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yohimbe2
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Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

I've been driving for 20 years and will be taking a high performance driving class next week to "learn how to drive". As much as I think I am a great driver, I am sure my instructors will show me i've been missing much.

I'm also a long time audiophile and although I'd like to think I have great listening skills, I'm sure a few lessons could only help. Who knows, maybe I've missed some listening tricks after all these years. Are there any good resources for improving listening skills?

rmeyer52
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

As someone with a high frequency hearing loss and who just upgraded to an audiophile system I can tell you this. I find that when I listen to hi-fi without distratction I am hearing things that I never heard before like the fade of a sym hit or the studio echo of a sax player. It's the little things that seem to jump out at me.

I have also found that some CD's that sounded good on my previous system no longer sound as good..that is I can hear the limiations of the source. Sometimes the music sounds compressed, sometimes flat and sometimes the stereo is just not as good.

For me what I enjoy is coming home sitting in my hifi room and putting on a CD and listening to the joy of my new system (Arcam Solo, Paradigm 100 speakers).

Monty
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

It took me a long time to have confidence in my listening skills. Prior to the resources now available on the internet and considering that I was a rather poor when I first became interested in good sound, I could only gather bits and pieces from reading Stereophile and trying to make sense of everything they were describing and measuring. Unable to afford upgrades and even infrequent gear substitutions, I was pretty much stuck on stupid.

At some point, the importance of speaker placement penetrated my thick skull. HELLO! That was like a shot of adrenaline through my veins. Suddenly, things started to make a lot more sense and I could relate to what the contributors were describing. Oh boy, the learning curve finally started moving at a lot faster pace.

Eventually, I was able to afford to swap stuff in and out of my system and actually hear differences in the presentation.

The moral of the story is that without having your speakers properly placed, you aren't likely to hear the nuances that will help you become a better listener. From there, take advantage of the "Features" section at the top of the Stereophile page and read the articles that interest you as you experiment with what you have or are able to afford by way of gear changes.

Do buy some well recorded music even if it's not your particular genre of favorites and Stereophile's test cds. Education is never free and it really is money well spent...even if it takes you a little time to realize it. OK, in my case, a LOT of time to realize it.

ohfourohnine
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

You may be looking for something beyond this but Robert Harley's "Complete Guide to High End Audio" devotes the third chapter (about 40 pp.) to becoming a better listener.

smejias
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

One small listening trick that's been very useful for me is listening with the lights turned low, or turned off entirely.

George Kaye of Moscode passed this tip on to me. And he stressed, "No fluorescent lamps! There is a 60 HZ flicker that pervades the room and draws away attention."

Monty
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


Quote:
One small listening trick that's been very useful for me is listening with the lights turned low, or turned off entirely.

Oh yeah! Music really does sound better in the dark. Man, I sure took a lot of crap for that one some time back.

yohimbe2
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


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You may be looking for something beyond this but Robert Harley's "Complete Guide to High End Audio" devotes the third chapter (about 40 pp.) to becoming a better listener.

I have this book but must have missed the chapter. I'll have to dig it up or by a more current edition. (Mine is first edition)

Thanks for the tip

CECE
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

There is no 60Hz flicker with electronic ballasted CFL or T8 lamps....magnetic core ballasts sure. Having music sound good with teh lights off, seems similar to having to turn the lights off for an ugly girl. If you are not wanting to see/hear in daylight, it's not good. Drinking heavy improves the eperience too don't it? INVALID. Is your system a double bagger?

ohfourohnine
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

The edition you have is just fine. So far as I can tell from the chapter headings, the most recent edition is a minor update.

gkc
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

"Listening skills," if I understand the phrase the way it appears to be meant, are different from "evaluating skills," which involve playing test recordings and analyzing (read, "taking apart") different equipment set-ups. There are no "listening skills," other than playing music you love at volumes your neighbors will barely tolerate.

Turning the lights out, DUP, isn't a necessity -- you don't have to do it to enjoy the music. And it isn't a skill. It is common sense. When you are alone (or with someone who enjoys the music being played as much as you do), sight deprivation helps the (visual) apparatus disappear. This is not a stretch. You may like to watch your woofer cones blubber, while I may prefer to imagine a symphony orchestra laid out in front of me, from Los Angeles to Glendale.

Listening in the dark allows your imagination to work without distractions. It sets the music free from the boxes. Even the folks who manage the details at the concert hall dim the lights when it is time for the music to begin...nobody complains.

smejias
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


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Having music sound good with teh lights off, seems similar to having to turn the lights off for an ugly girl.

You make the strangest comparisons, DUP.


Quote:
Drinking heavy improves the eperience too don't it?

