Sound Engineering is one of those fields that is a blend of art and science. When we speak of art there are few things that cannot be taught but only be learned – learned through practice and through the experience of others.
In most Audio Engineering Schools, students work in an environment that is built for learning, i.e. you are not dealing with direct clients and the environment is built to “ALMOST” represent what a full time working recording studio should be like.
There are both Pros and Cons to this methodology, here even if students make a mistake, they are not held directly accountable for their mistakes. It’s a Sandbox of sorts, but this also stops you from learning the much required real world skills that you need to be able to truly succeed as an Audio Engineer / Musician / Producer.
At Gray Spark Audio Academy, we are both a Recording Studio and an Academy. We aim to incorporate the advantages of both in our teaching, by giving students access to a complete studio where they can work and experiment on their projects as they wish, but also by giving them the responsibility and the privilege of working on real-world projects and learning through them as they progress in the course.
This skill is something one would have to develop no matter what line of work you’re in. Networking is building a set of contacts and social connects with people that you can leverage at a later stage. Networking and fostering these connections is a long and tedious process, but the payoff is huge. You can think of networking as a chance to either help someone out, by doing so you are adding value to a relationship and also building a connection that is strong which has a potential payoff. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t think of networking with people just so that you can get something from them at a later stage, this help you’re offering has to be real and genuine. A simple example of this could be, say an engineer starting out finds a talented singer/songwriter, you can help him by offering to record his demos or his songs.
Working in a studio gives you access to interact with eminent musicians and producers that you won’t get in a classroom.
- Work Ethic:
A good engineer is an engineer with a strong work ethic. Clients and Artists want to work with engineers and music producers that are not just talented, but also someone they can rely on. Yes, talent trumps work ethic, but a talented engineer with a great work ethic will always be more in demand than just a talented engineer. In my experience, talent and work ethic both go hand in hand. I’ve rarely seen an engineer that is extremely talented but has a bad work ethic.
This work ethic comes from a drive that I’ve seen in many engineers, the drive to do better work than the last project, to put their client first, to always do right by their artist/producer.
This work ethic cannot be taught in schools or in the classroom, you can tell students what a good work ethic should be, but they are going to have to build on this themselves.
- Dealing with Clients:
Dealing with clients is a skill set that can only be learned by interacting and working with different sets of clients. Every day that you work inside the studio you are going to meet a number of different musicians and people who have different views and opinions. Having a good hold over communication and fully understanding what a client wants and delivering it is a necessary task. You might be the best producer in the world, but if you don’t understand your clients brief fully you’re going to be wasting a lot of time and energy.
- Acquiring Clients
This is the most underrated of all skills, an audio engineering school will teach you how to make good mixes, how to create great productions, but what about getting work? Finding work in this competitive domain of budding engineers is hard and is also the reason why most engineers give up on this field. There are some simple things that you can learn being inside the studio like:
a. How to communicate effectively with prospective clients
b. How to build a good portfolio
c. Where to find the clientele for your work
d. How to approach and close clients
Does this guitar work with this song? Which amp should you use on the record? Is the vocalist out of tune? Is the rhythm section of the song too busy?
These are things that you can’t learn in school. Surrounding yourself with good musicians and a good mentor can give you a good general direction, but this skill set is learned through personal preference and is unique for everyone.
I hope this post helps you gain some perspective on how equally important working in a studio is rather than just graduating from an audio engineering college.