To begin with, audio engineering is like every other profession. With hard work, everyone can become a sound engineer. Taking the decision and making the first steps may seem easy, but it can be difficult to stick with it and move to the next level, that is why only people with patience succeed.
Being a sound engineer is not always an easy job. Most of the recording engineers want to work with the already established artists, or mix the sound of the bigger festivals in the world but only a few selected ones manage to achieve that.
This is due to their hard working skills, technical knowledge, powerful network and their level of superiority amongst the rest of the sound engineers.
How long does it take to become a sound engineer
It takes a decent amount of time to become a sound engineer. One year is the minimum time required to make your first steps in the field, although three to five years of practice and experience would be the answer to “how long it takes to become a sound engineer”.
Let’s see what it takes to become an audio engineer.
The responsibilities of the sound engineers vary a lot. They may run and mix the sound of TV shows, radio shows, festivals, live stages, films or produce and record music in recording studios.
The best way to start learning is to watch an experienced sound engineer work and offer to help for free in exchange for knowledge. You should grab any chance to work with professional equipment, as they require a substantial amount of money and you will most likely be on a limited budget in the beginning.
Consider attending a college and earning a degree, as it will help you get your first jobs more easily. Along with the degree, you should start building a strong network with other audio engineers and artists, improve your social skills and maintain good relationships with people.
Education of a Sound Engineer
Audio engineering requires various skills like technical knowledge and use of studio equipment such as computer software, consoles, microphones and studio monitors and a certain level of experience when it comes to recording, mixing and mastering.
It is common for degree programs to take one or two years to complete. On the other hand, non-degree programs usually take much less depending on the current knowledge of the individual.
There is a variety of degree courses that these programs cover. From sound editing and audio engineering to music production, recording and acquiring the experience to manually use studio equipment.
There is no certification need to become a sound engineer, although it would be much easier to find a job with a degree as stated above.
Universities and colleges or independent organizations offer such certifications, and their topics cover the areas of audio technology, how to properly use studio equipment, electrical knowledge and lessons that focus on safety issues.
Licensing is similar to the certification. It is not required to work as an audio engineer, although many big and established studios ask their sound engineers to take the safety certification courses before applying for the job, to meet the industry standards on how to use a recording studio with safety towards their clients.
Start gaining experience
First thing that a beginner sound engineer should consider doing, is to find a mentor. You should search around local clubs, bars or theaters and find an audio engineer that you thing has the appropriate skills and experience level to help you learn the basics.
Focus on the set up and the equipment, take notes on how they use the equipment and what the results are considering the sound and the general interaction with the people.
Networking is a huge part of the music industry in general, and audio engineering is not different at all. You have to search and find a sound engineer and start building relationships with him. Ask him if there is anything you can do to help around, and accept any duties he gives you no matter how unimportant they may seem.
Connect with him in every level possible, and try to get involved in as many things you can. Do not be afraid to be persistent and ask more than once, even if the first response was negative. Most people find it difficult to communicate their knowledge in the beginning.
If you happen to be at a place where a sound crew is setting things up, ask them if they want you to help them. If they accept pay close attention to the equipment and the way they set them up and try to understand as much as you can.
Consider all opportunities
Like all industries, audio engineering is difficult. It takes a substantial amount of time and lots of work until you manage to take your first job as a professional.
Until then, do not miss out at any opportunity given to you, even if this means carrying equipment around or helping to connect the cables. Next step is to set up the equipment and after some time to run sound check for band in small live stages.
Every job, as little as it may seem is helping you build your way up and gain knowledge that will be crucial when you start your career.
The more you are willing to help, the more people will think that you are a valuable asset for them and they will easily consider giving you a job and more responsibilities. Keep working hard and learning, so that you are ready when this moments comes.
What is more, you should consider working as an intern in a recording studio or a company. If for a small period of time, money is not of major importance to you this would be convenient, because you could work for them without getting paid in exchange for experience.
Search about any production company that has internships available, even if what they offer does not exactly meet your interests. New opportunities will always come up as the field of audio engineering includes a huge variety of different jobs.
What you need to learn
Being a sound engineer is a game of constant learning.
