Music has such a significant hold on our society. Music production is an extremely lucrative business across various genres including indie rock and hip-hop. It is difficult to express just how much blood, sweat, and tears go into a music artist’s work.
If you have ever seen a live performance from your favorite musical group or singer, then you already know that a ton of time, talent, and hard work goes into making music recordings.
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Engineering music is a crucial way for people to hear the sound they love and ensure that fans, musicians, and sound engineers all create the best art they can. This is where the expertise of audio engineers comes into play.
But where does one start when first learning about audio engineering? Let’s look at what it takes to join the music industry. Please note that while it may not be simple, getting into the industry is unquestionably worthwhile.
What Is Audio Engineering?
Audio engineering is the act of producing, mixing, and adjusting sound levels. There’s a lot more than just making sure that the lead guitars don’t overtake the vocals in the final mix, however.
Audio engineers work not only in music but also in broadcasting, TV production, and movie production. The work is so important that there’s even an Oscars category dedicated to sound: the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing.
Audio engineering is a crucial part of the recording process for musical artists. Without a talented audio engineer’s expertise, your favorite band would likely sound discordant and unorganized in the final recording of their album.
What Is Audio Engineering Used for?
We are sure you have seen pictures of people in a recording studio pulling and pushing knobs and moving microphones. This is the job of a sound engineer, and his or her duties are incredibly detailed.
Let’s see why becoming an audio engineer is significant in the creation of the art.
- Producing music. This is perhaps the most prevalent and most important aspect of audio and sound engineering. Regardless of the artist, the audio engineer modifies, mixes, and masters the recording’s sound. Many talented audio engineers become full-on music producers.
- Adjusting the levels. Changing the levels in a music track is crucial for a balanced, complete sound. Thanks to talented audio engineers, you probably wouldn’t notice the significant disparity between instruments. Audio engineers work to make sure a guitar amp isn’t screeching with feedback. It’s incredibly noticeable when something like the bass guitar muting out. Adjusting the levels ensures that music is a cohesive, complete experience.
- Making a coherent final product. Audio engineers, whether working alone or in a team, aim to create a robust and lasting final product. This can be a live music set or even a TV news segment. Either way, an audio engineer needs to open clear channels of sound to transmit to the audience.
Types of Audio Engineering
Audio engineers work in numerous unique scenarios and wear many hats. While their home may be behind the sound mixing board, their work is extremely diverse.
There are more audio engineering types than just someone who puts the stamp of approval on a recording. Below are but a few of the different types of audio engineering.
The name suggests that this type of audio engineering focuses on finding the optimal acoustics level for a particular room. If the room is large, chances are the echo of instruments and sound will make itself apparent on any subsequent recording.
Audio engineers work tirelessly to craft the perfect physical environment to cater to the ideal sound. They do much of the same for live performances. From venue to venue, artists play in theaters, arenas, and clubs. Audio engineers work to find the best audio levels to accommodate the physical space.
Electroacoustics is all about the effectiveness of hardware like microphones, headphones, and speakers. Audio engineers work tirelessly to ensure that all of these crucial tools are in proper working order. Any slip up can result in shoddy audio quality.
In general, electroacoustics can range from a recording studio’s speakers to the effectiveness of a movie theater’s sound setup.
Audio engineers work exceptionally hard in perfecting speech in all matters of art. Your favorite artist’s new live album or that intense TV news segment on a natural disaster requires speech as one of the essential considerations behind practical sound engineering.
You can’t have the artist or news anchors’ voices be too soft, or else the lyrics and messages don’t come across.
Learning Audio Engineering
It may come as a surprise, but audio engineers earn their education in various fields. Many recording engineers earn their degrees and experience through impressive computer science degrees, broadcast experience, and overall electronics knowledge.
Never fear, even if you aren’t at all familiar with these concepts. There are excellent audio engineering programs, classes, tools, and books to help you learn audio engineering. Let’s break down the basics of audio engineering.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Audio Engineering?
A few years. Learning audio engineering isn’t something you pick up overnight while messing around with Pro Tools.
It often takes a few years to nail down the basics. Many audio engineering programs last from two to four years. Like any other detailed occupation, you are always learning new and useful techniques for your work.
While most of the work is strictly technical, audio engineers work alongside artists to ensure the music’s essence remains. This takes a mix of technological and creative know-how.
How to Learn Audio Engineering: Step-by-Step
We have laid out a great way to explore what your options are. Let’s see how to become an audio engineer, step by step.
- Experiment. Knowing music theory, electronics, software like Logic Pro, and having a good ear for music helps you in your aims. Some individuals may take to it more quickly than others. The important thing is that you experiment with software and music theories.
- Take online courses in audio engineering. Taking an online course is an excellent idea for nearly any field of study. Whether it’s engaging in great online accounting courses or certificate programs, learning online takes a lot of the burden of daily life off of the learner. It also helps, as you will be using different types of software. Learning about the software in the comfort of your own home is a great benefit.
- Earn an audio engineering degree. A fantastic method of making some headway into the music industry is to earn a bachelor’s degree in music. Make sure you choose the classes that teach you the essentials for effective music production when you are picking programs at your university or community college. You can attend a university like Full Sail or go to an audio engineering school to get an education.
- Get some experience. Many audio engineers have entirely foregone a formal education and learned all they know through experience. While this may not work out for everyone, getting work experience can sometimes be a better teacher than a college professor.
The Best Audio Engineering Courses and Trainings
Now that we have explored some of the nuances of audio engineering, let’s see where to find some of the best audio engineering courses and training.
