Sound engineers may be also be referred to as recording or audio engineers.
The job-related responsibilities of these titles may vary. Sound engineers can manage sound for live shows like concerts or plays, record and produce in a recording studio, and manage sound for TV, radio, and film. If you want to be a sound engineer, it is recommended that you find a sound engineer to observe, assist, and take any opportunity to work with sound equipment that you can. Earning a certificate or degree may help you land a role as a sound engineer. A few key characteristics of an audio engineer are, being flexible, having strong interpersonal skills, and perseverance.
Gaining Hands-On Experience
Observe sound engineers at work.
Visit a local venue that has live music, or the sound booth at a playhouse, and watch what the sound person does. Pay close attention to the how things are set up, run and maintained. Watch how the house engineer communicates and interacts with various people. Take note of when they adjust volumes and what the results they achieve.
Many churches have quality sound systems and someone who is running them, so this could be a great place to watch and learn.
Inquire with sound engineers to see if there’s any way for you to help. The music industry revolves around connections and getting the proverbial foot in the door.
When you track down a sound engineer, don’t be afraid to ask if there something you can do, even something as simple as taping cables down. You can start to build these relationships, which could possibly lead to more consistent involvement.
People will tell you no.
Perhaps they feel you’ll be in the way. That is entirely possible, but you can be persistent and tell them you just want to help and will stay out of the way. It’s important to note that there is definitely a time to give up and ask someone else. There’s a difference between being persistent and being a pest. Don’t be a pest.
If you find yourself at a venue and people are setting things up, ask if you can lend a hand. More than likely they will be thrilled to have another pair of hands.
Seize any chance you can get.
The music industry is very competitive and it takes a long time to climb the ladder to the elite level roles. If you have an opportunity to carry in sound equipment, don’t think twice, do it. Who knows, maybe you will get to help set up the whole rig. Before you know it you may be running sound check. Every single chance presented to you is a chance for you to acquire a new skill to propel your career.
It can be very difficult and taxing, don’t think you are above anything. Put aside your ego and take the opportunity to help out and gain experience.
Consistency is key. If you keep showing up and are always willing to help, people will take notice and begin to trust you with tasks of higher importance.
Find an internship with a recording or production company.
Beyond helping out at gigs, an internship can get you more consistent experience. You may have to accept unpaid positions in the beginning, but if you can afford it, you’ll learn plenty to compensate for the lack of pay. Find out if there is a studio nearby, reach out and see what available opportunities they have.
Because there are a wide variety of roles that audio engineers can have, the range of internships will vary as well. Any production company that offers internships is worth checking out, regardless if their focus is not precisely your interest.
Receiving a traditional Education
Read and gain knowledge on sound equipment.
Investigate different speakers and what applications they have. Learn about which cables are used for mics and which ones are for sound consoles and amplifiers. You should know how to configure a wide range of sound equipment. You can learn a lot online with tutorial videos.
Some equipment hasn’t changed since the early days, but plenty technologies continue to evolve. Keeping current on your knowledge is crucial.
Learn how to use music software.
You should understand at least the basics of how to work programs like Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton etc. If possible, buy some recording software and explore can be done. Choose a song you like and import it into the program. Practice cutting the song into different parts and changing parameters like EQ and volume.
Not all audio engineers mix new music tracks, however knowing how to do it will make you more valuable and skilled.
As with anything, this will take time to learn, but it’s an important building block of your foundation.
Read up on safety procedures.
Since audio engineers work with a plethora of electrical equipment, you should learn the basics of electrical safety. Learn about things such as the difference between voltage and current. You ought to know the amount of equipment that can be safely plugged into a power strip so as not to blow a fuse.
Physics classes, for example, are a great starting point. If classes are not an available, search for an electrical safety course.
Get experience early on.
If you are still a student, you have access to some unique opportunities. Try enrolling in the school theater. It most likely uses a sound system and productions are mostly run by students, so this is a great way to get your hands dirty in a less high stakes scenario.
In college, you can also leverage opportunities to become active in running sound. Check with the campus theater and find out the requirements for becoming a part of the sound crew.
Earn a certificate or degree.
While you can learn on the job and get plenty of experience, earning a certificate or degree demonstrates your dedication to learning and growing. This indicates that you put all of your effort into something until it’s done. A certificate or degree also proves that you have proper training.. Although it might not be required for some roles, it will make you much more attractive to potential employers.
A common certificate or degree might be a Certificate in Audio Engineering or Sound Design, an Associate’s or Bachelor’s of Science in Audio Engineering.
These certificates or degrees revolve around a blend of music, business, and technical courses which serve to provide an all-encompassing education in the audio engineer field.Develop the Traits of a Great Sound Engineer
Refine your communication skills.
Working as an audio engineer involves working with a range of personalities on a regular basis, so you have to be an effective communicator. Listen intently to the responses you get. Answer questions as clearly as possible.
Seek to understand what someone means even if they don’t make much sense to you.
Get comfortable with technical music lingo. Word or terms like “phase,” “muddy,” and “compression.” In music terminology, some terms may have alternate meanings than you’re accustomed to.
Be amenable and dedicated to finishing the job.
Sound engineers frequently work long hours determined by their client’s schedule. If you can’t get into the studio until 10pm, then you need to understand that. Let’s say you have to check equipment 3 times prior to a show, don’t let yourself become defeated. More than likely you will have to work long hours to get a project done done due to a deadline.
Sound engineers frequently work outside of the typical 9-5 schedule because live performances typically occur at night or on the weekends. However, you may find a role in radio, TV, or film, which might allow for daytime work.
When you are getting started, be as available as you can because this will be a huge asset when someone is looking to hire you..
Humility and perseverance are two of the biggest keys to success.
Audio engineers are often unnoticed and are unlikely to get much recognition for their roles. If you have a true passion for your work, being noticed is a lot easier to deal with. Persevere when the job begins to get challenging and you feel like giving up.
Sound engineers hardly get their due for the part they play in a live event or an incredible mix for a hit song, so don’t anticipate much notoriety in this field. You should find gratification in the work itself and not through any praise you receive.
Be an easy person to work with.
The range of people you will be working with can be staggering. From recording studio artists, to live venue owners, to band managers. When it becomes taxing, do the best you can to go along with it and get the job done as requested. Don’t get upset easily and argue with others. Keeping a cool, calm, and collected head is imperative in this business.
If you are amiable and pleasant, people will remember that and want to continue working with you. On the flip side, if you cause issues and are a hindrance, you will likely not be asked back.
There is always room for self-improvement so you can work on this trait, but in many ways it is more of a characteristic than an issue of effort. If being around and working with others is not of interest to you then this may not be a career you would enjoy.