I read an article the other day that took a jab at the popular advice to “trust your ears.”

I get it. On the surface, it’s not super helpful advice.

But it gets at something deeper, something a lot of people don’t talk about (or don’t want to talk about).

When you ask me what EQ moves to use on your vocal track, it’s one of those questions that really can’t be answered, not unless I’m sitting next to you in your studio, listening to the vocal along with everything else in the track.

The problem is that it’s a lazy question. It assumes that there’s a shortcut to getting good recordings and mixes. “If only I did X, Y, and Z, I’d never have to put forth any effort into making music ever again!!”

Doesn’t work that way, home slice. If it did, everyone would be really good at this.

It’s kind of like the assumption that goes something like this: “If I own the exact same plugins as Chris Lord Alge, I’ll mix like Chris Lord Alge.”

No you won’t, pumpkin. He mixes that way because he’s Chris Lord Alge. He’s got more experience than you. He’s spent a lifetime developing his ears.

Anyway, I think the bigger problem here is that people want to learn techniques rather than do the hard work of developing their ears.

Instead of asking, “How do you EQ a vocal?” what if you asked, “What does a good vocal SOUND like?” Study good vocal performances and mixes. Become intimately familiar with what they sound like.

You can’t reach the destination if you don’t know where the destination is. That’s like asking someone for directions without telling them where you want to go.

You’ve got to develop your ears, your taste. And you’ve got to decide what YOU think sounds good.

Your ears and taste will evolve over time. Like all good things, it takes time and work. If you’re not willing to put in the time and work, I’d suggest taking up another hobby.

Joe Gilder
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