Ear training suggestions?

Ear training suggestions?
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I’ve been spending a ton of time mixing, reading, watching tutorials, posting stuff for feedback. It’s all been very helpful, but I’m realizing a big issue for me is that I just don’t know my frequencies. It’s so hit and miss for me. I admire you guys who can listen to a song and automatically hear that it needs a cut at 560 Hz and a boost at 2K (or whatever).

I can usually can hear when something’s “not right” but I can’t tell where it is.

So I’m recognizing that as my next focus for growth in my mixing. I’m wondering what some of you would recommend for tools for training my ear.

I’ve found a few apps and plugins and online tools that seem like they’d be helpful.

There’s one called “TrainYourEars” that’s available for MacOS and Windows that gets good reviews. Looks like it honestly would be helfpul. Good reviews. Recommended by Bob Katz.

There’s an informative YouTube review here:

I signed up for a free account for an online program called “SoundGym.” They have free and more advanced paid versions. Might be promising. I’m gonna mess around with the free version for a few days and will post my review if anyone’s interesed:

Jason, from BehindTheSpeakers, does a brief video review of such apps, and recommends both of those above, as well as a couple others, inclusing a less expensive app for MacOS and iPhone/iPad, called Quiztones. His review is here:

I also set up a REAPER template – very simple, but helpful – that works with mp3s I load into a track with an EQ on it: I started with dramatic, narrow boosts and created an envelope to change the frequency of the boosted band every four or five measures, with another envelope to bypass the EQ, which allows me to listen and compare, blind, the original and affected EQ version of the clips. Then, of course, I just manually change up the frequencies so I don’t just get accustomed to the order with which they change. Make any sense? If anyone’s interested, let me know; be glad to share a link to download.

So, that’s all I got today! I recognize that that’s the weakest link in my attempts a mixing. I have to suspect I’m not alone. Would be interested in peoples’ thoughts, suggestions, tips.

I have Train Your Ears, and I had a Sound Gym Pro membership for a little while as well. Both are useful! Sound Gym is quite fun. And it’s even fun to buy the silly virtual studio gear and level up and whatnot. :smiley: My ears are way better than they were, but I’m sure I would benefit from more of this as well. I guess my priorities just shifted away from mixing a bit.

Sound Gym does discounts on their Pro membership pretty regularly, so if you decide you want to sign up it might be worth waiting for one. Something like 20 or 25% off an annual membership.

I used to do this “training” every morning for 15 minutes or so. It worked well for me to do a little each day. Good luck!

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Do you have a problem identifying the sound that is bothering you? I mean, not by knowledge of frequenties, but specifying it in your head so to speak. Like saying to yourself, this sound bugs me, but I don’t know where its coming from ? :slight_smile:

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Yeah, usually it’s the latter. I can hear something doesn’t sound right, but am slow to isolate the frequency. I often use a spectrum analyzer to help me. That usually moves me in the right direction. But it’s not only the frequency, it’s also the Q, and often it’s more than one frequency. Compression, especially multi-band, can make it tricky. I always reference my tracks, but probably most of the time I spend mixing is EQ work.

I usually just use a graphic eq, and use a boost bell shape, and go over the entire spectrum until I hear the annoying sound, or character of a sound pop out. sometimes its not as easy as just cutting that part, but at least you know where its some what located. I guess thats an answer you probably already do, and hear a lot, but for me its starting to work out.

I also took the frequenty table’s from Ermin Hamidovic’s mixing manuel, and put them in a text document, and I use that sometimes to start with. He basically sums up trouble area’s. Area’s to cut, and area’s to boost (generaly) and where the fundementals are located.

If you use an EQ on your mixbus keeping this in mind, you can do that bell shaped thing again, and sweep over you mixbus, and locate where the problem is at, and then check which fundementals of which instrument are located there, and which mudzone’s as well. Then you can at least mute the instruments your practically sure of that have nothing to do with it.

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so here is a thing…

You listen to a part in solo, and then eq it to be right…

then listen to it in the mix and eq it DIFFERENTLY to fit the mix…

or,

You can solo a snare drum sound and make it sound ‘cool’ in isolation…

then solo all the drums together and maybe only need a certain (but different) eq process to make the snare sound ‘cool’ in the mix.

This my definition of ‘ear training’.

So do I. Honestly, I think virtually no-one can do that.

