Let’s develop APES: Audio Perception and creative Enhancement Skills
Audio engineering is combining science with art. The science is partially very technical. This part is about capturing and editing sounds. The creative part is turning these sounds into music that is evoking emotions.
The most difficult part about all of that is proper listening. The questions are:
- What am I listening for?
- Why does it sound bad and what do I need to change to make it sound good?
- How far do I need to process this sound to make it fit the other instruments?
- What is the overall sound of my mix?
- Why does my mix sound good in my studio but not in my car?
I have brought together a couple steps that helped me, and still do, very much do develop my APES. I’m pretty sure this will help you too.
These have been the exact questions I asked myself when I first started taking mixing more seriously. Did you ever came across one or more of these questions? Then you might be at the right place.
Start developing YOUR APES today!
APES are separated into two main parts: Audio Perception and Audio Enhancement
First of all it’s about audio perception. Before you can start to edit sounds you need to know what you are actually listening for. You need to learn how to differentiate between a good guitar tone that fits that specific piece of music and a probably bad tone for instance. You also need to learn how much reverb is too much and how the reverb sounds different on varying listening devices. It’s also about listening for depth reproduction and compression for example. If you can’t hear stuff like that or if you don’t know what actually to listen for, you can’t mix it.
The more you develop your ears, the more you can start to push things. Now it’s about effectively fixing things and creative enhancement. Now you are at a point where you can exactly classify what sound you’re dealing with and you also know what you want it to sound like. The actual processing is not that difficult any longer as soon as you know what you have and where you want it to go.
The bad news first
The bad news is: what we are talking about is nothing you can get from one day to another. This is about experience. This is about the development and the repetition from one song to another. And this is about analytical listening to professional produced music on different systems and comparing different sounds. You just need to start and do one step after another.
Now the good news
The good news is, this has nothing to do with talent necessarily. Even when you are older and you can’t hear stuff above 12 kHz anymore, you still can develop APES.
Start today: pull up a couple songs that you really like and start listening to them analytical. Dive deep into the music from the production perspective and take notes. Ask yourself questions like this:
- How does the guitar tone change throughout the song when it’s coming up at different positions?
- What’s about the snare drum sound? Is it the same in the chorus and the verses or does the reverb tail change?
- Can you find out if there is a slap back delay on the vocals or is it a plate reverb? Does it change throughout the song?
- Talking about reverb, does all instruments have the same reverb or is it different?
- Can you hear some kind of bus compression? Does the dynamics change throughout the song?
Questions like these help to understand the perspective of the audio engineer and it also helps to reproduce that stuff you have figured out in your own songs.
Now take that list and listen to the same songs on another pair of headphones or a different set of speakers. I guess you’ll be surprised how different all these tiny details will sound like.
This is the first step into developing your own APES!
Start developing YOUR APES today!
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