How to train your ears to improve your music.

One thing I get asked often is: “how can I train my ears when I don’t have access to the best studio space or equipment?”

The truth is that everyone of us can train our ears and improve our skill at any type of creative endeavor regardless of where we are or what gear/equipment we have access to. It takes a little self discipline and some work but we can train ourselves to be better than we are now!

I watched a documentary on a master sushi chef in Japan. “Jiro: Dreams of Sushi” is a great look into the life of a master artisan and it’s on Netflix if you want to see it. During the course of the film he talks about how, when he began, he had no idea what great sushi was, what it should taste like or what it should look like. He makes a statement that has stuck with me for several years now. He said, “to know what good food is we have to experience good food. To know what good ingredients are we have to taste them. It’s the only way to learn what it is.”

The same is true with music. If you want to know what your music should sound like you have to experience good music. You have to hear the difference between your music and great music. The only way to do that is to teach your ears and brain what good music is by exposing it to good music. To develop your musical taste and palette. If you spend years producing music or mixing music and only comparing it to music produced by friends in home studios then you won’t hear much of a difference. When you compare and listen to really well produced music and compare it to yours you’ll start to hear the difference. You have begun to train your ears to listen for what your music should sound like.

So when you listen to music from now on listen to it intently and analytically as well as emotionally. Analyze how the vocals, drums, guitars or other instruments sound. Listen to how they sit together in the mix. How loud are they compared to something else. How quiet is something compared to the vocal. What does the snare sound like? How do the bass and kick sound together? Listening to music this way will start to teach your brain not only what your music should sound like but also your will start to see specific areas you need to work on to make improvements.

One simple way to do this is to pull in a well mixed and well produced reference track into your session. Then as you mix flip back and forth between the ref track and your mix. Start working to make it sound as close as you can to that mixed radio ready track and I promise you will see improvements in your music quickly.

Now this isn’t an easy fix, it takes work, time and dedication to make this part of your life but if you do you will start to grow as an artist no matter what your surroundings are!

Are you ready to grow?

The myth of the “big break”.

 

We so often see people who seemingly are overnight successes and dream about how we wish we could be on of those people too.

But were they really an overnight success?

In life there are very few people who were truly a nothing one day and suddenly a worldwide phenomenon the next.

We only see the success they have had we rarely ever see the hard work and dedication they put into their craft on the path to what we see as overnight success. Most people we think of being highly successful especially in the arts  spent years decades even honing and practicing their craft before they ever found board acclaim in the world at large.

When you think of world renown acts who comes to mind? Let’s start with the Beatles. The Beatles are a great example of something that some people would call an overnight success. They seemingly swept the world with their music and became international stars really quickly, but is that really the case? Did you know that they spend years playing for 6, 8 or more hours a day playing in pubs for free or almost nothing?

How about a more recent success story. Michael Buble spent years singing in any smoke filled bar or tavern that would let him. He spent years honing and working on his craft in relative obscurity. All that time spent working on his chops and building up his abilities paid off now that he is known.

Let me introduce you to the concept of 10,000 hours. If you want to master a skill or become an “expert” in something according to Malcolm Gladwell. Now just spending 10,000 hours doing something poorly won’t make you any more than you are right now. I am also not saying that it will take you at least 10,000 hours to become good at something. There are a lot of variables that come into play. Training, natural talent, quality of practice, skill you are learning, and many other things play heavily into that number, but the concept is sound. You MUST spend time working on, honing and developing your skills in your craft to get better.

I also am not saying that there isn’t a moment of serendipity when many people who are now huge successes didn’t have. Many of them did have a chance meeting, had a video go viral or were “discovered” in some way however what if they hadn’t worked on their skills and developed their talents up to that point? Would that meeting have gone the same way it did? I don’t think so. They wouldn’t have had the skills to handle what that opportunity presented them.

At the end of the day we all have the same struggle. We all are given a finite amount of time. No one on this earth gets more than 24 hours in their day. The battle is what we spend that time on. Will you spend it on developing a skill that will take you toward your goal, or let it slip by distracted by a tv show or trending twitter topic.

Don’t wait any longer! Create something today. Set aside an hour a day or even an hour or two a week to do something you love. Create a piece of art, even if it’s not as good as you want it to be yet. Spend time learning skills that will help you improve. Take a step toward mastering your craft even if its only one hour at a time!