And that is all you need. Use visual tools to find the exact problem. The time to worry is when you can’t hear when something is wrong - in my experience, that applies to the vast majority, so if you can tell most of the time, you already have a talent that most others do not have.

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I’ve personally never done any ear-training courses per se. Any ability I may have developed has been “on-the-job” so to speak. Over the years, listening to and critiquing literally thousands of mixes has been the best training ground for me.

I certainly don’t think ear training courses would hurt, but I don’t think they are a “magic bullet”.

This is a great suggestion.

Here’s what I do…When I hear a problem with a mix I am critiquing, I first take a mental guess at where the problem frequencies are. Then what I often do is download the mix and look at its frequency response with SPAN. Often that is enough to confirm what I am hearing.

If there are a number of issues, or it isn’t obvious from the SPAN analysis, I then might instantiate an eq plugin, sweeping through with a fairly narrow boost until what I was hearing jumps out. Sometimes
I make the cuts where I hear the problems to see if it improves things…

It’s a little bit like the scientific method - propose a hypothesis based on observation (listening), then investigate, experiment to prove/disprove your initial impressions. I’ve found with practise that this method has helped me to “visualise” what I’m hearing. As time goes on, my initial “guesses” get better, but they are definitely not always spot-on.

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I just got that plugin recently to help tune kicks and see that they should sit well with the bass. It’s really useful! And by the way to anyone who does know: it’s free and you can download it here:

https://www.voxengo.com/product/span/

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One thing about SPAN that made it more useful to me was to use the “Mastering” preset. It is particularly good for analysing entire mixes, as it slows the response time of the frequency graph, so it reveals more general frequency problems/build-ups/deficiencies. I even like to use it for individual elements in that mode too, as the faster response time in the default setting often provides so much detail on a micro level that it becomes confusing.

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+1 for the SoundGym pro membership

I’ve been doing the daily workouts a year now and definitely see improvement. I was nervous about the price before committing, but It was a worthwhile investment for me.

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Yep that’s what I do.

Yep that’s what I do. :slight_smile:

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Here’s a quickie little game-type exercise you can do every now and then to let you know how much more you need to practice - at least that’s how I use it. :grinning:

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These apps look fun to use but I wouldn’t rely on them to actually get better at mixing. While it can probably be an eye-opener for a few things, I don’t think using them on a daily basis will actually be worth the time you spent. Practicing a particular exercise will only really make you better at this particular exercise (and this is true in a lot of other domains). I think that the best way to get better at mixing is to mix. Use free multitracks (there are tons out there), compare your mix to the others and learn to forge your own opinion on what works better in the other mixes and what works better in your own mix, don’t rely solely on the opinion of the “experts” out there. Some of them are really experts, some are just experts at looking like an expert.

Something that helped me a great deal is referencing and A/B comparisons. Make a playlist of songs that you know very well and have been nicely mixed. Try to mix genres so that you have at least a couple of good mixes to compare to what you are actually mixing whatever the arrangement, compare them in your studio, on headphones, on a bluetooth speaker, in your car… If you do this regularly you will significantly improve your ability to balance frequencies, volumes and manage dynamics. Being able to accurately identify the frequencies or frequency ranges shouldn’t be a goal in itself, it will just come with time. I know some people who are not professional mixers but they are able to consistently make a very decent mix, without having a f***g clue about accurate frequencies and ranges on their different tracks. They just tweak things until they sound good to their ears. Of course that is not something I would recommend and not even something everyone can do, I’m just making a point about what should be a reasonable goal to pursue. If you want to get better at mixing, mix more.

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There’s a recent thread on MMultiAnayzer by Melda which is tailor-made for those kinds of comparisons. Just FYI. SPAN is sweet as well. Another one is Blue Cat’s FreqAnalyst, which allows you to overlay one track’s window on top of the other and manipulate the transparency of the top window so you can see both simultaneously.

https://www.bluecataudio.com/Products/Product_FreqAnalyst/

@Lophophora - no one was suggesting that these are the end all solution to becoming proficient at mixing. But I probably wouldn’t go as far as supposing they’re not worth spending time practicing with.

But in this case, the overall skill set benefits from improvement on specific techniques. In order claim it wouldn’t be worth the time, you’d essentially have to argue that precise accurate frequency identification is unrelated to mixing - In my opinion, that would be a hard argument to support.

