“Golden Ears”? Bah Humbug

Another great article from Graham Cochrane following on from the post from yesterday for those looking to record and mix their own stuff.

While there are exceptional mix engineers and those whose hearing may be more fine tuned than yours (or who have full range hearing if you have lost some frequencies)- – – —  BUT don’t be fooled by the hype and don’t make excuses for lack of work.

Be as good as you can be by ….just doing it more and more, practicing more, having a go, listening, learning, getting feedback and practice, doing it again over time. Only then will you know where your limits lie if any – and you will be soooo much better through the process.

Anyway here is Graham’s thoughts ………….

I’ve heard it said that there are some people in the world who have some kind of super human hearing.
They hear things that the rest of us don’t.
They have what are called “golden ears” and unfortunately it’s a natural gift that you and I can’t manufacture.
The thought is, these “golden ears” are what give them the edge when it comes to recording and mixing music and why their tracks sound so good and ours don’t.

It’s a total myth.

Let me put it to you straight. The idea that some people’s mixes are better than yours because they have better hearing than you is a joke.
More than that, it’s a cop-out, an excuse.
Labeling some as having “golden ears” helps us to accept the fact that our mixes stink.
“Well it’s because they were born with something that I don’t have, makes sense why my tracks aren’t as good.”

This is ridiculous. It’s just as ridiculous as the excuse of gear: that some how the reason your recordings are lame is because you don’t nice expensive gear.
In both of these scenarios we are missing the point and putting too much emphasis on things that aren’t the difference makers.
There are a million factors to why the pros churning out a great mix and you and I churning out a subpar one.

It’s just an easier pill to swallow to tell ourselves it’s because of their ears or their gear, not their skill, which can be learned.

Did you know that the only way to get good at this craft, this art, is to simply do more of it?
That’s right people. The secret to audio success is…practice! In fact, the reason most people will never be good at this is because they give up too soon.
But not you, you’re not going to quit. You’re going to continue to make bad record after bad record until slowly over time your tracks improve and your skill level increases.
Which will only fuel you to do more of course.

It’s unfair in some respects to compare your mixes to a Chris Lord-Alge or a Dave Pensado because let’s face it, they’ve been at this a lot longer than you have.
And not just in number of years mixing, but in number of albums per year.
If you mixed 25 albums each year for the next 10 years, you’d get really good too!

At the end of the day, being a good recording or mix engineer is all about knowing what good music should sound like.
If you are a musician or huge music fan then you’ve likely listened to hundreds or albums and songs and you have developed your tastes.
You know what you like. You know what cool drums sound like, and a rocking vocal, and a fat bass.
It’s in your head. This is paramount to your success.

When recording and mixing your job is to simply use the tools at your disposal to turn what’s in front of you into what you hear in your head. No “golden ears” required.
Just normal, average, everyday, music loving ears. Because at the end of the day, music is all about connecting with the average fan.

Your job is to simply make a song that is fun to listen to.

It’s a lot simpler than we make it out to be.



So get to it.  Just do it and do it again, and again and again…..

By the way  – If you someone to listen and help critique your mixes, or mentor you, or work with you (locally, remotely or online -let’s use the technology we have available) – we offer those services – just ask.

Cheers till next time



The BEST bit of gear you can get is YOU

Great article in an enews from Graham Cochrane of The Recording Revolution below.
I endorse his view totally!
Once you have ‘reasonable gear’ that does the job you need -it then comes down to YOU – your ears and ability to LISTEN and HEAR, your skill and knowledge to KNOW WHAT TO DO AND WHEN (and what not to do), etc ….AND REFERENCE TRACKS to hear where there are issues that need to be allowed/adjusted for – to get the end result needed (a whole other topic).
Sure having a perfectly set up room and the top gear is nice  – if you can afford it and IF the return will be there to justify   — but remember …..A great mixer can be in an average room with average gear – and if they have some reference tracks to know what issues are there that they have to adjust for – they will still bump out great and competitive mixes.

Anyway here is Graham’s article

Nothing irritates me more in the audio world than seeing impressionable home studio owners being led down pointless rabbit trails in the name of “getting better recordings.”
There is a gospel of “better gear” being preached day and night on popular internet forums and all around the inter-webs that not only doesn’t help get people the results their after, it leaves them more confused and disenchanted than ever.

