How did you develop your ear for music?

admin_exported

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Aug 10, 2019
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The language of hifi seems to be very rich and colourful - I could liken it to wine tasting in many ways.

How did you all develop your ear for music and just like wine tasting, are there many out there who pretend to know what they are talking about but don't?!

I grew up with a bass playing dad (who was quite famous for a bit) and in my young days, spent hours in recording studios and was a huge fan of 10CC aged three(!) Years of traipsing around hifi shops, listening to the band setting up and all sorts has led to a reasonable ear for music - I'm asked at gigs (the ones where I know band members) to check the levels and generally asked about sound quality - however this is nothing compared to proper audiophiles who can tell a marked difference just with a change of cabling!

With wine tasting, I've been to a few courses and have a bit of an idea (and get asked to choose the right wine to go with food) but again, it's fairly amateur.

So how did you develop your ear?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I think the exposure I have had to loud music over the years has 'developed' my ears to a degree, or is that damage :))
 

Thaiman

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Jul 28, 2007
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I come from the long line of professional musicain family, my father teach classical in University, mother also use to play for living. I did too and my both of my brother still play.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I don't really understand the question. It's just your brain's reaction to stimuli...
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
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I don't have 'trained' ears. I have never played a musical instrument or worked in the recording industry.

I have heard lots and lots of live music. Everything from pub gigs (acoustic and rock) to large venues like concert halls and churches/cathedrals across a broad spectrum of music from heavy rock to folk and jazz, classical, chamber, full orchestra, cathedral choirs & organ, buskers etc.

A number of friends and colleagues (past and present) have been musical and I have heard them perform in public and private (classical violin, piano, rock groups, folk and electronic keyboards and one or two vocalists.)

I also worked Saturdays and holidays as a sales assistant in a local hifi shop for a couple of years back in the late 1970s when I was a student, so I quickly learnt which combinations of equipment sounded pleasing. (And which didn't!)

I must admit I do cringe a bit when hearing or reading descriptions of hifi (and wine) from experts in magazines and have only found myself agreeing with such descriptions in a minority of cases. I always defer to my own judgement when a magazine reviewer's 'golden ears' assessment is at odds with what I am hearing.

I do not seek a replica of the 'live performance' in my living room. Much (electronic) live music is terribly distorted - compared to a studio recording played through hifi - and the SPL from something like a cathedral organ in full flow would demolish my house! Even sound levels from a vigourous acoustic folk peformance could probably deafen me at typical domestic listening distances over a period of time.

People with no experience of a piano played in a domestic room don't realise it can achieve dynamics (and sound levels) that would defeat 99 percent of consumer hifi's.

Anyway. I drifted a bit there. Suffice to say my experiences of live music are helpful in educating my ears, but only up to a point, when it comes to buying a system. I know what please me but it seldom tallys with the vocabulary used in most magazine reviews and I rarely even have (or want) the same music the reviewer uses.

It must be difficult for reviewers. They not only have to inform but entertain readers. They cannot keep recycling the same vocabulary year in year out. So to some extent they have to keep inventing new phraseology otherwise readers will drift away.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Chebby - that's the sort of answer I was after! Interesting about piano music.

I just sometimes find that we take anything journos write as gospel, yet in some cases, may actually have more experience ourselves (not in my case).

At least with wine you can take courses and train your palette - seems harder with hifi write ups. In many things in life, I have found performance is always too closely linked to price. Get a £10k system and you're bound to be more impressed than listening to a £1k system. Same with cars, MTBs and all sorts of stuff I've been into (and still am) over the years.
 

Big Chris

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Apr 3, 2008
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Basically I listen to and play a hell of a lot of music. I prefer sticking the stereo on than the TV.

When we recorded a few years ago, the guitarist we had at the time believed he had his acoustic in tune, but I told him it was slightly flat. The sound engineer was amazed that a metal drummer could pick up that it was a fraction of a fraction out, he hadn't noticed it himself until I'd brought his attention to it. I disagreed with him about it. I said it can't be "a fraction" or "slightly" out. Out is out.

I just picked this stuff up over the years. I can tell you if a note's flat or sharp, but I can't tell you what note it is!

:)
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Interesting topic.

I have no musical training, can't sing and don't play an instrument. I amy even be tone deaf. (end of disclaimer)!


However I know what I like in terms of genre and I can tell the difference between MP3 and uncompressed audio. For me it's about clarity of the sound I hear. I like to be able to pick out the sound of a single instrument in a recording and listen to it. I like to do the same at live gigs sometimes as well. Most lo fi equipment tends to homoginise the sound and make it hard to do this. It also introduces some distortion which makes listening even harder. I'd go as far as to say tiring. I am talking about listening hear as opposed to having music on in the background which I also do a lot. If it's background music I'm happy to have it playing back via the computer speakers but I would never do this for serious listening.

So it is a bit like wine tasting (I do enjoy a good wine and probably spend relatively more on wine than I do on Hi Fi if you see what I mean) The similarity extends quite a long way for me. For example if I'm at a barbacue and there is a lot of chat and food and fun then I don't notice the wine quality so much (like with background music). If I'm sitting down to a good meal I will concentrate on the wine more (bit like having a mate round and playing a new CD for them) and if I'm tasting wine I'll concentrate fully on it and attempt to deconstruct and describe the taste. (bit like sitting down alone and seriously listening to a piece of music).

Also like wine my expertise runs out at a certain level. For example with good red wines then much over £50 per bottle and I can't really tell the difference in quality of the wine. My palete will not allow me to judge that one wine is worth more than another. Same with HiFi over a certain (quite low for me) price point I stop hearing any quality difference. I can still hear, up to a point, tonal differences, I can appreciate the warmer quality that valves clearly bring to the sound for example but I cease to hear improvements in quality of reproduction. I struggle (using a given recording) to hear the bigger soundstage or greater separation or tighter bass for example. Speakers are a bit of an exception to this where I can tell the difference in fidelity and separation as you (usually) go further up the price range.

