Audio effects transform sound. Sometimes in subtle, natural ways, and sometimes in wild and wacky ways. Audio effects crop up all over the place. For example:

  • Almost every modern music recording will have some processing applied to improve or fix the sound recording, using audio effects plugins.
    Example effect: Dynamic Compression.
  • Every electric guitar player has a range of FX pedals to create their signature tone, or adjust their sound for particular songs.
    Example effect:: Distortion.
  • Solo musicians can use effects to let them create more versatile and complex performances.
    Example effect: Live looping and delays.
  • Even the natural world has audio effects, such as echo and reverb that affect the sounds made in a room, concert hall or arena.
    Example effect: Reverb.

Audio effects ear training teaches you to identify and appreciate audio effects by ear, so that you can hear which effects have been applied, and the kind of parameter settings used.

There are two parts to it: identifying the type of effect used, and identifying the settings used for that effect. For example, you can identify that the guitar player is using a distortion pedal, and that it’s a strong fuzz distortion. Or you might hear that a particular room has a clear echo, and that its delay time is about 50 milliseconds.

The benefits of doing this kind of ear training include:

  • More easily use effects on your own recordings or instrument setup, by knowing which effects and settings will produce the target sound you have in mind.
  • Hear and appreciate music in a more sophisticated way by understanding this aspect of the sound.
  • Fix problems by hearing what’s wrong with the sound, and what kind of effect can be added, removed or adjusted to resolve it.

If you’re looking for a full audio effects guide to learn all this type of ear training, check out the Hearing Effects series.


Similar questions answered on this page:

  • How do I set up my guitar fx pedals?
  • Audio effects: how to train your ear?
  • How do you recognize audio effects by ear?

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