Training Your Ears For Mixing – What’s The Best Way To Learn?

by Doug

 April 14, 2015

audio engineer

The most common frustration among beginner producers is wondering why they can’t get their mixes to sound good.

If you have faulty equipment, the problem can easily be fixed with a bit of money, but if your ears are not trained for mixing, money will not help.

So how does one go about training their ears for mixing?

 

Critical Listening VS. Analytical Listening

Before we start talking about how to train your ears, we first must know two terms: Critical listening and analytic listening.

Critical listening is what any audio engineer would do. Critical listening focuses on the more technical side of mixing. Engineers will pay attention to details such as frequency response, dynamic range, tone, imaging, and how instrument blend together.

Analytic listening focuses on the more artistic side of music. The point of analytic listening is to bring out the emotion in a track. Instead of worrying about bad frequencies, in analytic listening you’d worry more about the feeling and meaning behind a song.

 

Which is better?

Both critical listening and analytic listening are important to an overall mix. The best thing you can do is find a balance between critical listening and analytic listening.

Critical listening isn’t always perfect. Sometimes brighter, harsher-sounding instruments will better suit the mood of a track. The purpose of critical listening is to make sure the harshness is not overdone(rather than eliminating it completely).

 


Train Your Ears ReviewRecommended Content: Train Your Ears Review

Train Your Ears is an excellent piece of software that simplifies the process of doing ear exercises. What this software specializes in is helping you memorize slight changes in a piece of audio’s sonic spectrum. While this might seem odd, it is crucial to practice this! Being able to hear something wrong with a piece of audio and being able to fix it with an EQ is critical if you ever want to make good sounding mixes. (Click here to read the Train Your Ears Review)


 

What Makes a Great Mix?

There are an endless amount of factors that make a great mix. These are just 4 elements that you should keep in mind when mixing.

Balance

The balance makes sure that the lead instruments are brought to the front of the mix and the weaker instruments are not overpowered.

While this step might seem simple, it is often ignored. One overpowered drum sample, or one extremely weak bass, can ruin an entire mix.

Panorama

All of your instruments should be placed properly in the stereo field. In most cases, the lows should be almost mono and the highs should be spread out more.

Don’t be afraid to pan an instrument hard-left or hard-right if you feel it sounds better. It all contributes into making a huge-sounding mix.

Frequency Range

If you listen to any commercially produced song, you’ll notice that it has a full-bodied sound. Your mix should have a full, and balanced, frequency spectrum. Of course in some parts of the song certain frequencies will be left out as an effect to the mood of the song.

Dynamics

A good mix has changes over time. Whether it be a change in volume, key, tempo, or time signature, dynamics tend to add interest in a mix.

 

The Best Way To Train Your Ears For Mixing

 

The best, and most intuitive, way I have found for training your ears is a piece of software appropriately named ‘Train Your Ears’.

Most old-school producers/engineers would develop their ears through trial and error. They would spend hundreds of hours in the studio and will eventually develop trained ears.

Train Your Ears is designed to speed up the process by helping you develop a frequency memory.

I’m sure you’re a bit skeptical on how it works, so I’ll tell you!

 

How Does It Work?

  1. You hear a sound.
  2. The sound is played again with a random EQ applied.
  3. It is now your job to determine what changes were made.
  4. Once you think you’ve found the changes, check the answer to see if you were correct.

 

Why You NEED This Software

I love Train Your Ears because it’s simple and it works.

You can practice for as little as 5-10 minutes a day and your mixing skills will improve dramatically.

I’ve seen a few other options for training your ears. The other popular option was Golden Ears. I didn’t like it because it was a cd set and it costs more than the Train Your Ears software.

 

Summary

If you want to train your ears for mixing, a lot of practice will be required. Thanks to Train Your Ears, the training process is a lot faster and more effective.

In my opinion, Train Your Ears is the way to go.

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