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> Isolating Instruments In Your Mind, benefits ear training / jamming
Bogdan Radovic
post Oct 8 2014, 11:54 PM
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I often find myself, when listening to music, to be isolating different instruments in the mix. Basically, I would shift my "ear focus" and listen to what the bass guitar is playing exactly, than rhythm guitar, fills guitar, drums etc. Thinking about it now, it feels really cool to be able to do it. Basically it is like you increase the "resolution" and zoom in on just specifics which make up the whole song. On the other end, it can become a curse as well if you start doing it unintentionally. This can also be done when attending live gigs and concerts, it is even somewhat easier to do depending how good the sound is.

I was wondering if anyone has been doing this?

Guess it would be something only musicians can effectively do when listening to music. It is our super power and curse.
I'm writing this as it opens up one important subject related to practicing and learning how to play - LISTENING.

When I try the described "focus thing", it always hits me in the head how much I'm not usually listening actually, when listening to the music/backing track etc.

It can be a great drill and you can do it like this :

1. Turn on the song or backing track
2. Listen to only the bass guitar to the point that you can hear the individual notes and what is going on
3. Shift your focus to drums and focus when kick and snare drums are playing, than shift focus on hi hat and try to see what notes values/rhythm is played there
4. Listen to the guitar and try to figure out different layers of guitars (if they are present in the mix)

Why would you do this and how does it benefit? When we can't play well against the backing track, we tend to not on purpose, not listen fully. It can be hard to focus on listening and your playing, but that is the only way to really get to know the backing and be able to play nicely and in timing over it (if you are having issues like keeping time and rhythm over the backing track). This is especially important when playing live with other people as there will be no fixed tempo you can just lock in with your foot and be alright. Tempo will shift and vary slightly and organically by each player in the band and in order to play as a "group", each musician needs to listen and anticipate how others will play the song. Over time, by practicing listening you'll start doing this automatically. When playing a backing track, you'll pick up some clues to the rhythm/timing be it hi hat, drums as a whole, just the kick drum or rhythm guitar. This will open up space to focus more on your playing as you'll be at the same time actively listening to your rhythm/tempo guide, even if you don't push yourself.

Try isolating lines a bit and you'll see your ear opening up. The same principle is used later on when trying to learn songs from the recordings by ear. Only difference is that this time you are also trying to figure out which notes exactly are being played.
For start, it is perfectly fine to just focus on "hearing the individual notes" and what is going on with each instrument.


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Monica Gheorghev...
post Oct 9 2014, 07:21 AM
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Very often I make this thing for two reason.

The first reason is because I never want to say "I don't like x song ". Even if a song it's not for my taste and don't tell me nothing, I focus myself to hear each instrument separately and maybe I will find something to like. It doesn't matter what it is, can be a simple bass line or a particular effect made on a synth. I want to find "beautiful" in "ugly" biggrin.gif
The second reason is because I was trained in this way. When I was a kid my piano teacher always put me to listen very carefully a song and after that my theme was to reproduce each instrument from that song on piano including the vocal line. I had a very brilliant and severely teacher. For every wrong note she hit me with a ruler over my fingers. I learned very fast to focus myself and to don't miss details biggrin.gif Even if looks a little harsh this method, for me was the best one wink.gif

To isolate instruments from a mix it's a very helpful training not only for ears, but you can understand and appreciate the contribution of each instrument, you learn how to focus yourself, how to catch details and you can learn to have patience. Also you can make an idea about harmonization between instruments. From my point of view it's a way to listen music much deep.

The best advantage for me with all these, is because now if I want to compose something, I hear in my mind very clear how I want to sound all the instruments. The most hard thing for me is to work with somebody because we must have the same vision for the final result wink.gif
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Bogdan Radovic
post Oct 9 2014, 11:25 AM
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QUOTE
The first reason is because I never want to say "I don't like x song ". Even if a song it's not for my taste and don't tell me nothing, I focus myself to hear each instrument separately and maybe I will find something to like. It doesn't matter what it is, can be a simple bass line or a particular effect made on a synth. I want to find "beautiful" in "ugly"


This is a very interesting angle to it - never thought about it like that. Along the similar lines, sometimes I would find a specific "hook" in a song that only I can enjoy smile.gif It can be a cool drum fill, interesting phrase on the vocals or keyboards effect in the background. Something which is not a regular hook but really stands out to me and I find it cool.

I agree this approach allows to listen to music more deeply and that it helps tremendously with composing.

What always gets me is : do we lose something along the way?

I mean, can we "normally" listen to music like other non-musician people do? Without hearing catchy phrases on individual instruments, without identifying keys or scales, production tricks and effects on the guitar - just listening to the songs as they are written for the "end user".