It might. It might not. It would certainly change the experience. Funny: George Kaye also mentioned drugs. He said, "Drugs will alter your perception." I agree with this.

yohimbe2
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


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"Listening skills," if I understand the phrase the way it appears to be meant, are different from "evaluating skills," which involve playing test recordings and analyzing (read, "taking apart") different equipment set-ups. There are no "listening skills," other than playing music you love at volumes your neighbors will barely tolerate.

Very good point. I should have worded this differently. Yes, I am looking to improve my system evaluation skills. I'm already very good at listening to music. (Lights off etc..) but I'm looking to improve my ability to hear system differences. I would assume that most audio reviewers have some training in this. Am I wrong?

I'd love to sit with a Stereophile reviewer and many different systems and rooms to see if they could demonstrate the differences I may have been missing. In fact, I'd pay for lessons like this.

JasonVSerinus
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

I'm already very good at listening to music. (Lights off etc..) but I'm looking to improve my ability to hear system differences. I would assume that most audio reviewers have some training in this. Am I wrong?

I'd love to sit with a Stereophile reviewer and many different systems and rooms to see if they could demonstrate the differences I may have been missing. In fact, I'd pay for lessons like this.

I can't speak for any other reviewers, but my listening skills are self-acquired. They derive in large part from my experience attending live, unamplified concerts. I believe I address this in a few of my past AWSIs.

A recent example of why I use an unamplified reference. My friend Irene, who ushers frequently at jazz concerts, was over for dinner last night. When we listened to an ECM jazz recording that featured Paul Motian, she complained that the recording was distracting, because she'd never hear all those scratchy little drum sounds in a live, amplified performance. What Irene did not realize is that those drum sounds are central to Motian's technique, and her inability to hear them over a venue's inadequate soundsystem means that she is always yet another step removed from the creator's intention.

How this applies to system listening is that when I sit in a prime orchestra seat, as I will tonight, when I'll hear MTT and Thomas Hampson do songs from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn from the vantage point of seat F104 orchestra center, then hear MTT conduct Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra and Copland's Simple Symphony, I will make a mental note of what instruments and textures and contrasting lines I can hear and cannot hear. I may ask myself, "Can I hear the sounds of individual violins in the mass, or is that something I can only hear on multi-miked recordings?" (Something I've often asked is if I can ever hear the fabled rosin on the bow, and if that's only audible when a mike is hanging directly over a violin). The end result (I hope): better listening skills, both for music and system evaluation.

I need to take Bob Harley's book to the gym and read that chapter while I'm on the eliptical trainer.

jason victor serinus

ethanwiner
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


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Are there any good resources for improving listening skills?


The best way I know of to improve your listening skills is learn to play the violin or some other musical instrument where you directly control the pitch of each note. Even buying a blues harmonica for $15 and learning to play along with some favorite pop tunes will help a lot.

Another useful tool is to buy a DAW (audio editor) program and play around with sample projects many include. There are even free programs you can download. Search Google for "free DAW" and you'll get a bunch of hits. Spending an evening or five playing around with equalizers and compressors on separate tracks (drums, bass, piano, etc) will teach you more about how to listen and what to listen for than 100 years of "just" listening.

--Ethan

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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

How do you know, have you asked someone who has listened for 100 years? you are ASSuming that after 100 years listening is not perfected. Just like the wire arguments, how do you know if you ain't tried? Cus' sometimes ya just do. I have 37 more years of learning, check back with me then, I'll let you know if you where right or not. By then an MF super Duper TT should be about $ 1Billion, without line cords, those are extra.

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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


Quote:

Quote:
Are there any good resources for improving listening skills?


The best way I know of to improve your listening skills is learn to play the violin or some other musical instrument where you directly control the pitch of each note. Even buying a blues harmonica for $15 and learning to play along with some favorite pop tunes will help a lot.

--Ethan

I have been playing lead guitar for many years.(Many bands) My ears are very sensitive to the difference a fresh set of strings sounds compared to strings 30-60 days old. I know exatly what your saying.

It's funny asking questions on these boards. If you ask about the difference between tubes /solidstate, Vinyl/Digital, or silver vs. copper people will offer more articles than you'll ever have time to read. Ask about improving your listening skills and every one scratches their heads... I would imagine that listening (or evaluation skills) would be something everbody could brush up on.

As far as my own listening/evaluation skills go... I've been an audiophile for well over fifteen years and although I'd like to think I'm a very good listener, I still have much to learn. Most of my listening is for enjoyment, (I cured myself of audiophile nervosa and critical listening syndrome years ago) but I'd still like to improve my abilty to review an analyze different systems.

