When you're listening to your favourite music, whether by streaming it or watching performers play live, you'll generally sit back with a feeling of admiration or appreciation for the band or artists, and you can't help but yelling "Wow, I LOVE THIS".
Looking at the 'behind the scenes' creation of a song - the recording and mixing a project - it's important to have the ability to break the song down sonically to evaluate everything that's happening. When we need to break things down, we are practising both critical and analytical listening techniques during this important phase of music production. We sat down with Audio Engineering Professional Rob Care to get his insight on the difference between Critical versus Analytical Listening.
Let's take a further look into each technique and why they are different!
Critical listening incorporates focusing on the technical aspects of the sound. Physical details of the music such as frequency response, dynamic range, tone, and how the instruments all blend together are all factors.
For example, understanding that the frequency content in the kick drum recording can possibly conflict and cause a disturbance with the bass guitar recording as a result of both instruments sharing a very similar space in the frequency spectrum, we are practising critical listening.
Analytical listening is focused more on the interpretation and meaning of the actual sound. The message of the song and even the way a vocal line has been delivered, share common traits of analytical listening. Understanding the mood that the song is setting out to portray is another analytical listening trait.
For instance, an up-tempo rock song is going to give off a particular feel to the audience, whereas a softer acoustic ballad will portray a different feeling altogether.
Although this concept is explained as a separate entity, it is not uncommon for both of these practices to happen simultaneously and most times subconsciously.