Show 108 – Ear Training and more

This week we talk about Ear Training and in the Rapid Fire section we talk about our favorite food in the studio, Invoicing clients for work already completed, and Trackball vs mouse.
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Great River VS ART MP Preamp shootout
API VS Focusrite Preamp Shootout
Quiztones Frequency identification trainer
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22 thoughts on “Show 108 – Ear Training and more

  1. You guys are home recording gurus and there isn’t and probably never will be another home recording podcast in the universe as good as this one. I wanted to ask you something though. There have been times when I really loved the things you do on the show and thought it would be cool to actually see you guys and/or some of the segments to better get a grip on what it is you’re telling us. I don’t know. Just a thought. Maybe you cold have little bonus segments that further expand on whatever it was you talked about on any given week. I know you have lives and editing is probably a son of a D112 sometimes but, if you can ever manage it I really think that would be something. I’m 110% sure I’m not the only one who would like that. Well, either way, I’m a Home Recording Show lifer. Thanks guys. The work week would suck with out you.

  2. Hey guys…Once again, another great show! I have to say!! You guys rock…keep up the great work! I use the Ear Masters 5 program on my computer for practicing ear training.. Its super easy to use, and very cheap in price…I got my copy of for 50$ off of worth checking out It helps me stay focused on learning tones and intervals, and it has a great testing section built into it… I constantly test myself to get better at music! Cheers Joe

  3. That Great River vs ART shootout cracks me up. I think the post should have been titled “how to make a bad recording with good gear”.

    Really the thing to learn here is that gear is not as important as: 1. having something worthwhile to record, and 2. knowing how to use the gear you have.

    On the point of having something worthwhile to record; it seems to me that if you record a ho-hum song listeners are going to get distracted by the quality of the songwriting and never even consider the quality of the recording. Not to mention that no one is surprised when a ho-hum song is recorded with less than stellar quality. Only when the song and performance is really great will any listener ever notice whether the sound quality is as a good as the song. Maybe…. just maybe… at that point, will a top quality pre make *any* difference (to the listener).

    Nobody likes to hear this but… spending your money on some guitar or voice lessons will do more towards expanding your audience than buying an expensive preamp. If you’re someone who records other musicians then spending your money on creating a comfortable and inspiring space for recording may offer the best pay off. I don’t know how many “recording studios” I’ve seen that had thousands of dollars in gear but were so ugly, cramped and unpleasant to be in that no one wanted to record there. Who cares about the model of preamp when the smell of the room makes you want to gag. And what the hell made those stains on the carpet and walls? Did someone get axe murdered here?

    Priorities people!

  4. Thanks for another great podcast!! Always thought provoking.

    While I agree that recording orchestra isn’t a “home recording” topic, I think mixing orchestra can be in this day of powerful sampler libraries (Vienna Symphonic Library, EastWest, LA Scoring Strings, etc). As a composer that can’t afford to record large ensembles, getting my samples to work in a powerful and meaningful way is extremely important, and mixing is certainly a key aspect. There are countless books/podcasts/websites that talk about mixing bands, but mixing orchestra is an untapped topic.

    If you know of any resources (Slau is great, btw), please share!!

    Thanks again!

  5. The Ear Training segment was great! I think it answers the discussion from the other show about why people seem to want more gear reviews – we have no idea how to tell what sounds good, so we assume we need better gear! I will definitely spend some time ear training.

    I know it’s asking for more editing time, but I would have loved it if during the discussion about the shoot out samples that short segments of the samples were played again after your comments to highlight your perceptions. Since I listen to the show almost 100% of the time in my car, it’s often difficult to really hear the differences, and replays that highlight your comments would really help out a lot!

    Obviously, I can always re-listen to the show in my treated room (and I will), but if you have the urge to spend a tad more time editing, I think it would make all the difference!

    As always, great show and keep ’em coming!

  6. First of all, great show guys, I’ve been listening to old shows nonstop for weeks now, I can’t get enough. I just wanted to emphasize what Ryan was saying about trying to get isolated tracks from popular songs. About a month ago I had found those Queen multitracks that Ryan mentioned and when I got to playing with them, it was a goldmine for me. Not only were they helpful in judging how my raw recordings sounded, but also how my mixes compared to what you hear on the radio. Very revealing (and a little disheartening too, it just reminds me of how much I suck!) And yeah, those single-mic’d vocal harmonies really are amazing.
    Thanks guys, much luck to you.

  7. Great show as usual.

    It’s interesting how 75% mistook the ART MP3 for the more expensive preamp. Just goes to show how subjective music really is. I guess it really depends on each individual ear and who your target audience is.

    An experienced engineer or hobbyist might be able to point out whether or not a high quality preamp was used on a novice’s home recording, while the average joe listener will not even give a rat’s @$$ about the gear or software as long as the musical end result made him hum along, or tap his toe. For him or her, a Neve is a hot Hollywood actress, a Digi Design is just another brand of calculator.

