ends up liking the best.
    Each version might have slight changes, maybe one has one guitar solo, maybe another version has a different solo. Maybe one has the vocals more forward, maybe one has them tucked back a bit.

    That doesn't mean that any of those mixes won't still sound great - they're just different, due to creative experimentation, or personal preference.

    On the last album I produced, there were a few songs where I had upwards of 15 different mixes for. None of them sounded bad, just different.

    On Steely Dan's Gaucho album, Producer Gary Katz and Engineer Roger Nichols ran 10 different mixes of Hey Nineteen before they got the final mix they liked.

    On Michael Jackson's Thriller album, Jackson had engineer Bruce Swedien try 91 different mixes of Billie Jean. ( In the end they ended up going with mix #2).

    Today's DAW's provide more convenient automation, where you can mix as you go and program various changes within the mix... which can make it easier to get a mix a bit quicker ( depending on the density or complexity of the mix) and because you can store different mixes and mix scenes and then just recall each one as you like.

    But that still doesn't mean that you might not have several different final mix versions to choose from.

    So I'm not sure I see where you are going... or .... are you talking about mixing live to a final 2-Mix?
    kmetal likes this.
  12. Mike Caliri

    Mike Caliri Active Member

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