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Audio Production and Critical Listening: Technical Ear Training (Book Review) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
ImageEar training is one of the most important aspects that is lacking in today's recording programs.  Only a handful actually take the time to train the ear in addition to teaching the technical aspects.  When I heard that this book was coming my way I was excited at the prospect of a book that attempts to ear train.  Just like a musician must (should) train his or her ear to each note and whether it is flat or sharp, etc., a recording engineer should be able to detect signal processing, space and time.

Unfortunately, this is not the case usually.  Jason Corey's "Audio Production and Critical Listening" is an attempt to rectify this oversight.  It is my sad duty to report that is fails on must accounts.

The majority of the book (which is not that long) simply talks about signal processing setups and aspects.  This is something that is dealt with in nearly every mixing handbook out there.  Brief moments at the end of each chapter deal with the idea of training the ear.  Each chapter contains a section on how to use the accompanying CD to "train the ear."  More on this in a moment.

The book contains seven chapters.  Chapter one is a simple introduction to sound and different reproduction systems.  The second chapter begins to describe equalization and balance.  Chapter three is an analysis of space and reverb.  Chapter four delves into compressors/limiters and expanders/gates.  Chapter five is about distortion/noise including clicks and hum.  The sixth chapter is extremely brief and describes the simple matter of audio edit points.  The final chapter analyzes sound from the perspective of dynamics, spatial placement, and multichannel.
This final chapter contains the most interesting section, which is a brief examination of some real songs for ear training.  But it is brief and not enough to make up for the other aspects that this book lacks.

The accompanying CD is a data disc that doesn't contain much.  First, the structure of the disc is poor.  You must dive into the subfolder structure of the disc to get to the actual program files.  There are no instructions as to where to navigate and what to run.  The readme file simply states that this is a Windows/Mac disc and some Windows users may have trouble running the files.  First, the disc should have been compiled with an autorun sequence.  Second, the disc should have been split-level, meaning that one layer should load if put into a Windows machine and another layer for the Mac machine.  As it stands the disc simply has files all over the place.

The programs on the disc are built in Max 5.  Unfortunately for myself none of the Max 5 compilations would run on my G5 PPC (despite that fact that the readme say that my machine and OS are compatible).  In the Mac folder there are two more folders that are simply labeled "MacOSX" and "Mac."  First I attempted the "MacOSX" folder, which contained icons that were crossed out, indicating that they wouldn't run on my machine.  The folder should have been labeled "Mac_Intel" as that is what these files are meant for.  The other Mac folder contained files that looked like they would run.  However, after the icon bounces in the doc for a while I simply get a message that there was an unexpected error or perhaps the architecture is not supported.  Whatever the problem, the disc should be pre-compiled to avoid any compatibility issues.

So, I am sorry to say that I cannot comment as to how the Max 5 files help ear training as they would not run on the computer that I have.  However, from the book's indications, the Max 5 programs are simply built like a plugin allowing you to play with the settings after they have been described in the book.  Unfortunately, this is not ear training.  Anyone with a DAW can do this with plugins.  Ear training requires audio files with varying changes on different degree scales.

So, my conclusion is that this book has some good technical info about how plugins work, but is simply not an ear training book.  My conclusion stands regardless of whether I was able to the get the CD to work or not.  I would avoid this book.

"Audio Production and Critical Listening: Technical Ear Training" + Data CD
Written by: Jason Corey
Published April 2010
Focal Press (a division of Elsevier)
175 pages

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