The First Listen of the Day

Recently I wrote about how our body is good at adjusting to make things we hear repeatedly, sound normal.  In the same way that as can cause a skewed frequency response to sound balanced, it can also desensitize us to things that don’t sound good.  For this reason, I find that the first time you listen to your work in the day, is really good for identifying things that maybe sounded right yesterday, but are actually wrong (in the cold light of day! 🙂 ).  For me this affects numerous elements of tracks, but the two most common are…

  • Instrument or percussion parts which sounded OK yesterday, but don’t fit, or just sound wrong on the first listen
  • After a mixing session where parts which seemed to fit properly yesterday, are way too loud

For that reason, I find that it’s critical to pay attention to your instincts during the first listen of the day.  Don’t be afraid to make seemingly excessive changes based on your ‘first listen’ instincts, even if you’re deviating far from decisions you made the previous day (I find this often happens during the mixing phase, where I agonised over differences of a fraction of a decibel the previous day, and end up cutting the whole part several dBs based on the first listen).

If you don’t act based on those instincts, it’s amazing how quickly those ‘wrong’ things start sounding right again, and as a consequence might end up sounding ‘wrong’ to a listener who’s hearing your track for the first time.

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