Why are we obsessed with converters?! (If can’t tell by now, the title of this email is chock full of sarcasm)
But the sad thing is, this statement is being made all the time.
Many of you even have been “convinced” by someone online that your converters are bad and you need to upgrade.

You might not have even known what converters were, let alone that the ones you already own in your audio interface aren’t “good enough” to do serious audio work.

I’ve read all the articles, watched all the video interviews, and of course taken part in many internet debates about the “blanket theory.”  You might know what I’m referring to.
People will say something like, “Once I upgraded to [insert more expensive converters here] I immediately noticed a difference in the sound. It was like someone had pulled a blanket off of my speakers!”

You know what else sounds like a blanket coming off of your speakers?
A high shelf boost of 2db on the mix buss.

Back in the days when Pro Tools users had to have Pro Tools hardware connected at all times, there were only a handful of audio interfaces I could use. After upgrading from the original 2 channel Mbox to the multichannel 002 Rack interface, I was set. I could now record full bands and drum kits. And that’s exactly what I did.  I had that thing for 7 years and used it on countless albums and live recordings.  Well, it became a well known “fact” that the converters in the 002 were “awful” and “unusable.”
That was news to me.
In fact, I was making a decent living in my studio and my portable rig helping people make great recordings, all with the 002 as the centerpiece of my rig.
It wasn’t until people told me that the 002 converters weren’t good enough that I ever even noticed.I became paranoid instantly.

Just like anybody else I want my recordings to sound their absolute best, so of course I immediately began looking for ways to “upgrade” my converters.
But I could never justify the cost of either a mod, or an ADAT converter of some kind. It just seemed like a total waste.

So instead I decided to keep my money in my wallet and put all my focus on something that would actually improve sound quality: …improving myself.

I worked on mic placement, gain staging, better arranging, strategic use of EQ and compression, and constant referencing of pro mixes.
All of these things have made major improvements in the final result of my recordings and mixes.
No new gear necessary.
And  that’s what I’m getting at people. I have no doubt that audio to digital conversion technology gets better and better as the years go on.
Shoot, we used to only have 16 bit converters and people were still making Grammy award winning records on them (Frank Filipetti and James Taylor for example).

That’s the thing. Technology keeps getting better, but that has no bearing on your ability to make pro sounding tracks on your current gear.
The hard truth is, we all are desperately looking for an excuse to spend money on gear.
That’s what drives all of this in the end. The converters issue is no different from the new preamp, microphone, or plugin issue.
We’d rather buy our way to better recordings than practice our way.
The latter is far more effective and cost efficient my friends.

Graham Cochrane

(back to Ian) Before I moved to Melbourne and had the architect, acoustician and builders come in and build my purpose buit Production Pit studio and bought the extra gear and purpose built computer etc- for 8 years I used a converted rumpus room in our house in Canberra.
It had some treatment but wasnt sound proof (just as my wife about her frustration in hearing a phrase I was working on over and over again 🙂 ),  and all the treatment was home made (other than a very few bits of second hand panelling) – – -an acoustician came in to help find THE spot to sit and work from (but a metre either side and the sound went wonky) – -BUT that didnt stop me being very productive and producing quality work for the 8 years we were there.
How??? I learnt the room, I used reference tracks, learnt my plug ins in detail (what they could and couldnt do – and so many of them were freebies)  – then I listened and worked with what I had.…. and practiced and worked at it.

So work with what you have got before getting caught up in the ‘I need that’ syndrome.
Learn your room (its good and bad points, find the sweet spot etc);  listen  with reference tracks (that you know well) and find where frequencies are boosted or shelved, reflections are affecting by the room or gear  – and then adjust accordingly (keep using reference tracks) – -and practice, listen, practice, listen etc etc
(One tip – in a really bad room –  – mixing at low volumes so there is less sound bouncing around the room).

If at that point you still cant get your mixes sounding where you want – – remember we run an online mixing service and a mix assessment service that may be of interest  (check it out on the website pavmusic.com- subtab under the Production Tab)

Cheers till next time.