??? But how is someone supposed to do that if they lack the necessary skills to EQ frequencies? This is exactly like telling an amateur pianist to ‘Listen to Evgeny Kissin play a Brahms concerto and simply try to mimic his results’. You have to accumulate specific skills before you can create a masterpiece.

What if we turn that argument on its head? How many full time working professionals do you know withOUT a f***ing clue about accurate frequencies and ranges?

Frequency management isn’t like music theory or music literacy where you can half ass your way through it and still have mildly successful career. Frequency and dynamics management (for an audio engineer) is the equivalent difference between weather you can play an instrument or you can’t. How are frequency and dynamics management not the most core fundamental skill of this entire trade?

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I mostly agree with you Jonathan, I guess I was just sharing my own experience because I was using these little tools a few years ago when they appeared on the internet and at first I was hoping that it would help me get better at mixing in a significant manner, but in the end I realized practicing mixing was far more efficient for me in the long run.

In order claim it wouldn’t be worth the time, you’d essentially have to argue that precise accurate frequency identification is unrelated to mixing - In my opinion, that would be a hard argument to support.

If you put it this way, sure. But unless these apps have evolved since I used them, they are not exactly an accurate representation of a mixer’s daily job. In real life you often have to deal with a single track, or how making changes to a single track affects the whole mix, while these apps (those I used anyway) are based on changes to a full arrangement only.

??? But how is someone supposed to do that if they lack the necessary skills to EQ frequencies? This is exactly like telling an amateur pianist to ‘Listen to Evgeny Kissin play a Brahms concerto and simply try to mimic his results’. You have to accumulate specific skills before you can create a masterpiece.

Claiming it is exactly the same sounds like a bold assumption to me. Not everyone is born with a natural ability or even a taste for virtuosic piano playing, while a vast majority of people are born with a natural taste for music listening. But I do agree about accumulating specific skill sets.

How are frequency and dynamics management not the most core fundamental skill of this entire trade?

I’m not saying it isn’t! However, reducing mixing to these skills only would be a bit simplistic. I believe that other skills are really important too, like knowing at least the basics of music theory, how instruments work and are played, people skills (how to communicate with customers in order to achieve the best possible result for them), technical literacy… Though I would agree that frequency and dynamics management are probably the core of the business.

Let’s not turn this discussion into one in which I’m the prosecutor and you the defense attorney, because I’m pretty sure we agree on the essentials. I’m just saying that spending an hour playing the same game every day isn’t enough to equip you with the skills you’ll need to face every new situation in your business.

Just for the sake of it, I recovered my account at Sound Gym and went through the free daily workout once. In every single category I was able to smash my top score from approx. 5 years earlier. Yet at the time I was using that regularly I was trying hard to break my records. So my own experience tells me that a few years of daily mixing achieved far better results than practicing sound gym at its own game. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the opposite isn’t true: a few years of practicing at sound gym wouldn’t allow me to achieve far better results at mixing.

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It seems to me like two sides of the same coin: they are independent, yet they always travel around in the same warm pocket. :slightly_smiling_face: I think you have a point that it’s only one skill in a diverse toolbox. It’s kind of like saying good hammering skills (Sound Gym) means you’ll successfully build a house (mix); which is not necessarily true, there are many more skills and aspects involved. In fact, if you get everything else right and the hammering skills are somewhat sub-par, but at least the nails hold the beams together, the house may turn out fine.

Perhaps also like maps and traveling. You don’t necessarily need to understand or read a map to be able to travel. There are established routes, signs, and people along the way to give directions. But once you’ve made a journey someplace, looking at the map of it in retrospect will have a lot more significance and meaning than when you looked at it with no knowledge of the actual lay of the land.

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Sure. Definitely sounds like we’re on the same page. :slight_smile:

Yeah man. +1 now that I get what you’re saying. Time spent in the batting cage isn’t the same as time spent on the field doing ALL the things a good ballplayer has to do to make their game better. I guess I’m kind of a fan of those training programs because I when you’re just getting off the ground like Tegan is, time spent throwing, catching, and developing you swing by knocking balls into a net grows you quickly. Different people have different styles though.

@Tesgin… for what its worth, my first training software was Golden Ears. I don’t use Sound Gym, but Train Your Ears is still docked on my computer. I bought it when I was already pretty proficient but trying to get even better.

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Here’s a video to check out regarding soundgym.co

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