Should You Go to Audio School? Here’s Your Answer.
Here are three reasons you should go to audio school and the number one reason why you shouldn’t.
I come across this question in online forums all the time.
- “Should I go to an audio school?”
- “Is it worth studying audio engineering or music production?”
People love to chime in with their opinions on this question.
Unfortunately, the people who answer usually haven’t gone to audio school. They can only give you one side of the argument at best because they’ve never gone. At worst, they don’t know what they’re talking about and spew nonsense about audio school because they want to justify to themselves that it isn’t a good idea.
They always say the same thing:
- “Don’t go! It’s a waste of money!”
- “There’s plenty of information online.”
- “You never have to leave your home because you can take online courses.”
Those are certainly reasons not to go, but it paints a lopsided picture because they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Going to audio school to study something that you’re genuinely passionate about has nothing to do with the efficiency of staying home.
That’s not the point of going to audio school.
Reason #1 – Go For the Experience
I was born and raised in Iceland in a little town called Hafnarfjörður. It’s the town of Vikings, Elves, and Rock music.
We tend to cram everything we want to be proud of into our identity as a hometown.
But like all small towns, there wasn’t much opportunity for me in audio.
So, at the height of the economic crash of 2008, I decided to go to the SAE Institute in Madrid, Spain, back in 2008.
And it changed my life.
Could I have learned everything they taught me in an online course?
But that’s not the experience ultimately taught me.
The reason I chose Madrid, Spain was not purely for audio school purposes. I also wanted to learn Spanish.
I was really interested in languages after taking a lot of different language classes in high school. I particularly enjoyed Spanish so I used the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
(Or smush two flies with one swat, as we say in Iceland).
Combining my love of both audio and Spanish led me to Madrid.
Which brings me to an interesting tangent about the English word for stupidity.
Don’t Be Dumb
The English word stupid is derived from the Latin word “stupere,” which means “to be numb.
In Icelandic, the word stupid is “heimska.” It’s derived from the Old Norse word “Heimskr.” The root of that word is “Heim,” which means “home.”
So in my language, staying home and never experiencing the greater world out there, expanding your horizons, and seeing what else the world has to offer, means that you stay stupid.
When you change your environment, you change as a person.
You’ll grow. You’ll get out of your comfort zone. You’ll learn new skills. You’ll understand new things.
Ultimately becoming a better person.
So don’t discount expanding your horizons and actually looking at audio school as an experience to be had.
It’s not just about the stuff that you’ll learn in class.
Reason #2 – Go for the Accountability
Deadlines will help you become better at your craft.
Audio engineering is hard, and many people don’t simply have the self-discipline needed to improve at the rate that audio school will give you.
Taking an official course where you have to show up on time, take the classes, and be accountable for the grades and the homework will drastically improve your skills way more than any online course.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Higher education will also show you things you didn’t even know you needed to know.
Before I went to audio school, I had actually worked in the audio industry for a while, so I knew quite a bit about audio before I even enrolled in school because I had started a career already. But a complete college-level course gives you so much more than what you just learned in the niche you’re working in.
You’ll be introduced to things you didn’t even know you wanted to learn more about.
I was a live sound engineer first and foremost, so my expertise was in FOH mixing, setting up a stage, and running monitors. Basically advanced roadie stuff.
But when I went to audio school, the classes were so much more than that. Not only did I learn more about live sound, but more importantly, I learned about everything else.
- Studio recording
- Studio mixing
- Sound design
- Foley recording
I got introduced to all these different jobs I had even considered. These jobs I never would’ve thought to learn if I had just stayed at home and kept working in my live sound job.
Mechanical Frog and Foley
Two of my favorite projects were around sound design.
The first one was a silent video of this robotic frog jumping across the screen, and I had to create all the noises it should make to make it sound real.
Whirring noises from the robot hydraulics, background noise, some texture, etc. It taught me so much more about sound than I ever would’ve thought of exploring on my own.
Another homework assignment I did was foley for a commercial.
The video was completely stripped of its sound. It was a person walking into a big lobby of a skyscraper, going into an elevator, and going up.
Just imagine all the different sounds required for that particular scene!
- You need all the footsteps.
- You need those footsteps to have the reverb that matches that space.
- You need to have some background noise so that it doesn’t sound like it’s in a vacuum.
And then, once you get into the elevator, the reverb around the character changes, and you have to adapt to what’s happening on the screen.
I mention these projects because those were two projects that I still remember and loved having done.
And they taught me new things I didn’t even know I wanted to know more about.
So, don’t think you have it all figured out. You don’t know what you don’t know. Staying home means that you stay stagnant and stupid without any accountability to help you improve.
Reason #2 – Networking, Connections and Friendships
The third reason why you should go to audio school is for the friendships and connections.
Success in the audio industry hinges on your relationships. You have to create connections. You need to develop friendships. People want to work with people they like. When you immerse yourself with people who are on the same journey as you, you’ll create a network of like-minded people making a name for themselves.
People you might work with later on down the line or that will open doors for you in the future.
For instance, one of my favorite classmates is Idar Camarena from Guadalajara, Mexico. A few years after we graduated, he invited me down to Mexico to produce and record an album with his band. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.
If I had stayed at home, done my online course, and learned about audio that way, “the efficient way,” then those amazing experiences and those beautiful friendships wouldn’t have happened.
Think About the Big Picture
Those are the three reasons why you should go to audio school if you have the opportunity to do so.
If you’re asking around and being steered away from it by jaded bedroom producers who don’t know what they’re talking about, keep the big picture in mind.
However, what they tell you when you ask about this stuff in audio forums is actually…
The #1 Reason You Shouldn’t Go to Audio School
You should not go to audio school if you think it’s going to be the key to career success.
Every school will market itself as the beginning of your career. They will run ads in magazines with fancy pictures of people who are having the time of their lives recording in the studio. They’re selling the dream of that being a possible future for you.
And if you’re set on that path, maybe that dream will come true.
But you will not get automatically given a successful career after graduation.
You will not magically get hired by Grammy Award-winning producers. They will not immediately set you up with internships at the best studios in the world.
That is all in your hands.
They might prepare you a little bit by teaching you career skills and things of that nature, but ultimately, it’s up to you to make your dreams come true.
If you go to audio school, you might have a higher chance of success. You’ll have learned a lot of new skills. You’ve made cool connections. You’ve expanded your horizons, and it may have given you a lot more opportunities than if you had just stayed at home.
Why I Wouldn’t Trade My Experience for Anything
Like I said at the beginning, going to audio school was the best decision I made in my audio career because it completely changed my life.
I would never trade my audio school experience for anything else because of the path it led me down.
You wouldn’t be reading this if I hadn’t gone to audio school in Spain. Audio Issues wouldn’t exist. But more importantly, I wouldn’t have the amazing wife and beautiful daughter that I have today.
If I hadn’t gone to audio school, I wouldn’t have met this crazy girl in Madrid who I followed to the U.S. I wouldn’t have become a naturalized U.S. citizen and I wouldn’t have the beautiful daughter I have now.
So when the annoying audio trolls are telling you that you should just stay at home and learn everything on YouTube, I pity them.
They don’t get it. They’re not thinking about the amazing life that decision will give you. They’re not thinking how it will make you a completely different person.
And I think that, in some way, the value of a beautiful life is worth more than the asking price for audio school.
For more career-related topics, check out our careers in audio posts. If you want to skip audio school entirely but would like to get better at mixing, check out Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins right here.