When you think of an audio producer, your mind may take you to an image of a slick producer sitting on the one side of the glass in a studio with a famous musician on the other.
However, the role of an audio recording engineer is much more than sitting down in the studio with an artist and pressing record.
An audio engineer carries a lot of responsibility for making sure songs and albums have clean sounds that will really wow an audience.
These engineers will be listening to the audio from a technical and musical perspective.
Audio is the backbone of these engineers and they must know all of the ins-and-outs of what is going on in the studio.
Clients may ask for input on their songs and that’s when Engineers can really let their knowledge shine.
Are you considering embarking on the path to becoming an audio engineer? Or are you a musician looking to work with an audio engineer and would like to better understand what their primary responsibilities are?
Let's break down what exactly the role of an Audio Engineer is.
Table Of Contents
- Demands And Expectations
- Getting Involved
- Invest In Yourself As An Audio Engineer
What to expect in the role of an Audio Recording Engineer.
1. Demands and Expectations
Recording Engineers want to make sure the studio is set up correctly and that everything is working properly before the artist gets there.
Their aim is to have clean recordings of audio, so you will need to check the microphones, computer software, cables, etc.
Clients will usually be paying a pretty penny for these sessions, so they expect everything to be dialed in when they arrive, whether it be a professional space or an excellent in-home studio.
Of course, it’s understood that the engineer will be running the mixing console.
The engineer will be sure that each of the tracks is mixed and edited, while constantly tweaking effects, tone, and much more until they reach the quality they’re looking for.
2. Getting Involved
Sometimes the client will want the recording engineer to be involved in the creative process.
It is not uncommon for engineers to be musicians as well; who may have at one time wanted to be an artist, but realized their love for music is best applicable in a different way.
Whether the audio engineer is involved in the project creatively is completely up to the client.
The engineer can do the following:
- Vocally produce
- Coach them on different takes
- Suggest adding different sounds
- Subtract sounds.
Creating space for each instrument to have its own place in the mix is where an Engineers ear comes into play. The great thing about this is that you can never go wrong with trying these things out.
If an engineer does end up getting more involved in the creative process, it is important that they know their boundaries and when to speak up.
This comes in time with knowing how the client works and adjusting to how they like to get things done.
Communication is key when helping a client with their song. Both parties should be clear about what they want and how they can help each other in the process to make things go smoothly.
The chances of creating a great mix decreases drastically if there is poor communication.
Sometimes the drummer will want the drums to have more punch, or the vocalist will want their vocals to sound brighter or have more reverb. These are times when the engineer needs to know exactly what to do to make that happen.
There is always the possibility of sounding overproduced as well.
A recording engineer should have a good ear for not only balancing levels of the tracks and knowing how and when to use compression, equalization, saturation and more.
They must know how each piece of equipment will affect the sound of each track being recorded.
Engineers are familiar with the different types of microphones such as, dynamic mics, condenser mics, ribbon mics and more. Not only that, but they will know where to place microphones for guitar amps, drums, bass amps and for the room as well.
All of these things help in getting the client the sound they are looking for.
There is a certain level of education that is beneficial for Audio Recording Engineers.
Specific training in audio engineering is important to have before becoming the chief engineer in a studio. It wouldn’t hurt to have some education in composition to help train your ear as well.
The best way to become familiar with audio editing software is to take classes or attend an accredited music college near you.
You can get away with searching for tutorials on YouTube and diving into it yourself, but you have to be determined to learn everything about the software on your own.
It may be worth investing some money into being taught the ins and outs of these programs and to learn tricks from someone teaching you in person.
Looking for work as an assistant in a smaller studios can also prove to be beneficial. This will give you hands-on training and will also give you a look into the business side of things.
Invest in Yourself as an Audio Recording Engineer
As an Audio Recording Engineer, you can expect to enjoy what you’re doing as your job. While there is a lot of fun involved, it is still business at the end of the day.
You can expect to be in back-to-back sessions with small breaks.
You won’t be in a regular 9-5 job, as the hours can be long and sometimes unpredicted. Some sessions may start in the morning and run into the late hours of the night.
You are held to a high standard, as your clients are making a living off of the music you are helping them with.
Being cool, calm, and collected is a great attribute to have in these sessions and will make for a great process for everyone involved.
Don’t let these things scare you away though, as this career brings great opportunity and if audio is what you love to do, then it won’t feel like work!
If you want to increase your skill as an Audio Engineer, The Atlanta Institute of Music and Media offers a Degree in Music Production and Audio for Media and a Certificate in Music Production.
If Audio Engineering is your passion, click the link below for more information on how you can enroll in AIMM today.