July 21, 2011

And One More Thing . . .

(How to Avoid Mental Overload at your Internship)

If you ask most engineers – be they sound guys or architects – about an aspect of their job, you better have a few minutes. Engineers, as a rule, tend to be passionate about what they do. This is why sound dudes are willing to work 14 hour days dealing with sweaty roadies in dirty venues – and smile about it. (It certainly ain't the great pay and health benefits.)

Unfortunately, it seems that the world at large does not share our collective audio passion. Our friends don't care. Our girlfriends certainly don't care – and they've long since stopped humoring us. There just aren't a lot of exciting stories that start out with, “So I adjusted the compression ratio . . . “

Point being, after all this rejection, you – the helpless intern – are our one outlet for technobabble. Our one true captive audience, listening with (ahem) baited breath. This is our chance to validate an entire career's worth of knowledge – be it 40 years on the road or four issues of EQ magazine – by proving to you that: We. Are. Experts.

Now this is probably not what you signed up for, but it's most likely what you're going to get. But is this doing you any good? The answer is . . . maybe. If you don't know what a compressor does, then knowing that some compressors have sidechain EQs is going to be about as useful to you as a lecture on carburetors before a bicycle trip. (What's a sidechain EQ, you ask? Ask your audio sensei dude/dudette – if you've got some time.)

So how do you keep your brain from turning to mush under an onslaught of well-intended but often self-indulgent war stories? It's easy: Just ask a clarifying question. We audio folks have become pretty quick on our mental feet, and we can usually seamlessly transition into a new impromptu lecture series.

For example:

Audio Dudette: “I mean, the 1176 has such ridiculously fast attack times, and then there's “all in” mode. Wow!”

Helpless Intern: “That's interesting, but run this by me one more time: What exactly does a compressor do and why are you using it on this bass guitar?”

Wham-o bam-o, you're now getting information that's actually useful to you. You can always come back to the “1176 vs. LA-2A” debate later, when it actually means something to you.

That's all there is to it. But I can hear some of you asking – nay, pleading – to know: What if you just can't handle aaaaaany more information right now? How can you politely but effectively shut us up? Well, that's simple too: Just buy us lunch . . .

Rock on,

Nathan Schied

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