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Dynamic Range Controller Ear Training: Improving Critical Listening Skills through Computer-Assisted Practice.
For a professional audio engineer to work efficiently they must develop their critical listening skills. This involves highly focused listening, paying special attention to the technical features of the recorded sound. Many audio engineering training courses make use of technical ear training programs that aim to efficiently develop students’ critical listening skills. The goals are to teach students to hear minute changes in the sound of audio processors, to develop a long-term auditory memory for the various intensities of the processes, and to associate changes heard with the controls on the equipment. Several educators and researchers have developed training tools for equalizers, used to modify the spectrum of a signal, but little work has been done on another important category of signal processors: dynamic range controllers.
Dynamic range controllers, a key part of the audio production process, are used to increase or decrease the dynamic range of a recording through automatic volume adjustments. A technical ear training software application was built to focus on dynamic range controllers and used to train eight graduate students from the Sound Recording area at McGill University. The student training data was analyzed to measure improvement within the training environment. In addition, a listening test was administered before and after training to examine student improvement on a related listening task. The listening test was designed to examine the likelihood that skills learned in the training environment could be transferred to their everyday work. This work was conducted to answer two questions. Can technical ear training be used to teach students to hear dynamic range processing? Can these learned skills be transferred to practical applications in the field?
Denis Martin is a researcher, course instructor, audio engineer, producer, and percussionist with diverse interests and expertise. Denis is a PhD candidate in the Sound Recording area at McGill University, holds a M.Mus. in Sound Recording from McGill, and a B.Mus in Percussion Performance from Acadia University. His research interests include critical listening, technical ear training, perceptual evaluation of audio playback formats and recording techniques, production techniques in popular music, and contemporary percussion recording.