Trusting Your Ears in the Studio

One of the hardest things for any new sound engineer is learning how to trust one’s own listening skills. In making audio decisions, it can take years of experience in learning how to trust one’s own ears. This can come from dealing with varied types of music in many different studio situations. Just placing a microphone at a sound source per common practice is not necessarily going to give the engineer an amazing sound. You must ask yourself, “is this the right mic for this situation?” “Does the mic actually make the audio source sound good?” An engineer must take the time to listen critically to judge if the choice being made indeed helps the recording as a whole.

Try New Things

Experimenting is key when it comes to gaining the experience needed for a critical ear. Take recording a guitar, for example, every aspect of a guitar player’s setup will change the resulting audio received by the microphone. From the strings on the guitar to the cables used for the amp, everything affects the tone. If an engineer really didn‘t care, they could just throw up a microphone close to the speaker and call it a day. To really start fine tuning an engineer’s critical listening one must take a moment to judgmentally consider the choices being made before the recording begins. “Is the microphone distorting?” “Is the preamp a good match for the microphone?” “Does the final tone fit within the song?” “Is the placement of the mic giving us what we want?” All of these decisions can affect the final outcome of the recording.

Get Out There

For a sound engineer who is new to the professional industry, the opportunities to gain experience can be difficult. The industry is already bursting at the seams with sound engineers looking for available work. That being said, get yourself out into as many audio recording situations possible. Even if the situation isn’t ideal it will give you a chance to grow your audio knowledge. You can never anticipate what can be learned from a gig, big or small. The weirdest little situations can sometimes reap the most significant learning experiences, whereas a highly involved rock band may be more entertaining but may not give you any new audio knowledge.

As your audio experience grows it will give you the confidence to trust your ears. This will lead to success in making critical audio decisions and in turn, will make your clients happier with the end product.

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