One of the tougher things to teach young sound engineers is EQ. Not the concept of what the knobs do, but where and when do to it. Learning to identify frequencies is tricky business, and it takes time and experience to learn it well. Often times, I’ll be doing some training and demonstrate a cut at particular frequency and someone will ask, “How did you know it was 450 Hz?”
My answer is usually, “Well, I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I’ve learned some things along the way.” As I’m EQ’ing channels, I always pay attention to what frequency I end up at, so I can note it for later reference. I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years, but I always strive to get better. The challenge has been, how?
Recently I was introduced to a program called Quiztones. When I first heard about it, I thought it was just what it sounded like; an application that plays tones and you have to guess what they are. Useful, but perhaps boring. Then I actually tried it.
Now, keep in mind, I’m not a big gamer, but I found myself instantly addicted to the “game.” At first, I started off with the tones. You pick a quiz level, and the app plays a sine wave tone, then presents you with four possible choices. Pick the right one and you get 100 points. Get it right on the second guess, get 50 points, and so on.
Suddenly, there are points involved and you need to choose carefully! Then I started digging a little more and discovered that they also have a whole variety of samples of everything from instruments to voices. You can choose from easy (+10 dB) EQ boosts, hard (+5 or -10 dB) or expert (+6 dB but at 1/3 octave). Again, it’s surprisingly addictive.
If found myself doing two things; first playing it over and over trying to best my score, and second, getting better each time I played. We talk all the time about getting better at our craft. I think learning frequencies and being able to identify them quickly is one thing that makes you a better engineer (not the only thing, but it’s a component).
It’s available at Audiofile Engineering’s website, and for iOS devices at the iOS App store. On the Mac, it’s $19.99. For iOS, it’s $4.99. Think of all the times you have an extra 5-10 minutes when you could pop in your ears with your phone and improve your mixing skills. It’s not a bad deal…