    So in the end, it really depends on who you want to please with the end result. It doesn’t mean you should not strive for excellence, but you shouldn’t get too bothered about your music just not cutting it because you don’t own a $3000 preamp.

  8. Guys, I’d still like to hear more about what you do or don’t like about various DAW’s. For example, Jon, I’m sure it was difficult for you to hear the guy from Autralia you interviewed say he uses Cubase almost exclusively. I’m still not sure why you dislike Cubase so much, but after using for a long time and then trying it against Sonar and Ableton, it definitely ended up my last choice and is why I ultimately went with the new Sonar 8.5 and now the X-1 (which they were very cool about including a free upgrade for it last November if you bought or upgraded your Sonar to 8.5.3, which I did….). Ableton has come a long way since the beginning, but it still seems more for use as a live tool and for more loop/dj based stuff than a full featured DAW. Again, I have never actually used Pro Tools, but with all the complaints I have heard about it both here and elsewhere, including cost and backwards compatibility issues, I am still unsure why it continues to be used so much, except maybe because it is sort of the default standard by virtue of when it came out and Macs being used for media and by studios in the beginning. Personally, I think while Ableton is much improved, the new Sonar not only is incredible feature wise, but the sound it delivers is simply amazing. I still have trouble believing it sounds as much better and different than Cubase. I have also read several pro reviews that have suggested it has now leapfrogged Pro Tools. I am curious if any of you have tried the new Sonar and what you think of it and/or if you haven’t bothered to try it, why? Not all of us prefer Macs for a variety of reasons including the ridiculous and (to me anyway…) unjustifiable cost premiums. I also loathe and despise ITunes for what should be obvious reasons and because of ITunes may never own another Mac again…Keep up the good work, but again, isn’t it time for a real DAW shootout or comparison?

  9. PS: I feel compelled to add this because I have had such great results with them and they are so CHEAP (in price only!!!). If you are looking for a very good mic that doesn’t have the brittle high end of most Chinese mics and essentially gives back whatever you put in it, try the Audio Technica 2035 and 2050. They beat the hell out of most bargain mics costing several times more, they are built like a tank, and mic to mic are incredibly consistent in performance and sound. You can get the 2035 which has a larger diaphragm than the 2020 as well as a pad and roll off for $95 several places. I was able to get a brand new 2050 for $142 from a major online retailer and for that price there isn’t a mic that sounds as good or is as versatile for anywhere near the price! Anyway, if you haven’t tried them, they really are about the best you can get for the price from my experience. I now own several!

  10. Guys, I am really abusing my privileges this week, but I missed a few weeks responses and also had some regarding this podcast. Sorry! Anyway, first, regarding Dan’s comments and your response; I think you may have slightly missed his point. I don’t think he was necessarily referring to recording a band all at the same time or within sight of each other, etc., or live nor do I think it is about the single mic method. I think he was referring to what I was saying a while back about using auto tune, time/pitch/stretching/correction, etc., and even layers of samples that end up more prominent than the original or “real” source seems more akin to Dan’s Hollywood reference from the interview with Kim Lajoie. It is similar to what I said a while back about creativity and talent often being more important than pure technical virtuosity or having the best gear/room. Or, similarly, “mixing” a bad performance into a good one that is not a true image of the band, but is the “Hollywood” version and thus not a “real” performance…but that is my opinion….

    PS: on the mic and pre shootout you did, you responded to some comments suggesting they would have preferred acoustic guitar, etc., to get a better feel for the various pres saying there wasn’t a way to get the exact same acoustic recording by nature of the live performance every time. Here is a suggestion for how you can use a reference acoustic guitar, vocal or other type track to test mics and pres with a fair amount of consistency that isn’t much different than the synth method you used. Record a MIDI track and use it to trigger an acoustic guitar/piano/electric guitar sample and/or virtual instrument which you then run through a similar amp/mic set-up as you did the synth track or better yet play the material to be recorded through a reference monitor or other type reference system instead of just a guitar amp, etc. but either way triggering VSTi’s or samples would work to great effect and seem offer a better comparison and/or more detailed comparison than the synth track used. Because you are playing a sample/VSTi through a line out and it has already gone through the A/D/A conversion before the amp/speaker/mic combo into the pre just as the synth track had, even that shouldn’t prove a real issue, especially if you have decent converters to get the original sample out of the box as well as even moderately decent speakers.

    PPS: my ART MP Studio had an internal ground hum/noise that remained elusive to all remedies as did a friend of mine’s. Perhaps some people listening to the apples/oranges comparison didn’t have the equipment to hear some of the noise many of us have experienced. Or maybe they didn’t listen through headphones, which as I’m sure you guys would agree is the ultimate test for noise. Not saying the ART is not any good, just mine makes too much noise to be effective on anything but guitars…

  11. Hey guys, boy am I really abusing my comment privileges this week! But I just happened upon this FREE ear training tool and sincew that was one of the topics of this podcast…I think it might be very helpful to many of your listeners:

    Although I’m not sure how he managed to trademark it, his slogan is “Skill is stronger than gear™”. Just though that was a somewhat humorous but also very relevant statement….

