These days, it’s not just studio engineers and audio professionals who need frequency ear training. Every musician who’s recording their own music must understand EQ and recognise frequencies by ear to make sure their tracks sound great.
The best place to start is with single frequencies to get your ear used to pitch and frequency.
Then move on to frequency band ear training. Most engineers start by practising with white noise or pink noise, band-filtered to cut (reduce the volume) or boost (increase the volume) of a particular octave band’s frequencies.
Normally a 10-band EQ is used for beginners, but you might like to start simpler (e.g. just bass/mid/treble). We wouldn’t recommend jumping straight to a 30-band EQ!
With training tracks demonstrating boost and cuts on each of the 10 frequency bands, you start to get a sense of where each frequency band ‘lies’ in your ear’s sense of pitch.
Using a reference table of frequency band characteristics can help you pick up on the right things.
Once you have a good feel for this, you can move on to boost and cuts on real music.
Using music which is “broadband” (i.e. has energy across the whoel frequency range) is best – it’s tough to hear a boost at 16kHz if the track has nothing going on at 16kHz!
Training for the 10 standard bands is a very useful starting point, but if you have a particular focus, adapt your frequency ear training to match. For example, if you’re EQing drums a lot, focus your training on drum frequency ear training e.g. learning the characteristic frequency presence of the kick drum, cymbal frequencies, etc.
As with all ear training, it’s important to start out with a clear idea of what you want to achieve, and why. Then break the task down into manageable, meaningful chunks.
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