As a musician, your ears are the most fundamental part of your equipment setup, even with all the latest technology at our disposal, if you had unlimited budget to spend on the best studio gear, nothing can replace your hearing.
So there are two elements I want to cover in the post, firstly and contrary to the blog title I want to cover the most important topic first then move onto the fun stuff...
Like many people in the music industry I have grown up surrounded by music all my life, going to gigs, listening to live bands, mixing sound at events, playing in bands, working in studios, and the one thing that is rarely mentioned is the need to protect your hearing.
If you've walked away from a gig or recording session and your ears are still ringing the next day, the chances are you may have caused some damage to your hearing, but don't be alarmed, it's not to late to do something about it.
Personally I'm very fortunate that I still have very acute hearing for my age (43) but I'm lucky, but that's not all by accident, I am very conscious of my hearing and make sure to protect them. Whether I'm at a gig, riding a motorbike (wind noise is awful) or working in the studio I make sure I have protection, and don't listen at high SPL's for long durations of time, unfortunately I know of young musicians that can't hear above 13 / 14kHz as a result of exposure to high volumes for too long and that's sad.
Typically human hearing ranges from 20Hz to 20kHz but that lessens naturally over time, and yeah I know no one likes being told what to do, or even given advice without being asked for it, but... you only get one set of ears, if you value them, look after them.
If you've got a smartphone and work in a studio, get an SPL meter app for a few quid and make sure you don't work too loud to long!! Here's a link to one I use regularly SPL METER APP It's only a few £'s and well worth it.
We have a limited exposure time to high volumes and if you are serious about your career as a musician (that could be as a composer, guitarist, cellist, pianist, recording, mixing or mastering engineer it's essential to look after your (g)ears.
But the question of ear protection often comes down to cost, at the very least it's worth investing in some foam earplugs for a couple of quid or go for in ear moulded plugs for £100's it ultimately depends how much you value your hearing.
Help musicians UK offer a service for discounted moulded earplugs for working muso's, it's well worth the time it takes to get them sorted you can check them out here www.helpmusicians.org.uk
All that said.....now onto the fun stuff.
Years ago as a student I used an ear training program called Ear Master which was very helpful in learning music theory and sight reading, at the time I was late to taking up music theory and I wanted help to ingrain it into my mind, Ear Master was brand new and I thought it was amazing, it was an invaluable tool for developing my skills as a musician, from sight reading (which I'm still not very good at) to interval training, rhythm and pitch recognition, it's moved on from then and is now available as an app for most formats, I would recommend to any developing engineer, personally I believe them more we as engineers understand about music theory the better our approach and understanding of the more technical sides to the music industry we become (my musical career started playing drums and then into guitar).
These days there are so many apps available and directed to specific areas of the music industry, Quite recently I was browsing Facebook and accidentally stumbled across Sound Gym.
It's a highly addictive engineers training program which helps you to develop your ear by learning to recognise the characteristics of specific eq bands, delay times, distortion, the stereo field and much more I'd definetly recommend checking it out, not only is it fun but it's a really helpful tool for learning, I've also recently seen adverts for Train Your Ears Though I haven't yet had time to check it out it looks great it's a creative approach to listening and learning and is highly recommended by Bob Katz, and generally speaking if Bob Katz thinks it's worth looking into, it probably is.
Ultimately like all things in life, it takes time to develop any skill to a high level, and though there are no shortcuts, there are ways to make the process fun.
So that's it for now, keep learning and listening.