I got the idea for this blog article from a podcast I listened to, full disclosure. The podcast also discusses how repeating sounds can have a weird effect on your brain. Link. In any case my intention here is to look at the implications when it comes to making music.
First take a listen to this:
As described in the podcast, it's a little weird, off putting even, how your mind locks into the intonation or tone of the way she says the repeating part of the phrase. You start hearing things completely differently to the first time you heard the phrase in context, even to the point where you hear stuff that isn't there.
So onto the implications when making music, which are pretty obvious. If you are listening to a loop of audio on repeat while you perfect it, you’re not going to hear it the same way as the casual listener. I believe this has a lot to do with why you can get stuck on a tune a lot of the time, you get caught up on a detail that only you can hear but which will barely register with the casual listener.
I notice this particularly when it comes to drum programming. Although drums can certainly have musical qualities about them, I’m willing to bet you have been in a situation where you've been trying to get the EQ, compression, saturation or whatever other processing you might use on drums right, and your brain starts to fill in the blanks so to speak. You start hearing the drums much as you did the intonation of the speech I linked above. I always find a quick fire way to solve this problem can be to either move my listening position while I listen to the drums again, or preferably to take a break and come back a half our later, with a fresh perspective.
It's important to be aware of what's going on here, even if you can't do all that much about it. Particularly with non musical sounds, as described. Otherwise you'll fall into the trap of over processing your sounds and compensating for what's not there through the use of heavy processing, leading to an un-realistic sound and something that can't fit the context of what you are doing.