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?