At this point I can hear things like:
Bright/ Warm
Focused/ Blurred (Soundstage)
Dynamic/ Soft...
Musical (like an event)/ hyperdetailed audio fireworks

I was hoping to read some tricks to improve my ways of listening or even to try a new approach that I may have missed. I'm starting to get the feeling, this is not a common question and that there really may not be the answer I was hoping for. I'll read the chapter from The guide to high end audio that people recommend. I'll also have to listen to the great debate about Subjective listening vs. Objective. (I believe is was Atkinson vs some other guy--easily forgettable) I believe someone mentioned training people to listen for A/B testing differences as if it was a learned skill....

ohfourohnine
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

We knew what you meant by "listening skills". Clifton is just being a little stuffy. He gets that way sometimes, but overall, he's worth it.

CECE
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

If you want to improve your listening skills try taking a music appreciation class at a nearby university or community college. That would be a great 1st step.

That should hook you enough to take another , more advanced course.

It is much easier to hear something when you know what to listen for.
An example would be a Bach fugue.

Even when I played a fugue , and thought that I knew it, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I hadn't heard after the counterpoint class.

It can be hard to hear crabwise motion, stretto. augmentation and especially retrograde (the fugue subject played backward) if you don't know what they are and where they occur. Once identified, the ear/brain can hear them and your enjoyment and understanding of the fugue rises to a whole new level.

The pianist, Rubenstein. had a party attended by many famous musicians. Some were bragging about their hearing and R challenged them to name that tune.
He then played it on the piano.
No one got it right. Most thought it was a modern piece they had never heard.

It was Happy Birthday played backward (retrograde)
In their defense, Retrograde is the hardest thing to identify.

If everyone took some music appreciation classes it might hurt the hi end temporarily, people would start to listen more to the music and less to the equipment and enjoy the whole thing more:-)

I say temporary because , even though I am a professional classical musician. I did contract the incurable audiophile virus while a teenager and , at best, it can only go in and out of remission.

There can be two types of ear training: one for music, the other for system analyzing.

Train in both, and you are doomed to bankruptcy :-)

One could argue that it takes a lifetime to become expert, not ten years.

Certainly listening skills can improve even after one is expert.

It does not take ten years to to greatly increase your understanding and enjoyment of music. It is a continuous, lifelong journey. The great thing is that each little step brings great rewards.

jkalman
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Are there any good resources for improving listening skills?


The best way I know of to improve your listening skills is learn to play the violin or some other musical instrument where you directly control the pitch of each note. Even buying a blues harmonica for $15 and learning to play along with some favorite pop tunes will help a lot.

--Ethan

I have been playing lead guitar for many years.(Many bands) My ears are very sensitive to the difference a fresh set of strings sounds compared to strings 30-60 days old. I know exatly what your saying.

It's funny asking questions on these boards. If you ask about the difference between tubes /solidstate, Vinyl/Digital, or silver vs. copper people will offer more articles than you'll ever have time to read. Ask about improving your listening skills and every one scratches their heads... I would imagine that listening (or evaluation skills) would be something everbody could brush up on.

As far as my own listening/evaluation skills go... I've been an audiophile for well over fifteen years and although I'd like to think I'm a very good listener, I still have much to learn. Most of my listening is for enjoyment, (I cured myself of audiophile nervosa and critical listening syndrome years ago) but I'd still like to improve my abilty to review an analyze different systems.

At this point I can hear things like:
Bright/ Warm
Focused/ Blurred (Soundstage)
Dynamic/ Soft...
Musical (like an event)/ hyperdetailed audio fireworks

I was hoping to read some tricks to improve my ways of listening or even to try a new approach that I may have missed. I'm starting to get the feeling, this is not a common question and that there really may not be the answer I was hoping for. I'll read the chapter from The guide to high end audio that people recommend. I'll also have to listen to the great debate about Subjective listening vs. Objective. (I believe is was Atkinson vs some other guy--easily forgettable) I believe someone mentioned training people to listen for A/B testing differences as if it was a learned skill....

You can always try this out. I read most of his book, "Total Recording" and supplimented it with reading much of "The Master Handbook of Acoustics," by F. Alton Everest, and it was all useful information.

Moulton Labs

jkalman
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


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Oh, I totally love listening to music when it's dark. The darkness just makes you focus more on the music.

True, sensory deprivation of one sense will have that effect of heightening other senses. I like the lights dimmed more than off (I'm afraid of the dark... J/K), but unfortunately, my lights make a humming noise the more I lower them without just turning them off, so I actually listen in the dark a lot as well. The truth is, with the lights off, I always risk falling asleep since I don't get enough sleep every night usually.

CECE
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

So deaf people see better, or smell better...well I've seen some pretty stinky deaf people with glasses.

jkalman
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


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So deaf people see better, or smell better...well I've seen some pretty stinky deaf people with glasses.

