WRITTEN BY KATIE MAYNARD
SOUND EFFECTS EDITOR, BOOM BOX POST
It’s easy to fall into the habit of working so often that you forget to practice and develop your skills on your own time. For anyone in the audio field, this might be ear training. For this Lunch and Learn, we’re going to explore some of the features of the online ear training program SoundGym.
SoundGym is a free or paid membership and can be accessed with an online account. All you have to do to begin is sign up with an email or Facebook. I’m going to focus on the paid membership since there are more resources to learn from, however, I think the free membership to SoundGym is also extremely beneficial. There are eleven games to choose from with training that will tune your ear to notice small dB changes, panning, several EQ effects, filters, distortion, reverb, and compression. The reason SoundGym stands out in my opinion is that everything is presented in the form of a game. It’s fun, and a very easy way to start ear training as a beginner.
The most helpful game I’ve encountered on the site is ‘Dr. Compressor.’ The game allows you to hear one file that is compressed, and the same file uncompressed. I had a loose understanding of what compression did to the sound of a file, and through playing the game I started to notice things such as attack and release time relative to the uncompressed. ‘Pan Man’ is a good game if you’re using headphones or sitting perfectly in the middle of your speakers. If you aren’t, you will be shocked how wildly off your guess truly was. This game operates on a slider that allows you to choose a precise location, rather than a multiple choice game.
There are several differences between the paid membership and the free one. The paid version gets you all eleven games, more personalized training, additional statistics about your ears relative to the average user, and an unlimited amount of playing time per day. The unpaid version gets you five games total, but only access to three per day. You do not get to choose which three. In my opinion, you have to be really invested in ear training to want to play more than three games per day. That could take anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. The upgrade is very helpful if you want to spend more time training and understanding EQ, Delay, Distortion, or Reverb, as these are not included in the five free games.
There are other tools and ‘extras’ on SoundGym that should be noted, such as the Audio School, video tutorials, and in-depth statistics. The statistics show how you compare to other users, the average person, and yourself over time. You can also be tested for what your frequency hearing capabilities are. The audio school is included in the free membership, and includes collections of tutorials ranging anywhere from ten to forty hours. There are also additional shorter video tutorials about audio concepts such as side-chain compression, vocal mixing, and parallel compression.
Ultimately ear training is something I’ve not spent enough time doing, but is so important to help tune your ear to notice more than it presently does. Whether you decide to play one game a week or twenty, SoundGym has been an incredibly helpful tool in my own experience. Let us know if you use ear training, and what you like to use!