Nailing those sound engineering jobs in this competitive industry is incredibly hard. Everybody can buy some music recording equipment and start their home recording studio. But does that necessarily mean that they have what it takes to become an actual sound engineer?
Is a degree in music production from any of the thousands of schools out there necessary to nail those sound engineering jobs or is there something else that is more valuable?
Like with every field, you need to know what you are doing. Like Steve Albini said in an interview I read long ago, when talking about those elusive sound engineering jobs:
“Read as much as you can.”
In the audio engineering world we can apply most of the knowledge we read in our music production books and trade magazines directly to our craft. Others, more hands-off careers do not have that luxury. So by reading and digesting as much information about the subject as possible you learn more, enabling you to get better at your craft.
Knowing the basics
Successful sound engineering or music mixing isn’t about learning how to use Pro-Tools, Logic or Reason as well as you can. For certain sound engineering jobs you certainly need to know your way around an audio program, but the basics of sound have nothing to do with learning some random audio software. Learning the physics of sound and how audio behaves when you are recording and mixing is the most important part. You can learn Pro-Tools by reading the manual, but the manual doesn’t go into any detail as to how to capture the best sound possible.
This relates directly back to the prior paragraphs. Learn by reading and then apply the knowledge learned. Of course, there are thousands of books, blogs, videos and tutorials out there that teach you the fundamentals of audio production so it’s basically a case of picking and choosing the right ones. I learned an incredible amount from Bobby Owsinski’s books, mainly the Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, Bill Gibson’s music production books and Behind the Glass by Howard Massey. Whatever your knowledge source is, be sure to learn from the ground up since it is much easier to apply certain production techniques when you know how(and why) they work.
Willingness to experiment
That said, the willingness to experiment with the various sides of audio production is an important factor is learning as well. Even though you might learn the fundamentals of compression and EQ that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see what happens if you bend or break the rules. You shouldn’t be afraid to see what certain processors do maybe a certain no-no might be the exact thing you want in a certain situation. How do you beat the fear of filtering if you never filter past a certain point? How can you be sure if that exact compression ratio or reverb is right for you if you never try anything else out? Be willing to push the envelope, taking what you’ve learned and seeing if you can’t see how it can be better.
It’s hard to start anything. A new routine, a new exercise program or a new career. It’s hard to start a career in any part of the music industry when you have nothing behind you, except maybe a degree or a few pieces of gear. It’s even hard to just keep going once you’ve started, since everybody faces opposition and many cave into it and quit. But those that actually bite the bullet and persevere through sheer tenacity and determination are the ones that make it, and hopefully get those sound engineering jobs they were hoping for.
Since audio knowledge is a niche market you might be able to find someone looking for your expertise at some of the job boards online. Look for sound engineering jobs at the FreelanceSwitch job resources for example.
Finally, even though it might seem daunting to want to start a career as an audio engineer, with perseverance, ambition and an eagerness to succeed I have every faith that you will.
The best way to get good at recording, is knowing how to record any instrument and be on top of anything you need to know as a recording engineer. That’s how you get jobs. By being good at what you do.
Learn simple tips on how to record any instrument with Recording Strategies.