Listening to music

It’s difficult to measure exactly how better audio people become at listening to music. In my case, it started with bass. Before playing bass in a band, I didn’t care so much about instruments I had my preferences and knew some of them I guess but didn’t care so much. Now I’m playing the 4-strings bottom so I’m more into that. It took over my life.

The first step was to watch music videos but the 80s sucked at that because you would have people fake playing instruments that have nothing to do with the music. It was confusing as hell. They didn’t even plug instruments in! In the 90s with the resurrection of rock and guitars, it was much better. I was spotting the longer neck, and big strings and looking at what bass players would do.

These days I can hear a clap, the reverb behind it and tell you if it’s Dayton or Kashif. It means I can recognize an artist with no melody or harmony information, just on a mere 900ms of percussive sound. It’s kind of nuts how much you can train your ear. I loved it when I started to be able to recognize styles of production. I remember being like I KNEW IT when I heard the Ross Robinson-produced Limp Biskit’s first LP. I knew that sound.

Sound is a mix of specific brands of instruments, specific effects, composition skills and mixing techniques… And they all influence each other constantly. It’s hard to pinpoint but your ears know, they will sense it. Knowledge obviously plays a huge part. Once you play some Stratocaster and Les Paul guitars, you know and understand. Once you know that FM rhodes sound, or that 808 hit hat, you know. And once you listen to Nile Rodgers Pharrell or Thom Bell for a while, you know too. It takes years, decades. So many parameters to memorize and remember.

As often with everything people are either too much into the detail “I think he uses this keyboard but the thing is busted so it sounds different” or don’t know nothing about musical instruments or the basics of low and high frequencies. Sigh.

Music is organized and satisfying noises layered in a convenient package and I love it so much.

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