Keeping your Sound Engineering Skills Up-To-Date
There are few professions these days that haven’t been affected by the digital revolution that began in the 1980s. From CDs to MP3s, desktop computers to iPads, we’ve all had to cope with changing technologies in our professional fields. Sound engineering has perhaps undergone more changes than most jobs. A sound engineer now has to know how to use digital mixers and recorders, and a bewildering array of synths and drum machines. Here are some ways for the modern sound engineer to stay on top of the game.
Moving with the times
A recent issue of AudioTechnology magazine featured electronic dance music pioneer Giorgio Moroder. The man behind Donna Summer’s ground-breaking synth-driven track ‘I Feel Love’ was promoting his new synth, the MoroderNova. It’s about as big as a computer keyboard and costs a few hundred bucks. The Moog Modular that Moroder used in 1977 for ‘I Feel Love’ was the size of a desk and cost thousands. The point is that technology is moving so fast, and is now so cheap, that 50% of being a sound engineer is about keeping on top of developments. Do this by checking out magazines or websites that filter the latest developments for you, like AudioTechnology, Mix and Sound on Sound. So that when someone comes into the studio with a MoroderNova, you’re ready for them.
Engineering your own career
In the dark ages you needed to score valuable time at a professional studio to learn how to become a sound engineer. Now, you can set up a home studio using studio monitors, a mixer and a computer running Pro Tools, Ableton or other recording software. This means everyone thinks they can become a sound engineer, so you need to think how to distinguish yourself. One way is to do a course. There are certified courses in audio engineering that will teach you the skills, but more importantly introduce you to people who can recognise your talent and mentor you. Industry publications such as the prestigious Sound on Sound have forums on their websites. Sign on, and start networking. It’s a good way to learn what’s new and pick up recording tips.
Keeping up with the latest gear
Gone are the days of endless cables from mixers to recorders. If you’re recording in the digital domain, you’ll find that digital to analogue converters are now using USB to connect to the recording computer. USB mixers mean the days of connecting individual inputs to the computers built-in DAC are over. Now a piece of equipment like the Alto Live1202 mixer can send via USB to a recorder or PA. For live work, you can invest in a pair of active speakers and a USB mixer – easy to set up, leaving you free to concentrate on giving the band the best sound possible.