Recording Tip 31: Alcohol of almost any kind will mess up your hearing, especially on the top end.

2/3/2012 4:25:00 AM
By David Schober
This tweet has generated a lot of reaction and questions. Some of the comments were quite funny, and some more serious, asking if I meant permanent hearing damage. While of course heavy, long term abuse of alcohol can result in any number of negative outcomes, all I really meant was that whenever I’ve had a drink, I notice my hearing suffers.

Beer probably has the least effect...wine and hard liquor more so. What I find is when I have something to drink, the top end of my hearing goes away to some degree, and what remains sounds odd. Of course, that makes things like mixing a bad idea when one imbibes. Critical listening is pretty difficult when that’s going on, so when mixing, I refrain from even wine at dinner, much less anything else.

Now when it comes to editing, tuning, etc. where critical listening isn’t a factor, alcohol may only play a role in good judgement. You may approve things but when listening the next day wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?” It could be that you approved something awful....or perhaps you were loose enough to have an inspired idea! More times than not though, it won’t be the latter.

I’m certainly not advocating drinking while working, but certainly it happens. My advice is to be aware and know your tolerance. When in doubt, don’t! Especially if you need to drive home.

I’ll finish with a funny story I was told that happened here in Nashville a number of years ago. There was a country singer attempting to track a song with a full band. They’d been working all day and well into the evening on a little country waltz. Drinks were flowing freely and they were hard at it without success. For some reason, they couldn’t get the song to feel right. Finally around 4 AM, they had a track they were happy with and they all staggered home.  

Of course, it wasn’t 'til early afternoon or so when they returned to the studio and pulled up the track they’d worked on so hard. They began listening and after a minute, the producer stopped the playback with a funny look on his face. “Play back the demo,” he said. The assistant played back the demo and the producer yelled, “STOP!!! What the #$^%#!!!" He then realized why they’d had such a hard time with the song. The demo was a ¾ waltz; however, their 4 AM track was a 4/4 two step! Sometime during the night, the entire band added an extra beat to the bar and totally changed the song....and no one noticed!  

I guess Jack Daniels isn’t much of a fan of the waltz!

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