Audio Engineer

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Similar Titles
  • Audio Engineer
  • Sound Engineer
  • Recording Engineer
  • Sound Engineering Technician
  • Mixer
  • Studio Engineer

Audio Engineering as a whole encompasses a number of other careers so titles can also include:

  • Music Producer
  • Post-Production Engineer for Film/Television
  • Live Audio Engineer
Job Description

Audio engineering refers to a wide range of jobs, typically in the entertainment industry, that all involve setting up, operating and maintaining equipment utilized in working with sound to create a more polished or complex end product. Jobs under the audio engineer blanket can vary from music producers to post-production sound design for movies, but a key element of the job is being knowledgeable in a subject and personable enough to help bring out a creator’s best work.

Working with an artist is the key element in being a music producer, in that it is ultimately about getting a performance out of the artist which is what they’ve always wanted to have. Giving that artist the inspiration or push to have a career all about being bigger than life. He is the liaison between the artist and the world, and pretty much can be a collaborator for music, lyric, staging, for different areas that unfold within their career.” - Magic A. Moreno, Producer/Mixer/Recording Engineer, Magic Presence Studios

Rewarding Aspects of Career

From a engineering standpoint, it's when you hear from an artist after you master their album — that's the stage after you mix. When they get it back and go 'oh my god, I had no idea I could sound like this,' that's truly transformative. It's sublime.” - Magic A. Moreno, Producer/Mixer/Recording Engineer, Magic Presence Studios

  • Working in often desired industries (Music, Film, etc.)
  • Travel
2016 Employment
134,300
2026 Projected Employment
145,000
The Inside Scoop
Day in the Life

The typical “day in the life” of an audio engineer varies based on what kind of industry the engineer works in. For example:

  • In the music industry, most of a day is spent working with musicians and singers on developing an album by interlacing various sound files together on mixing software.
  • In post-production film audio, days are spent recording scores that are performed by orchestras and producing a final version to play over the movie.

I’ll mix for 16 hours, have them take me back to my hotel for eight to sleep. Then back for 16. It just rotates around the clock. I’ll do that until I get done.” - Magic

Different Types of Organizations
  • Music Production
  • Film Production
  • Television/Commercial Production
  • Video Game Production
  • Live Audio Venues
  • Education
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Attention to Detail
  • Tenacity
  • Computer/Technical Savvy
  • Communication Skills
  • Listening to/Monitoring Multiple Activities
  • Manual Dexterity
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Active Learning
  • Time Management
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • A Grasp of Popular Culture
  • Musicality
  • Fine Arts Knowledge
  • Good Team Player
Expectations and Sacrifices
  • Somewhat high education/knowledge barrier to keep up with constantly changing technologies, skills, popular culture trends, etc.
  • Large monetary investment if buying out software and technology to develop one’s own career rather than joining a pre-existing studio.
  • Large time investment (saving a year’s worth of finances is recommended for time it takes to get a foothold in a larger market, as most places don’t hire without previous experience)
  • Possible long-term risk of hearing damage or afflictions like arthritis.
Current Industry Trends
  • Audio Engineers can download software to personal computers that replaces hardware technology necessary as recently as ten years ago.
  • As a result of this, people can more easily transition from studios to more compact household set-ups and be just as successful as a producer with some investment.
  • Depending on the industry of focus for an audio engineer, popular culture may vary what skills or knowledge is necessary over time.
  • For example, going from more ‘Rock’ or ‘R&B’ sound mixing in the late 20th century to ‘Rap’ and ‘Techno’ sound mixing in the 21st century.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Technical hobbies, working with computers
  • Playing music, taking part in other performing arts
  • Audio engineering or mixing as a hobby, for example taking an interest in software like Garageband or analyzing different components of songs to isolate specific instruments.
Education and Training Needed
  • Associate’s degrees or some vocational certification typically required.
  • A Bachelor’s degree related to the field of art an audio engineer wants to focus on can also be highly beneficial.
  • Constantly evolving technology may necessitate continual on-the-job training.
Things to do in High School and College
  • High school and college courses focused on math, physics, electronics and computer skills are important places to focus for all aspiring audio engineers.
  • Specialized classes for a specific industry of interest are also beneficial, such as film editing or music theory.
  • If one hopes to work in foreign markets, such as producing Latin music, learning other languages through classes/tutoring/etc. is important.
  • Hands-on experience as a gopher or runner in a recording studio can grant a student access to industry professionals to learn from and network with.
Top Educational Institutions

1. Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
2. Full Sail University, Winter Park, FL
3. New York University  - Steinhardt, New York City, NY
4. The Los Angeles Film School, Los Angeles, CA
5. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Typical Roadmap
Audio Engineer Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Certain schools, such as the L.A. Music and Arts School or the Musician’s Institute, offer courses related to audio mixing and can be more direct pathways into the industry.
  • Working as a gopher or a runner for a studio in one’s desired industry can grant them access to industry professionals as teachers and networking opportunities.   
What it really takes to make it
  • Tenacity
  • A strong sense of musicality
  • Networking skills
  • Technical abilities
  • Business savvy
How to Find a Mentor
  • Working smaller jobs at studios producing the kind of content one is interested in can open opportunities to network with industry professionals.
  • Reaching out to individuals who mix and produce independent of larger studios and asking questions.
Recommended Tools/Resources

Organizations:

  • The Audio Engineering Society - http://www.aes.org 
  • The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association - https://www.avixa.org 
  • The Engineering and Recording Society of Chicago - http://www.ears-chicago.org 

Websites/Blogs:

  • The Stereo Bus - https://thestereobus.com 
  • WinkSound - https://www.youtube.com/user/WinkSound 
  • Music Radar - https://www.musicradar.com 
  • Los Angeles Recording Studios Directory (circa 2015) - http://musicconnection.com/pdf/industrycontacts/Directory_RecordingStudios_2015.pdf 

Magazines:

  • Tape Op - https://tapeop.com 
  • Sound on Sound - https://www.soundonsound.com 
  • Audio Technology - http://www.audiotechnology.com.au 

Further Education:
Los Angeles Music and Art School - http://lamusart.org  
 

Plan B

Audio engineers can cycle between a number of industries if they want to continue doing the same kind of work: 

  • Music production
  • Film production
  • Television/Commercials
  • Live performance venues (concert halls, clubs, etc.) 
  • Video game sound design
  • Director
  • Performer
  • Agent/Representative for an artist
  • Working in a subsidiary supportive role for the given industry of interest (such as being a piano tuner)
  • Teaching
  • Electronics installation/repair
Words of Advice

Start saying to yourself and to everyone around you what it is you want to do. Make up the story first, see it in your mind, then wait with anticipation for the universe to send you the opportunity. The universe loves a made-up mind. You have to stand at the edge of a cliff, look at reality and what it is you have the gumption to pursue. You can say ‘I want to be the best six-gun shooter in the West,’ but unless you’re willing to get up everyday and put in four hours shooting a six-gun, it’s not going to happen. You have to be tenacious, you have to say what it is you want reality to be. If you have all that together, go visit the studio.” -  Magic A. Moreno, Producer/Mixer/Recording Engineer, Magic Presence Studios

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