Critical Listening

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TerryW's picture
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I have heard this term "Critical Listening" could you or someone give me a definition of this that can be applied while monitoring the "mix"? When I listen to a project as a whole I will adjust certain tracks, level and EQ and then sometimes I will focus on a particular track and when I do, that track seems to become louder so I adjust, but I am not sure if that is the correct procedure for mixing. I also seem to bury the vocals in the mix. I suppose because I am not confident in my singing. People that listen to my projects always comment on the vocals not being out front so there seems to be some psychology involved in listening. Any Advice?

assr's picture
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Critical listening

I'll let Alan hopefully give you a good definition of this term as he will be answering a lot of forum posts this week.

Mixing has a lot to do with your taste and the singer and song and backing in question. But you raise an interesting point about the 'confidence' aspect of a vocal. The more 'committed' a vocal the more (to borrow from a phrase Alan uses in ASSR) 'value for money' it appears to have, meaning that you don't have to have it very loud in order for it to be heard at what most will consider the appropriate level. Conversely, a rather indecisively delivered vocal always needs to be turned up too high so that either its imperfections are too present or it is simply out of balance with the backing. Commitment is really all about confidence; not necessarily how loud it was originally sung, or its tone.

Arrangement, too, has a big bearing. If the vocal is fighting, either tonally or simply 'with' instrumental parts, then again you always need to make level adjustments that can unbalance the track as a whole.

At least thinking about both these issues will never hurt, even if there are many more layers of this onion to peel back.