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Equipping Your Home Recording Studio - A free download from Audio Masterclass

An Introduction to Equalization - A free download from Audio Masterclass

An Introduction to Compression: Basic Compression - A free download from Audio Masterclass

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Do you have 'Perfect EQ'?

Some people have perfect pitch. They can tell you the letter name of any musical note instantly. So do some people also have 'perfect EQ'?


You know how some people have perfect pitch - they can name any musical note instantly? I don't have perfect pitch and that's something I'm thankful for. I can see the usefulness of it, but I can also imagine significant drawbacks.

I like to listen to music and, free from perfect pitch, I don't have to worry about musical theory, what key the music is in, and whether the musicians are tuned to concert pitch or military band pitch. I can imagine that a listener with perfect pitch hears more of the problems than the wondrous sonorities on offer.

My point is however that there is no way I can ever understand what it's like to have perfect pitch. I can never know how music really does sound to such a person. And they can't understand how music sounds to me either. If they listen to me play, they might realize that I've tuned my instrument a quarter-tone sharp, where I wouldn't know without a reference. But they might not hear the interactions between harmonies the way I do, because I'm not aware of the exact pitches of the individual notes.

But it struck me recently that it might be possible for someone to have such a thing as 'perfect EQ'.

The classic scenario would be where a certain instrument in the mix seems to need a mid-band EQ cut, but most recordists would have to sweep the frequency control to find the right frequency, then fine-tune the gain and Q. Granted, the more experience you have, the quicker this process becomes, and in a sense it can become almost automatic. But I suspect it is a rare person who can listen to a sound and know exactly what EQ it needs, then set that EQ without the need for further adjustment.

But are there such people? Do people exist who can sense the spectrum of an audio signal directly and without thinking about it, like people with perfect pitch sense notes?

That's one question, but there's another...

Suppose that an engineer doesn't have 'perfect EQ', and some people do. What do those people think of that engineer's work? Does it sound like a jumble of frequencies to them?

By the way, I can tell you that perfect pitch isn't always what it's cracked up to be. I once knew an amateur cello player who had an acute sense of perfect pitch. His playing was always out of tune though. Somehow there's a distinction between what you want to hear and what you actually do hear!

P.S. I am totally convinced that success in recording is not down to the quality of your hearing but the degree of attention you pay to what you are listening to. So not having perfect pitch, or 'perfect EQ', is nothing to worry about!

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By David Mellor Tuesday May 3, 2011
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