Anyone who wants to successfully venture into the world of audio and music production or post-production must necessarily invest time and money in the most important tool: your ear. There is no plugin, program or algorithm that can replace a good musical ear. Like any muscle, the ear also needs to be trained, and the resulting benefits are enormous.
The auditory system
The auditory system is made up of two different sections: the peripheral section, and the central one. The peripheral section consists of the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The sound initially reaches the external ear, which conveys the sound through the ear canal towards the eardrum. The latter transmits vibrations to the middle ear.
Subsequently the middle ear, through a system composed of three small bones, transmits the sound to the inner ear. This is where sound is amplified and transformed into nerve impulses directed towards the brain. This is where the central section of the hearing system comes into play.
The acoustic nerve will carry the nerve impulse to the temporal cortex which will decode it and make it perceived as sound. The purpose of Ear Training is to teach you how to accurately decode and identify these nerve impulses.
Training your ear is an essential skill for any musician or music producer, as it enables you to identify and understand different elements of music such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. Here are some tips on how to train your ear and how to use reference tracks to improve your listening skills:
- Listen actively: When you listen to music, pay attention to the different elements of the track, such as the melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. Try to identify the individual components and how they work together to create the overall sound. The artistic/theoretical aspect interests composers and musicians in general, while the technical aspect is usually more interesting for a mix & master engineer. Naturally, it is possible to train on both aspects by carrying out specially dedicated exercises.
- Practice with intervals: Start by practicing with intervals, which are the distances between two notes. Play a note, and then play another note above or below it. Try to identify the interval between the two notes.
- Use online resources: There are many online resources and apps that can help you train your ear, such as EarMaster, MusicTheory.net, and Perfect Ear.
- Use reference tracks: Choose a song or track that you like and use it as a reference for your own music. Pay attention to the different elements of the track, such as the chord progression, melody, and rhythm. Try to replicate these elements in your own music.
- Compare and contrast: Listen to your own tracks and compare them to your reference track. Pay attention to the differences in the sound and try to identify what you need to improve.
- Practice regularly: Training your ear is a skill that requires practice. Set aside time each day to practice listening and identifying different elements of music. Over time, you’ll develop a more refined ear and be able to create better music.
A well-trained ear can help you recognize and identify different musical elements such as melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, and dynamics. This is essential when creating or analyzing music. You can better judge whether a melody is working well with a harmony, or whether a bassline is complementing a drum pattern, for example.
Having a well-trained ear can help you identify and correct problems in a mix or master, such as frequency imbalances, compression issues, or distortion. This aspect is crucial for any musician or music producer who wants to create high-quality music and succeed in the music industry.