Why "Use Your Ears" is the Worst Advice Ever

Author/Source: Bjorgvin Benediktsson

You know what the worst audio advice ever is?

It's "use your ears."

Do you know why?

Because it's empty advice with no actionable steps.

"Use Your Ears" is actually a garbage cop-out when it's given without any context or actionable steps.

It's similar to other empty advice like:

  • "Exercise and you'll be skinny"
  • "Buy low, sell high!"
  • "Go to college and you'll get a job!"
  • "Just hit a home run and you'll play the Majors!"

If the only step to learning audio was "use your ears" we'd all have a Grammy right?

Experienced engineers are able to use their ears much better than beginners because they've learned how to use them.

The common advice goes that "if it sounds good, it is good" but we often leave out the fact that as a beginner, you don't know whether it sounds good to begin with. That's when "using your ears" doesn't get you anywhere.

Beginners don't know what to listen for. They don't know if they're doing the right things so they have to rely on actionable advice and guidelines.

Using Your Ears When EQ'ing

Let's take EQ'ing as an example:

EQ advice follows a fairly specific template.

There are things that usually work so it's easiest to create articles and advice on those tips.

However, as you know, mixing music is really subjective so it's hard to give "umbrella" advice that works for every single track.

That's when the whole "use your ears" advice actually does come in handy.

It's more an overall strategy than a tactic you can use right away.

You always use your ears; it really goes without saying. But having some tactics on how to get to a place in your mix when your ears go:

Yep...that's how I want it to sound!

That's what's actually important.

Most of the time, the traditional EQ advice is great, as long as it aligns with what your ears are telling you.

Keep that in mind whenever you're mixing. Any advice is good as long as it helps you achieve what you want to achieve. If it doesn't, do the opposite.

To read more from Bjorgvin Benediktsson, visit Audio Issues.

Ash Matthews