An audio engineer is responsible for the operation of the soundboard and other equipment in the recording of music, words, sounds, or any combination of such material. There are several types of engineering positions available in today’s studios. In large studios, there are usually several engineers, each with the own duties and contributions. There are recording engineers, recording assistants, set-up engineers, maintenance engineers, and even mix-down engineers in some cases. In smaller studios the engineer is usually responsible for all of these duties.
As a rule, the engineer should be able to set-up, use, and fix the equipment they work with. In the studio, the recording engineer has to prepare for the recording sessions by setting up the necessary equipment, run the equipment during the session, and break down afterwards. While this sounds all too simple, one must remember that the engineer must work with the producer and the act to achieve the sound they’re looking for, as well as troubleshoot any technical problems. This is not always a smooth process.
The engineer must employ both creative and technical skills, applying their knowledge and experience to helping create music in collaboration with the artist and producer. There are many degree programs offered by schools around the world, leaving the prospective recording engineer with several routes of training. One method of receiving training in the audio engineering field is through short course and seminars. While these serve only as an introduction to the field by themselves, they are also instrumental in keeping professionals abreast with current trends and technologies affecting the industry.
Such seminars are also a great source of networking for the professional. Short courses and seminars are an excellent way of supplementing a one or two-year program to enter the field. These schools tend to concentrate on the actual usage and maintenance of studio equipment. Hands-on experience and intensive exposure to the equipment is an advantage of such a program. Most offer considerable job placement services as well. Trade or occupational schools are a good choice if someone wishes to someday become a recording engineer. A student may also choose to attend a university or college and pursue a four-year degree in audio engineering.
Most of these programs not only stress the importance of technical studio training, but also emphasize other areas of instruction as well. These can include courses in physics, acoustics, music theory and performance, mathematics, and electrical engineering. The greater and more in depth than a student’s education is, the better the chance of climbing to the top of the career ladder. These programs can be quite intense, and some even highly competitive. Another method of obtaining an education is by convincing a studio to take you on as an intern, with training in lieu of compensation.
This seems to be a long, hard route, but one should remember that the recording industry is fairly young, and some of the greatest engineers received no formal schooling, learning as the technology was created. . After training or schooling has been received, there are a few ways that might get you in the door and working for a studio. 1) Offer your services for free (or next to) to a studio to learn the business. 2) Check what seminars are being offered for Recording Engineers and go. Contacts can be made and learn more about the business.
3) Check with record companies for availability of internships. ) Knock on every studio door in town. Just get involved, stay informed, do whatever you can to break-in and work. It may take a while to get in the door, but once you do, as long as you’re talented, work hard, and persevere your career should advance. Engineers have a choice of three main routes as far as advancement goes. Some advance up the large studio ladder, and become Chief Engineer of a studio, overseeing all operations in the studio. Others may become freelance engineers. There is a lot of money to be made in the freelance business.
Often times, large record labels, top groups, and producers will seek out reputable, successful engineers and sometimes really good engineers will receive a share of royalties, (as well as the producer). Another possible option is to become an engineer-producer, maybe with your own private studio, where you are the engineer as well as the producer of your projects. The employment outlook in the recording industry is limited to fair chances of employment in the field. This is due largely in part to the limited number of studios versus the number of trained students.
The fast growth pace of the technology in the industry places increasingly greater demands for entry-level employment. Competition in the engineering field is very high. Jobs are in small number, and more and more people have access to appropriate education for entry into the field. The annual income of an audio engineer can range from $12,000 at an entry-level position to upwards of $125,000+ for top positions. Remember too that successful freelance engineering is very lucrative. Not only can the reputable freelance demand higher pay, but may also share in the royalties of a particularly successful project.
There a few things that one needs to consider before choosing to pursue a career in audio engineering. A recording engineer often has to work long, irregular hours. An engineer must also be able to work well under extreme pressure. It also helps if the engineer has a good musical ear, as well as an appreciation of music. Naturally, it helps to be fairly adept technically and electronically. If you feel like this is you, and you can handle working for a long time without reward (hopefully not too long), then a career in audio engineering could be for you.