First things first, you need to learn everything you can about studio equipment, and if possible sound equipment in general. You should search online, read product reviews and watch tutorial videos about all kind of sound equipment.
Keep in mind that technology moves fast, and although many of the studio equipment are similar to what they were some years before, many of them have acquired fast evolving technologies and methods of use. You have to stay up to date constantly.
In addition, it is vital that you learn how to use music software properly. Every sound engineers needs to know how to edit, mix and master in music software. Some of the best music software that are usually used by audio engineers are:
- Ableton Live
- FL Studio
What you can do, is download a demo version of each one, import a song or a music production and start experimenting. This way you can find out which software is ideal for you to work with and start studying and learning about it in depth.
It is important to start getting familiar with music software as soon as possible, because it takes time to take advantage of their full range of capabilities and master them.
Safety goes first. Audio engineers work with a wide variety of electrical equipment, so they should learn at least the basics of electrical safety issues. You can search online or ask professional electricians and learn about electricity to avoid causing dangerous problems or ruining the equipment.
What it takes to become an Audio Engineer
To begin with, audio engineer should develop their social skills. It is very important that you have good communication skills, because being an engineer means that you have to work with a lot of different people with different personalities and requirements.
You have to be able to listen to the people carefully, answer every question you can and solve their problems and manage to communicate effectively to be able to give them satisfying results so that you can engage them as clients.
Furthermore, you have to be able to understand the sometimes-unusual terms people may use to describe their music or the results they expect from you. Learning to understand what people mean even when they do not make much sense and giving clear answers is very important, because this way you gain their trust.
Technical terms are also another big issue of the music industry. There is a huge variety of terms used differently by most of the artists, music producers and sound technician and it will be very helpful to become familiar with most of them.
Get the job done
Consistency is a crucial virtue when it comes to sound engineering. You have to commit and work long hours in order to keep your clients happy, and sometimes that means that you must work until late at night to revisit and correct their projects until they are satisfied.
It is very common for audio engineers to start their day at 8pm and finish at midnight, especially when they take over project that need to be finished in a certain amount of time.
Sound engineer do not usually work on shifts or with a certain working schedule. That means that they have to be flexible and work when needed, for example when a TV or a radio show takes place, or late at night when a live performance happens.
Being always available is very important for people when they search to hire a sound engineer, and applying that principle will help you build a very strong base of clients.
In addition to the above, patience is the key to forming a functional schedule. Sound engineers have to get used to not being noticed or overlooked because this is the nature of this particular profession.
It is a hard job and even the experts rarely tend to get the credit when they do an excellent work mixing a record or for the amazing sound of a live performance. You have to know that this is normal and happens to everyone. You have to learn to be ok with it and focus on improving your work.
Understand the people you work with
Make it as easy as possible for people to work with you. Audio engineer work with many people: Artists and music producers, other sound engineers that may operate in the same studio, venue own or tour managers etc.
This means that you have to deal with many different characters and personalities that tend to be demanding, anxious, or lack at communication skills and make it difficult for you to understand their requirements so that you can deliver what they ask for.
Do your best to be condescending and see things from their perspective in order to be able to understand their problems and concerns, so that you can come up with solutions as far as their sound problems are concerned.
Avoid getting frustrated easily because people trust those that are willing to work and find a solution for their requirements, and you get to engage them easily and make them come back to work with you. In this industry, angry people that are not trying to help are often replaced.
If you are able to work with other people and have the willingness to be helpful when needed, you have many chances to earn the respect of faithful clients that are going to spread the word for you, and make it possible for you to acquire more customers and bigger job opportunities.
So after you read all those capabilities that the job requires, it is your turn to decide if audio engineering is a profession that would be suitable for you to pursue or not.
Even though it is an extremely difficult that requires hard work and lots of communication skills with other people, most sound engineers are very excited for their jobs. This is due to the fact that they become an important part of creating art.
Working with new bands or established artists, new TV shows, listening to new amazing music productions and getting to improve them, travelling and meeting amazing people with the same interests is inspiring for most engineers.
Success in the audio engineering industry depends on whether you are willing to work hard and have a flexible schedule to be able to satisfy people in a constant basis so that you can rise up and build a successful career in the long term.