Want to seriously improve your listening skills? Here is a great exercise that you can easily set-up in your home recording studio.
1.) First, prepare some audio files you are currently working with. Any complete song will do whether it is already mastered or not. Open it with your favorite recording software or DAW.
2.) Now that you can see the audio wave, select at most 15 seconds of audio from it typically starting at the chorus section of the song.
3.) Copy that 15 seconds audio as another wav file, then save it as original.wav. Make sure to save it at highest resolution as possible: 24-bit, 96Khz.
4.) Now open original.wav, you need to create 9 audio files out of it using different EQ settings. Create these files with the applied EQ setting:
Boost 1dB at 50Hz
Boost 2dB at 50Hz
Boost 3dB at 50Hz
Boost 1dB at 2000Hz
Boost 2dB at 2000Hz
Boost 3dB at 2000Hz
Boost 1dB at 12500Hz
Boost 2dB at 12500Hz
Boost 3dB at 12500Hz
So you have 9 audio files with different audio file name and 9 distinct EQ settings applied to it.
5.) Put these 9 files in a Windows media player or any wav player that you use. Enable shuffle for playback. Include original.wav in the playlist which are not applied with any EQ. Listen to the original.wav very carefully until you fully understand how it really sounds like. Remove original.wav in the playlist after listening to it.
6.) Start the test by listening to each audio files and guess the file name based on the EQ adjustments applied (without looking at filename in the playlist). For example if the bass sounds too much as compared to the original. Then it must be original_3.wav.
Just before completing the 15 seconds clip, take a look at the file name being played and check if you correctly guess it.
What you will learn from this exercise?
This is to check how accurate are your ears in perceiving small changes in the frequency response which are important in becoming a successful mixing or mastering engineer.
The most difficult test are those that have only +1dB adjustments. Do this everyday and you will be amazed how this will contribute in improving your listening skills.
You can even re-do the test by creating new set of audio files now implemented with cutting instead of boosting.