I also think as with all things in life a law of dimiishing returns operates. You have mentioned both wine and cars - both topics which interest me. Cars are a great example of the diminishing returns theory. At what price point can you actually tell the difference in your chosen type of car. Is a Bentley for example 5 times better than a big Jaguar? Is the £200 bottle of wine 4 times better than the £50 bottle? I personally would not choose to own either car at the moment and If I did it would be the jag. I much prefer the roadster I currently drive (sunny days and special occasions) because it fulfils the desire I have for that type of car. But then for day to day tooling about and dog transport my trusty Honda CRV is hard to beat. (excepting the std sound system is woeful.) I think it's the same with sound systems after a point the cost of the "improvement" is out of all proportion to it's overall effect on my enjoyment of the music.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Welshboy - I think we think along similar lines!

I also don't "get" MP3s and ipods much to the amazement of others who think they know their musical quality. What amazes me even more is those who hook their PC/laptop to the stereo and think they have a quality sounds system - yet the source is a poor quality soundcard! Yes it can be done properly but at huge expense.

Never really thought more cost = more fun with cars. Having owned a fairly nice Golf R32 (fastish, grippy, looked nice but heavy) and other "interesting" cars yet driven seriously expensive kit (thanks to inlaws with a few bob and the odd review for mags/papers I've written) and not really preferred either. I've had just as much fun in a £15k MR2 as I've had in a £110k Ferrari.

What with fun cars now being socially unacceptable (!) we now run a quickish but not all that interesting diesel estate car and a very slow but very capable little 4x4. Petrolhead fun is now limited to our little speed boat!
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Surf Matt:
Welshboy - I think we think along similar lines!

I also don't "get" MP3s and ipods much to the amazement of others who think they know their musical quality. What amazes me even more is those who hook their PC/laptop to the stereo and think they have a quality sounds system - yet the source is a poor quality soundcard! Yes it can be done properly but at huge expense.

Not really a £90 DAC can equal a £500 cd player, so if you already have a computer, I figure that a saving of £410..ÿ
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I'd be suprised if the quality really was "equal" but happy to be proved wrong.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Surf Matt:I'd be suprised if the quality really was "equal" but happy to be proved wrong.

Happy to prove you wrongÿ

You should see what a £600 DAC will do, try £2000+ cd player, as long as you have lossless files. Don't forget that a HDD is more accurate at reading data than any transport, then pass that signal digitally to DAC, what's the problem?
 

John Duncan

Well-known member
Jan 8, 2008
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Big Chris:I said it can't be "a fraction" or "slightly" out. Out is out.

Not quite true, but I understand what you're getting at. Google "tempered tuning".

jd
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Fine. I still prefer CDs and vinyl though


I'd be suprised if many actually use a DAC though - most just connect direct.

My cousin is a guitar player but runs all his CDs through his DVD player into terrible surround sound speakers - he should know better!
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Surf Matt:
I'd be suprised if many actually use a DAC though - most just connect direct.

Whilst most do still use cd/turntable, there's a slow trickle of converters. You never know one day you might too!ÿ
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Octopo:

Surf Matt:I'd be suprised if the quality really was "equal" but happy to be proved wrong.

Happy to prove you wrong


You should see what a £600 DAC will do, try £2000+ cd player, as long as you have lossless files. Don't forget that a HDD is more accurate at reading data than any transport, then pass that signal digitally to DAC, what's the problem?
I don't think there is much doubt that you can store music on and play it quite successfully from hard disc. My original comment about MP3 and I think Surf Matt's reply was about the fact that it's a lossy or compressed format and like all formats of this type you do lose something. I am sure using FLAC or similar lossless file storage and a good DAC you can get excellent quality of reproduction but would that hold true playing MP3 back via the PC's on-board sound card into the average HiFi?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
If anything you are actually gaining something using lossless computer files. Like I said the data will be stored and read more accurately from a hard disk than from a CD in real time. Provided the DAC is sufficient the detail that can be revealed is mind boggling.

Surf Matt's comments seemed to be referring to people who aren't into hi-fi and so would probably have say a £100cd/£100 amp?

With a LAME mp3 encoded at 192kpbs, I'd stake my house on the fact a £100 Beresford DAC would beat the cd player.ÿ
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Yep - I'm talking about 99% of people who think having 34333434526 songs on a tiny player rigged to some awful speakers/headphones is the be all and end all yet seem to "forget" that the quality is utterly hopeless - yet don't mind one bit.

I'd rather have 10 CDs and a have decent system.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Surf Matt:
Yep - I'm talking about 99% of people who think having 34333434526 songs on a tiny player rigged to some awful speakers/headphones is the be all and end all yet seem to "forget" that the quality is utterly hopeless - yet don't mind one bit.

I'd rather have 10 CDs and a have decent system.ÿ

This statement explains exactly why this argument won't reach a conclusion. For people who don't care about quality it doesn't matter!ÿ
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Ahh yes but many think they know all about them though. When looking around for my (rather modest) system, I asked advise and many thought an ipod or mp3 playerwould be the bees knees as a source and were bemused when I suggested that to get proper sound, you need a proper amp and source.

Anyway, banal schoolyard stuff in the world of hifi but amazing how many think they know all about it then suggest an ipod with a docking speaker system is all that anyone ever needs....
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I have tried iPod -----> Wadia i170 Transport -------> Cyrus DAC-X

This beats extremely expensive CD players, using WAV/Lossless files on the iPod, and this is essentially an iPod with a docking station!!
 

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