November 08, 2010

Pro Tips for the Budding Audio Engineer

Everybody who works in audio hears the following tips at least once in his or her life, so what you are about to read may very well be redundant to you. Having said that, every time I get this advice, I am reminded of how absolutely true and important it is. Some of these points are common sense, others perhaps are not, but simply remembering them is enough to trigger an “aha!” moment and put you on the right track. Without further ado, here are some tips for up and coming audio engineers.
By Jason Meredith (Flickr: Enrolling Stones in the Studio) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
1. Practice
Possibly the most rewarding thing you can do with your time is to practiceyour craft. If you are a composer, write something; an engineer? Edit and mix something. It’s incredibly important to make sure your skills are in tip-top shape, and the best way to do that is to practice every day. This might sound like a lot, but it’s easily manageable. For instance, you could try what I call the “Hour Scramble”. Try and block out an hour every day where you can sit down at your favorite DAW and work uninterrupted. Your goal for that hour is to come up with a short piece. It could be a 1-minute diddy, or even just a short 8-bar theme. Whatever the case may be, put your all into it. Consider the sonic space of the work, mix accordingly, and try to make it sound as good as possible. The point of the exercise isn’t to make the best music in the world, it’s to give you a chance to try new things in an environment tailored to your work process. This allows you to develop your skills at your own pace, and could even result in you finding a cool new trick to use when you’re working a job!

2. Network
Networking can be a 4-letter word. It’s tough making sure you’re in the right place, at the right time to meet the right people. Unfortunately, the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who” is partially true. Knowing the right people can mean the difference between getting a job easily, or having to hunt around and claw your way into one. Luckily, in today’s day and age, it has become easier to network, because of the internet. Social networking sites like LinkedIn are essential in building your network, and make it simple to do so. Once you have a LinkedIn profile, you can add your personal contacts, and find new ones through a convenient search bar.

3. Build your studio
I’ll be expanding this in a later post, but here is a quick introduction to getting yourself production ready. This is the aspect of the music industry that every techie loves: Gear. It’s easy to get bogged down with gear lust. You see a $700 piece of equipment, it makes you drool, it goes on your wish list for later. This is all well and good, but it’s important to take into account what you need to meet your short term goals as well. Are you trying to be an audio designer for film and TV? Look into good, produced sound effect libraries and mics that are both portable and can capture a good frequency range. Perhaps, you’re a mixing engineer. The Waves Audio Design Suites are excellent, but you’ll need to save up for them. Try looking at sites like KVRAudio to find less expensive, or even free plugins to fill the gap while you’re saving. The most important thing to remember about your studio is functionality. Find a workflow that works well for you (another benefit of practicing) and stick with it. Build it, improve it, and make it your own.

These are just three of the countless amount of things for an audio professional to remember. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at Alden@internlikearockstar.com.
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