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klasaine
post Oct 9 2014, 05:00 PM
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QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Oct 9 2014, 03:25 AM) *
I mean, can we "normally" listen to music like other non-musician people do? Without hearing catchy phrases on individual instruments, without identifying keys or scales, production tricks and effects on the guitar - just listening to the songs as they are written for the "end user".


You've got it backwards.
We're the one's that listen to music 'normally'.

Up until very recently some form of basic music education, both playing and history was standard in school and in culture in general all over the world. It was required in the States.
Even the non players could sit down, listen and tell the difference between bass, guitar and keyboard. My wife (younger than me and plays no instrument) can tell a Pat Metheny solo in the space of about two bars. *Most kids took some form of music lessons at least for a few years. It's what you did - same as sports and scouts.

Musicians write music with different parts and different instruments and/or samples or sounds or whatever. They want it heard.
The whole package may be more important than the individual parts but those 'parts' are there to be heard. The average non muso listener doesn't have to be able to discern the viola from the 2nd violin in a Brahms symphony, 'hear' compression and limiting or know what mode 'Surfing with the Alien' is in but they should be able to understand meter and distinguish basic instrumentation and style. The fact that SO many have absolutely no clue whatsoever anymore (or even care to) makes me think we're headed back to 700 AD.

This post has been edited by klasaine: Oct 9 2014, 08:33 PM


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Cosmin Lupu
post Oct 9 2014, 08:01 PM
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QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Oct 9 2014, 10:25 AM) *
This is a very interesting angle to it - never thought about it like that. Along the similar lines, sometimes I would find a specific "hook" in a song that only I can enjoy smile.gif It can be a cool drum fill, interesting phrase on the vocals or keyboards effect in the background. Something which is not a regular hook but really stands out to me and I find it cool.

I agree this approach allows to listen to music more deeply and that it helps tremendously with composing.

What always gets me is : do we lose something along the way?

I mean, can we "normally" listen to music like other non-musician people do? Without hearing catchy phrases on individual instruments, without identifying keys or scales, production tricks and effects on the guitar - just listening to the songs as they are written for the "end user".


This is one of the reasons why we are most of the times unable to fully appreciate the message behind our work smile.gif We say - this sucks, while a listener says 'My GOD, this is amazing!' It happened to me a lot of times and I left a lot of music hidden in some dark corner of my computer, just because it didn't vibe with me. Well, it may seem a bit selfish, but I think that we owe it to ourselves to be first and completely satisfied with what we sort out to the great public.

So coming back to what I started to talk about, yes, I too have one too many moments in which instead of appreciating a certain feeling I get when listening to music, I get distracted by the fact that I CAN HEAR pretty much everything and to take things a bit further than Bogdan already did - have you noticed how different the listening experience is in respect to the device you use?

You can hear some things clearer on a set of studio monitors and some other things in a set of in ear monitors. It's amazing sometimes, but it's like discovering hidden things smile.gif


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Bogdan Radovic
post Oct 9 2014, 09:06 PM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Oct 9 2014, 09:01 PM) *
You can hear some things clearer on a set of studio monitors and some other things in a set of in ear monitors. It's amazing sometimes, but it's like discovering hidden things smile.gif


I usually listen to music at home on my studio monitors but I think I enjoy more listening music on headphones (in-ears).
It is such a "personal" listening experience hearing music and nothing else around me. Does anyone else have a favorite "music listening" setup?

Also, I must say I miss listening to vinyl records. I did it on my parents turntable when I was a kid and just stopped afterwards...



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klasaine
post Oct 9 2014, 09:21 PM
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I prefer an 'open' environment home (or studio) stereo set up but headphones are cool, especially (obviously) when traveling. Though, when I'm in a hotel room for work, I usually have a little practice amp with me and I rig up a line out from my ipod or tablet or phone and listen in mono while I'm doing stuff in the room. Headphones (other than for work or the privacy and courtesy of other people) are not the optimum experience for me.

I also like listening with other people. Musicians and non musicians alike (as long as they're into music). I dig the interaction and the commentary. You can learn a lot. Music IS a social experience.

This post has been edited by klasaine: Oct 9 2014, 09:22 PM


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Cosmin Lupu
post Oct 10 2014, 07:39 AM
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QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Oct 9 2014, 08:06 PM) *
I usually listen to music at home on my studio monitors but I think I enjoy more listening music on headphones (in-ears).
It is such a "personal" listening experience hearing music and nothing else around me. Does anyone else have a favorite "music listening" setup?

Also, I must say I miss listening to vinyl records. I did it on my parents turntable when I was a kid and just stopped afterwards...


