In the early years of work we are obsessed, so obsessed with tools that they become the focus of our attention. The desire to acquire the best tools, to master them and use them drives us forward. So much so that we over use them. We over process sounds in order to make them “ours.” We pan too many sounds, use too much artificial reverb, remove so much of the noise that we take the life out of what isn’t noise.
It’s interesting, I think, that twenty or thirty years into our careers our obsession with tools has usually waned, especially those of us lucky enough to have become somewhat successful. We use fewer tools. We spend much less time thinking about them. No doubt part of the reason is that we eventually have assistants who can do our tool obsessing for us. But I think that’s a minor reason.
The major reason is that our ears have learned to serve us better. Instead of being intent on controlling everything with our gadgets we get better at knowing what needs and doesn’t need to be manipulated. Maybe even more important, we get better at hearing the sounds coming from behind us. I’m not talking about the surrounds. I mean our clients, our collaborators. We hear more clearly what they say, and sense better what they don’t say but nevertheless feel, and want.
The ear is a tool worthy of obsession at every point in our careers.