I'm not sure about deaf people seeing better, but I have watched shows about blind people hearing better and heard about studies concerning the same topic. One child in particular was able to ride a bike even though he was blind. He made clicking sounds and used it as sonar to detect objects around him so he could avoid hitting them on his bike. I've also read that depriving one sense heightens the ones that are still in use (I believe it was in a psychology class, but I don't remember).

jkalman
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

Also, wearing glasses has more to do with genetics (as well as aging sometimes) and the ocular lens moving forward or backward of the position where perfect focus occurs. Wearing glasses doesn't mean that they aren't more visually perceptive of their environment. They probably have to be, and naturally become more visually perceptive because they can't hear the things around them and use those noises as cues about the environment and things moving in that environment.

TJReed
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

Listening in the dark is a must in my opinion. Its the only way to test out changes in you syst.

Robert Deutsch
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills


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Also, wearing glasses has more to do with genetics (as well as aging sometimes) and the ocular lens moving forward or backward of the position where perfect focus occurs. Wearing glasses doesn't mean that they aren't more visually perceptive of their environment. They probably have to be, and naturally become more visually perceptive because they can't hear the things around them and use those noises as cues about the environment and things moving in that environment.

Speaking of glasses... I think it was Jonathan Scull, in one of his Fine Tunes columns, who suggested that taking off your glasses while listening is beneficial--something to do with the diffraction caused by the frame. (Or it could be from the visual impairment that results from not wearing glasses, and compensating by greater attention being paid to the auditory modality.) I haven't noticed a difference myself, but my glasses have a very thin frame. Also, it seems to me that unless you take your glasses off when you're at a live concert as well, then this change in the listening conditions would tend to decrease the fidelity (to use an old-fashioned word) of the reproduced sound.

Bob

CECE
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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

What about large ear rings ...matter of fact musicans wear em' while CREATING the sound, so you should dress like teh performers who originally made the recording!!! I have to listen to ELVIS in a jump suit he wore, too bad they are too expensive now. Beatles stuff, i need a Sgt Pepper uniform? Or the eearly suits they wore? Jonathan Scull is now hyping plastic demagnetizers and anti vibration wall outlets, right? Yupper, he opinion is worthy!!! Creative writing, and an imaginary concept, these absurditys are thrown out, just to further confuse the gulliable. Now some sheister will start selling audio grade eyewear!!! What if long hair covers those glasses, most musicans have long hair, what about SWEAT! JS, is so full on nonsense. Creative writing, imaginary halucinations meant to sell and confuse? Hmmm. Don't listen to Alice cooper, your face paint will interfere.....

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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

DUP, I must have read dozens of your postings in the past few weeks...some are good...this one is very good!

I have been drinking wine for many many years and spending anything from pennies per bottle through to high values, I have read entire bibles on how to taste the stuff, watched years of TV experts telling me how to recognise sublime variations in taste...and guess what...I still get drunk exactly the same as I did all those years ago regardless how much the stuff costs or where I drink it...I just get less of a hangover as I move up the cost per bottle chain - maybe a bit similar to those cave dwellers who invented it...those folks also had two ears, sang songs and thumped tubs also...maybe some of them even listened to the music they made and offered suggestions on how to effect improvements to sound qualities?

All power to your pen there, DUP keep on keeping on!!!

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Re: Learning how to listen...how to improve my skills

This goes with the concept that everything matters to some extent. Of course the glasses will affect the sound in some way, probably very subtly.

Here's an example: Just try listening sometime and put you hands behind your ears as to not interfere as much as possible and take one finger of each hand and tilt your outer ears (pinnae) slightly forward. You'll hear a recognizable change in the sound. It's possible to speculate that slight changes in the pinnae positions from day-to-day or hour-to-hour may affect your judgement of the sonic charater of anything you hear, including reviewing equipment. However, I am not aware of any published data on pinnae positions variations with time and their effects.

It's also possible that different shapes and orientations of pinnae may make each of us experience the sound differently, and lead to different opinions as to whether a particular speaker sounds squawky or smooth in the midrange.

Putting a coffee table in front of your listening couch or chair will reflect sound from speakers, adding one more reflection, and an early one at that. This also changes the sound. I do not have such furniture in front of me in my listening room.

Yes, everything matters, to some extent. How much if affects the listener is up to the individual. I've directly experienced little differences that add up, but in the realm of capacitor upgrades and wiring upgrades in my equipment, leading to stable descriptions of how the sound changed at each step, and the total change at the end.

This is related to listening training. I am able to hear the changes, and clearly describe what changed, while some others cannot hear it. I get comments from guests that just say something to the effect "... your system sounds so clear...".

I think one of the things I do while listening-training is to repeat the same song over-and-over, until I know what it sounds like. Taking that recording to another system, it easy to hear the differences and what the differences are. Analogous to watching a movie the second time, you see more details you missed.

I don't think you have to listen over-and-over-and-over at one sitting; just listening many times over the course of weeks and months work the same way - at least I think it does. You become familiar enough with the sound. Then the tweak or equipment upgrade forces you to hear something different (better?, worse?).

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