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The Recording Engineer

What's natural or taught?

Can most people learn to recognize the sounds of different mics, pres etc in time, then, know where to use the gear? I've heard about a professor that claims we are all capable if we are taught what to listen for.

I'm curious to see where this thread goes.


Pro Audio Guest Thu, 02/01/2007 - 16:23
I am the Head of Audio Production Studies at a small college, and I can say that I have had success in nurturing the hearing of my students. What seems to be elusive for most people is what to do with that information - very few people seem to have a good concept of how to use this information to get where they want to go with it... or more to the point, they don't know where they want to go, so the "map" is useless...

Pro Audio Guest Thu, 02/01/2007 - 17:10

Hi, well I can tell you my story, I started working in a recording studio about a year and a half ago, didn't know anything about recording but loved the idea of learning. I slowly started learning the basic theory in recording and now I have the best results in my city here in Venezuela, better than many other recording engineers that have graduated from the main audio scholl here. Of course, nothing compares to years of recording, live and production theory studying, but I believe the rest is up to your ears and your will to learn. Recording is a very artistic career, no one can tell you absolutely everything you can or can't do in the busines. It's up to you to build your own style and criteria

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 02/02/2007 - 05:13
i sub contract sometimes out of a major studio when my home studio cant handle the artists demands
i never took a single class
when i sub contract, the crew working for me all has a degree in sound engineering, and ask me questions all the time.
its absilutley possible to train your ear to achieve the end result you are looking for.
but i cant stress enough how important it is to experiment.
manuals, user diagrams, and lessons are just not as effective as getting your hands on a board, and your ear on the monitors
the books will tell you what to do , but untill you try, the light bulb in your head wont go off, untill you actually hear what that button did when you used it.
just my opinion

Cucco Fri, 02/02/2007 - 12:02
Hey Chris -

What a great question - one that hits the tip of the iceburg of much greater questions...(can perfect pitch be taught or learned, do we have audible memory, etc.)

I firmly believe that one can be taught to hear the differences in gear. One of my many jobs is as a private French horn (just 'horn' for those in the know) instructor. Teaching students to hear intricate details in theirs and others' tones or sounds is a part of almost every lesson. Students that come to me not able to distinguish between a C, E, or G (all fingered open on the horn) learn these difference by hearing tone color and timbre very quickly.

Back to the original nature of the question...
I used to keep paper logs of all my tracks when I would record. That way I could easily recall which take and track had which mic, pre and/or effect on it. Now that's all digital (thanks to Microsoft Office!)

Anyway, on one major session, tracks got majorly jumbled and I lost my sheet. I was easily able to tell the different mics apart from the others and recreate the log sheet.

IOW, yes, I believe that the ability is there to begin with and can be taught to individuals with a relative amount of ease.



Pro Audio Guest Fri, 02/02/2007 - 15:20
From my personal experience something that's somewhat both natural and taught:
I started making music about 7 years ago,
back then my right ear wasn't hearing high frequencies too well.
in retrospect I believe this to be caused by standing to close to the pa at a specific liveshow (15 years ago)
In the past seven years I've trained my ears for at least 40 hours a week, and now I can hear frequencies I couldn't hear seven years ago.

What I wanted to say is:
there's a huge grey area between nature and nurture

Something else:
Since this is all about music, it's much more then just audible perception.
So I wouldn't compare it to vision or touch,
but I would compare skills to do with music to language or mathskills.

Oh And did you know when a man hears a woman speaking the first part of his brain that becomes active is the region that's also active when listening to music. Only later (miliseconds) the language centers become active .

Nevretheless, I'll probably never going to have perfect pitch;)

drumist69 Fri, 02/02/2007 - 15:51
OK, I'll bite! I think there is a natural tendency in certain people to be better at certain things than others. That being said, those who do not have the natural tendency can still be taught (in most cases) how to function as a professional in their chosen field. I think this applies to audio as well as visual arts, business, and probably any other field you can think of. What I've determined over the years of listening, playing, and lately recording music, is that if you take a person who has a natural tendency to understand a given field intuitively, and then train them on technical aspects of that field, you just might end up with a genius in that field, or at least a true artist. An artist, to me, is a blend of natural ability with learned technical ability. Hope this makes sense! ANDY

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 02/02/2007 - 22:08
I keep a log in my studio for each song or project. Software environments are great cause you can load up a song and see the board settings for past songs. The hardest thing to keep track of is Mic placements for me. I am a drum engineer and performer/producer. I usually keep the mics placed, but when I am doing other projects, I need the space. I have found taking pictures helps, but still can be difficult. I started out as a recording artist in the 80's and discovered I had the talent to engineer and produce way later down the road. However, I may not be a good example, cause I worked with engineers and producers first before doing my own thing. I guess I can say, I had somewhat of an apptitude and then mixed with some practical experience might have been my background.
For what its worth,