Ear Fatigue – 1 Common Way To Screw Up A New Track
Imagine that today is a good day. You feel exceptionally creative… and like magic, the great idea seems to come to you un-invited, and these are often the best musical ideas. You know the ones, the ones that happen automatically and seem to have a life of their own. A brilliant hook that you know has the potential to set a dance floor on fire. Without even trying, there it is, playing in your head and ready to be brought into the physical world.But it is only a seed, and a seed doesn’t sell records, it needs to become more…
So with your beat production skills and musical talents at your command you sit at your workstation and begin to bring this small seed of an idea to life…
It’s time to make a track.
This is one of the best feelings in the world. When the passion for the music is burning and everything seems to be happening with little effort or will. This is creativity in all it’s glory. Your creative mind soars like a bird on the air, effortless and boundless, adrenaline and pleasure flooding your body and mind. After all, this is why we create art and music is it not? this feeling of being lost in the creative process.
HOLD IT RIGHT THERE…
I am a firm believer, however, that un-bridled creativity can actually hurt the creative process, and that is has the force to both create AND destroy… It needs to be tempered and controlled in order to fulfill its function to the fullest potential, and it needs a more refined and developed artistic consideration in order that this spark of life may come into its truest self and become the great track that you envision.
This is why great DJs and producers spend a year working on an album with 10 tracks on it, this is why Michelangelo spent 25+ years on the Sistine Chapel, and this is why Beethoven spent 20 years completing one masterpiece of music. Because all great artists know that creativity combined with restraint and a finer degree of control and perception result in masterful pieces of art and music.
In order to facilitate such a degree of artistic control and perfection, I bring one very important way to screw up a new track and how to avoid it…
Mental Ear/Hearing Fatigue – Producing for too long in one day
Many new producers don’t understand just how much of a problem this can be. They don’t realize just how much of a strain music production can be on their “ears”. But this isn’t in the way you might be thinking. This has nothing to do with volume and hearing safety, and everything to do with your perception of frequency and tone. Because it’s one thing to assault your ears with techno beats at an excessive volume, and a completely separate problem when you are focusing your ears on very fine and detailed sound considerations. And as producers this is in fact what we are doing.
So when you are adjusting and EQ, or opening a filter, or tweaking a bass sound and listening for small differences to get that sound “just right”, remember that you are using an extremely intense degree of hearing focus to accomplish this task. This is like lifting weights in the gym or focusing your mind intensely while studying for a calculus final. The degree of strain on your mental ability to perceive sound is very very intense, regardless of the volume levels.
Here’s what the “Cross Talk Crew” has to say about Ear Fatigue
As an example, I once worked on a track for almost 24 hours straight. The first 5 hours were bliss, I spent this time creating the musical content of the track, the harmonies and melodies and beats, and it was pretty good. But then I started focusing on the production aspects next, going into the smallest detail and so “in the zone” that I just kept working all through the night.
By the end of the night however, I realized I needed to stop. I could no longer hear things clearly and I started becoming extremely confused and wondering if my hearing was starting to go off. One minute something sounded right, and the next minute it would sound different or “off”.
I called it a night and went to bed. The next day I was shocked. I put some music on and it sounded out of tune. I had actually exhausted my mental capacity to perceive tone. For the next week or so all music sounded slightly out of tune, almost like when a car goes wizzing past you and the music de-tunes as it moves away from you. All music sounded like that to me.
I don’t understand how this phenomenon works, but it is real, and after experiencing it for myself I started to find examples of other producers who have gone through the same thing.
The worst part is that all of the work I had put in the night before was lost because I had actually completely mangled the track. The more I listened to it, the more I produced it, the worse it became, and all because my ability to perceive the track clearly had evaporated the longer I worked…
And that’s when I learned that when it comes to music production you NEED to give your ears a break. In fact most high level music producers don’t produce for anymore than a few hours at a time, and if they are going to work many hours in a day they take long breaks between sessions and spread their sessions out over the course of the day.
Obviously the more intense and fine your focus or effort is, the smaller the details you are working on, the faster your “inner ear” can become tired.
Playing the piano and making music is one thing, but EQ’ing a track for 6 hours is another story. This exhausts your mental faculty for sound perception in a way that playing the piano does not.
So always keep this in mind. Give your “mental ear” a break, go do something else.
All the best,