Audio Tech Lessons – Lesson #1: Listen
Lesson 1: Listen
The most important skill for achieving great sound is to listen. You can’t be good at mixing sound if you don’t know how to listen. To listen is to make an effort to hear something; to be alert and ready to hear something (courtesy New Oxford American Dictionary). I especially like that last line: to be alert and ready. Listening is an active engagement with your environment and the sound around you. It takes focus and energy. You cannot do a good job behind the mixing console without being an active listener.
Listen first. But then you need to take action and respond to what you hear. How do you know what action to take? What are you going to do to take what you hear and make it better? You need to train your ears. In other words, you need to know what to listen for. That will help give you clarity for what to do about what you’re hearing.
Take an active role in developing your listening skills so that you can properly interpret what you are hearing into actionable information, helping you achieve the great sound that you and your congregation deserve. Running sound is as much an art as it is a craft. Your job behind the mixing console is subjective and interpretive. We use terms such as color, texture, richness, and depth to describe what we hear.
But we also talk about things in terms of science and engineering like volume, signal, and frequency. You’ll need to apply an understanding of the science (aka craft) of what you know to the subjective sound (aka art) that you hear.
This all starts with your ability to listen.
There are some great tools out there to help you listen better and to understand what you are hearing. But even the greatest apps, videos, and instruction guides can’t make you better at mixing sound if you don’t practice. Take the tips you learn about and apply them to your mix on a regular basis.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. They are an important part of the learning process. And you will always be learning. Just make sure you dedicate time to practicing in an environment that will not be at the expense of your listening audience. Save them the trouble of hearing all of your practice routine trials and errors – they deserve to hear your best.
Tools to help train your ears, listen, and practice: