Focusing your ears

How come you can shut your eyes but not your ears?

A crucial skill not often discussed by people who work with sound is that of being able to focus your ears… Most people understand the idea of focusing your eyes because we all do it constantly and you especially become conscious of the skill if you have some kind of vision defect/gift such as myopia. But how do you go about focusing your ears?

It seems if you were considering the idea of ‘training’ your ears to detect pitch (if not perfect pitch then relative pitch) then there are plenty of books & courses of study/practice. This is due to history and musical tradition ie you MUST be able to sing/play in tune… So the idea of training your ear to focus on pitch is well known, but what of sonic focus ie to be able to sonically zoom in & focus on a sonic detail?

As an example when we are mixing a film there may well be 100 sonic elements playing at once, all contributing at different relative levels as the scene plays but it sems the ‘trained’ mind has an ability to ‘look’ past all the mass of sound & hear, say, a single glitch or a mistake/imbalance. Or to focus specifically on one element of a background ambience.

Compared with visual focus, it seems sonic focus is psychological – we aren’t altering our ear function to zoom in on a sound. So focusing the ear is more of an aesthetic endeavor than a purely technical one, we are choosing to focus our mind to listen to one aspect of what our ears are hearing… So is this heading into the land of psychoacoustics, cognitive psychology or instinct?

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