Dude - talking about vinyls... I had one of the most AMAZING listening experiences at a friends house, while listening to a vinyl! He has a very performant audio system and he put on the latest Jane's Addiction album. I instantly felt I can SEE and HEAR the instruments in space, I mean, the mix was incredibly defined in space - vocals up front, then guitars and bass left and right but distanced among themselves somehow and the drums in the back and a little to the right.. Then, he tried a Beatles collection, but this time, it was an old vinyl and the experiences wasn't so amazing anymore. But that JA vinyl... my, my, my... I really have no words to describe the feeling biggrin.gif

QUOTE (klasaine @ Oct 9 2014, 08:21 PM) *
I also like listening with other people. Musicians and non musicians alike (as long as they're into music). I dig the interaction and the commentary. You can learn a lot. Music IS a social experience.


Nicely said smile.gif I like this too and I am doing it pretty often with my band mates or students at the studio. It's always nice to see a big smile appear when someone understands what's going on at a certain point in a tune biggrin.gif


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Monica Gheorghev...
post Oct 10 2014, 07:40 AM
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QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Oct 9 2014, 10:25 AM) *
What always gets me is : do we lose something along the way?

I mean, can we "normally" listen to music like other non-musician people do? Without hearing catchy phrases on individual instruments, without identifying keys or scales, production tricks and effects on the guitar - just listening to the songs as they are written for the "end user".

I'm agree with Ken and I really believe that we listen music "normally".

But...I understand what do you mean. I think if you still can enjoy a song which is made using only four chords, but sounds awesome and judge this from musical side, not from technical part, if some songs still gives you a particular mood or feeling and you enjoy this very much and push the repeat button over and over again, then I think you don't lose nothing along the way wink.gif Even if you make a complete analysis over a song that you like very much, at some point will remain just the enjoyment of listening smile.gif
Your advantage is that you can play what you hear anytime wink.gif
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Cosmin Lupu
post Oct 10 2014, 07:47 AM
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QUOTE (Monica Gheorghevici @ Oct 10 2014, 06:40 AM) *
I'm agree with Ken and I really believe that we listen music "normally".

But...I understand what do you mean. I think if you still can enjoy a song which is made using only four chords, but sounds awesome and judge this from musical side, not from technical part, if some songs still gives you a particular mood or feeling and you enjoy this very much and push the repeat button over and over again, then I think you don't lose nothing along the way wink.gif Even if you make a complete analysis over a song that you like very much, at some point will remain just the enjoyment of listening smile.gif
Your advantage is that you can play what you hear anytime wink.gif


Let me give you an example biggrin.gif



There's not so much to analyze here but hey, it's A GREAT SONG!


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klasaine
post Oct 10 2014, 08:12 AM
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My comments also have nothing to do with the 'complexity' of the composition or the mix or style or whatever. And I don't necessarily 'analyze' either. I can't judge music from a technical POV.
I do just sit (or drive) and listen most of the time ... I just happen to hear a lot of what's going on.


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SirJamsalot
post Oct 10 2014, 08:18 AM
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I do this all the time when learning covers. Listen carefully to 3 door down "Kryponite" - they have 3 guitars doing 3 different things, and all of them make the song memorable - take one out, and there's an important sound missing from the song.

This post has been edited by SirJamsalot: Oct 10 2014, 08:18 AM


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Cosmin Lupu
post Oct 10 2014, 08:32 AM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Oct 10 2014, 07:18 AM) *
I do this all the time when learning covers. Listen carefully to 3 door down "Kryponite" - they have 3 guitars doing 3 different things, and all of them make the song memorable - take one out, and there's an important sound missing from the song.


Great point here! Learning how to listen to the 'voices' human/instrument made, is a very important skill. Ear training can be developed vertically - your example, and horizontaly - by being able to figure out chord progressions, for instance smile.gif


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Bogdan Radovic
post Oct 13 2014, 12:01 PM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Oct 10 2014, 09:18 AM) *
I do this all the time when learning covers. Listen carefully to 3 door down "Kryponite" - they have 3 guitars doing 3 different things, and all of them make the song memorable - take one out, and there's an important sound missing from the song.


Funny you mention that song - it is my favorite "listen while driving song" smile.gif
When the chorus starts, that is a good time to go into "overtaking" heheheh


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SirJamsalot
post Oct 13 2014, 09:21 PM
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QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Oct 13 2014, 04:01 AM) *
Funny you mention that song - it is my favorite "listen while driving song" smile.gif
When the chorus starts, that is a good time to go into "overtaking" heheheh


It's a great song. Ironically, I wasn't really into it when it first came out, but then my band decided to cover it and it grew on me when I was pulling it apart. Deciding which guitar to play when is nothing short of challenging given we're a trio haha.


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