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How attention changes your perception

Broadly speaking, there are 2 listening styles we can engage in: Synthetic and Analytic listening. Synthetic listening is when we listen to our surroundings as a whole. Analytic listening is when we start to pay closer attention to individual sounds that contribute to our surroundings. Most common example of this would be listening to one person speak in a room where lots of other people are speaking. The vast majority of people switch between these 2 listening styles subconsciously.

Writing, producing, mixing or mastering a song is an analytic process to create a synthetic experience. Most people listen to the song as a whole, not just certain pieces of the song. When creating music we switch between listening modes as we write parts and solo different elements. The tricky bit is that Analytic listening changes how we hear a sound, even when we recontextualize it by writing more parts or un-soloing the track.

So how do we overcome our brain working against us? By practicing our craft and learning to work faster. The more time we spend listening analytically, the more permanent the analytic experience becomes in our brain.

Here are some ways to get better at this today!

  • Try not to work in solo when you can. Make it sound the way you want while it’s blended with everything. Everyone else will hear your song with all the parts together anyway.
  • Take listening breaks and change your listening perspective. Turn your chair sideways/backwards, listen from another room, go for a walk outside. Anything to let your ears rest and reset.
  • Avoid excessive listening for enjoyment while you create.