    Something else many musician’s (and engineers) could use more of is pitch/note ear training. For some really good and also FREE software for that type of ear training (along with some excellent articles about aural training), check out the Functional Ear Trainer web site and software:

  12. Ryan, one more question for you. Based on your advice and, because it was so cheap in price, I went to ebay and got a Sony F98 dynamic mic. I heard some of the examples you’ve had on the show before and I really wanted to try it out. I just got it in the mail today and I’m wondering what you did to hook it up seeing as it has that little wire attached to it. Do you use some kind of adaptor or something? Sorry if you’ve already talked about this on the show. If you have, I just don’t remember. Also, if this is a dumb question, I apologize. I just finished working all day and I’m tired…for sure.

  13. Good show, again. (My second to listen to.) I plan to listen to some of your older shows to “catch up” on some of what you have already covered.

    I agree about ear training. It is quite important to have a good studio ear and a musical ear. In a perfect world, you could rely on a project’s music director and/or producer to deal with musical issues such as pitch, tuning, rhythm, etc…, but as we all know not all artists work with that kind of help. It’s you (the engineer) and the artist.

    Being a trained musician myself (professional music director at a church, and I’ve also “produced” a couple of recording projects), and getting more into the recording arts side now, I feel fortunate that I’m comfortable with musical elements of pitches, intervals, rhythms, tuning, dynamics, etc… I do feel like a novice with my engineer’s ear, i.e. hearing eq frequencies, db levels, etc… I’m getting better, but the more you can discuss methods on your show, the better for folks like me.

    Thanks for the links. I do ok with the tones tests, because I’m mentally doing relative music pitches, when I can. e.g. after 200hz tone the next tone is an octave, so I know it’s 400hz. Or a fifth, 3/2 of the freq. Probably not a bad approach, but doesn’t really help with the eq tests. Lots of work to do there.

  14. Cool show. Ear training is very useful time to spend.
    I wonder, is there any kind of ear warm-ups? Hope it’s not so senseless. As guitarist I know finger warm up exercises, and as a (crappy) vocalist I know vocal warm ups.
    I understand that those are kinda up to muscles, but maybe there are some stuff you can do to get your ears and brain to shape when you waking at 6 at the morning and need to finish mix until 8?
    I had such experience today, and all I warmed up with were a quick shower and load of coffee (which is bad for our hearing. I remember) and when I started mixing I couldn’t hear a D112.

    Once again, thanks so much for what you doing! Love. Siberia.

  15. Hi. I guess your wordpress engine thinks that only thing music engeneer can do here in siberia is to track a bear with d112 straight into logic, thus it woun’t accept my comments.

    Cool show. Ear training is very useful time to spend.
    I wonder, is there any kind of ear warm-ups? Hope it’s not so senseless. As guitarist I know finger warm up exercises, and as a (crappy) vocalist I know vocal warm ups.
    I understand that those are kinda up to muscles, but maybe there are some stuff you can do to get your ears and brain to shape when you waking at 6 at the morning and need to finish mix until 8?
    I had such experience today, and all I warmed up with were a quick shower and load of coffee (which is bad for our hearing. I remember) and when I started mixing I couldn’t hear a D112.

    Once again, thanks so much for what you doing! Love. Siberia.

  16. Speaking of ear training as Octopus Drummer mentioned above, listening to individual tracks can be helpful.

    Bobby Owsinski has a few on his blog. And also Slau did a podcast that breaks down Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” — it’s, in my view, required listening if you’re interesting in recording or mixing or songwriting.

  17. Hey guys. I’ve been listening to your back episodes a lot lately. A while back (I don’t remember what number show it was) you did a segment on pumping up your mixes a little by using sounds/sound fx. I’ve done this many times before but, it’s been a while so, I decided to try it again.

    The first one is called “Ugly” and, I used my 5year old son’s airplane toy in the intro and later in the breakdown.

    The second one is called “Red Vinyl”. It contains sounds from machines in our kitchen and our garage that get looped a few times whenever the main hook of the song comes into play.

    They are compressed to crap so please forgive me if they sound like junk. I have to fix that. Of coarse, I don’t expect you to play them on your show or anything as I am sure you’ve got things planned out already and it’s just not the forum for this sort of thing. I just wanted you guys to hear some of your advice being put to use and I wasn’t sure where else to post them. O.K. that’s it. Can’t wait to hear the next show. Thanks!

  18. Sorry, the first one is “Red Vinyl” and the second one is “Ugly”. The descriptions of the songs remains the same though.

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