Best Online Audio Engineering Courses
Learning online has never been a more viable and useful method of information intake. Audio engineering has a massive amount of online courses to choose from.
Ultimate Live Sound School (1st Edition)
- Provider: Udemy
- Length: 5 hours
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $130
Have you ever wanted to learn the fundamentals of music production and sound engineering from accomplished audio engineers? Look no further. David Wills, a long time veteran of the music industry, created a winning curriculum for those who want to start mixing professionally in the studio.
Wills has worked with the likes of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. This specific course prepares beginners to operate sound systems for live performances. It includes multiple HD video lectures showing each step in setting up a stage and optimizing a sound system for adequate audio.
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In detail, David Wills shows the entire process, from unpacking, mixing, adjusting, to finding the perfect audio mix.
Your First Home Recording Studio – Audio Engineering Basics
- Provider: Udemy
- Length: 3 hours
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $100
This audio engineering course is perfect for those who aren’t ready for the sound booth at a recording studio. This course takes learners through the various steps of getting comfortable with sound equipment, sound levels, and acoustics.
This audio engineering course introduces you to essential equipment functions and also doubles as a guide to investment.
Audio equipment can be costly. Where do you invest your money? What brands are worth the money, and what should you avoid? You will learn all of that and more in this online course.
All you need to participate is a pair of headphones, a computer, and a recording device. Don’t worry. The recording device can be as simple as your smartphone.
Best Free Audio Engineering Courses
Money can get tight, and it may hinder your dreams to be the next George Martin. However, you don’t need to take out student loans to attend a costly college semester.
There are great free audio engineering courses to whet your musical appetite. These also serve as a great way to experiment with the field and see if it’s for you.
Electronic Music Production
- Provider: SoundGym
- Length: 18 hours
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free
SoundGym offers this fantastic free online course in all things electronic. Whether you are a fan of dubstep, house, or EDM in general, this 18-hour long crash course checks all of your audio engineering boxes.
Over 10 central course units, students learn everything from setting up a home studio to the basics of compression, mixing EDM, producing, and equalization for beginners.
This is an excellent course for those interested in audio engineering as a career and a hobby. You can produce your very own professionally done electronic music after taking this free online course.
Intro to Acoustics (Part 1)
- Provider: Coursera
- Length: 14 hours
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free
This free online course material tackles the many uses and benefits of learning acoustics. The audio industry and music recordings all rely heavily on the delicate balance of excellent acoustics and mixing, so this one is important.
Students in this course learn all about sound waves, vibrations, and mathematical concepts. This is where both math and physics come into play. While you don’t need a background in these subjects, it is useful to know the basics to better envision acoustic concepts.
Audio Engineering Certifications
There are great certificate programs from famous universities and institutions to impress music producers and sound engineers if you are hesitant to undertake a full degree program.
Ableton Live Professional Certificate Program
The Berklee College of Music offers the advantageous Certificate in Ableton Live. Ableton Live is a valuable program to have in any audio engineer’s toolkit.
This certificate program, taught by some of the most accomplished sound engineers, allows you to tap into your creative potential and help others create great art. It consists of three courses, nine credits, and costs about $4,500. The three main required courses are:
- Performing with Ableton Live
- Ableton Live Fundamentals
- Ableton Live Techniques: Sampling
The Berklee College of Music also offers a physical certificate and credits to contribute towards earning a full audio engineering degree. The school also offers various certificates and audio engineer degrees in electronic music production and synthesizer programming.
Music Production Specialization
Once again, the Berklee College of Music strikes again with a fantastic online certification program. This time in music production. This online course spans five months and is perfect for beginners.
Audio experts Stephen Webber, Loudon Stearns, and Chrissy Tignor-Fisher teach this course to familiarize students with the recording studio. Students learn the fundamentals of MIDI, Pro Tools, songwriting, music recording, sound design, and music mixing.
Students partake in a four-week long capstone course where they produce and mix their own music and more. In the end, you receive an impressive certificate showing that you now have a good grasp of all things music.
Best Online Audio Engineering Resources
Aspiring audio engineers have a significant advantage in the form of online resources. Since this is such a popular facet of media, there is no shortage of communities, news sites, and references to choose from. Let’s see some of the most notable.
SoundChannel is a branch of Women’s Audio Mission (WAM), a fantastic website dedicated to sharing audio resources. Self-expression has never been more critical, and SoundChannel taps into your need to do so by providing impressive training modules and ebooks.
As of right now, SoundChannel is entirely free of charge, and anyone curious about tapping into the culture of audio can access a ton of materials. Along with the in-depth modules regarding live performances, SoundChannel also has a comprehensive blog dedicated to finding jobs in the audio industry.
Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato’s Mixing Music Live
Mixing music live is the personal creative project of professional concert sound engineer Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato. Michelle takes her 30+ career in self-expression online into various tricks and tips.
She offers a master class where she teaches students the ins and outs of live performances and music production in the music industry.
If you aren’t keen on taking Michelle’s master class, there are great ebooks available for studying.
The Production Academy
The Production Academy (IPA) is an excellent one-stop-shop for learning tricks of the trade. How do you become a music producer? The academy compiles several great resources for both beginner and intermediate sound designers.
A lot of the material offered goes over the nuances and practices of live performance music. Taught by sound engineer veteran Scott Adamson, The Production Academy has numerous video guides, introductory materials, and posts.
Should You Study Audio Engineering?
If you are a music lover, music theory expert, or someone who wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves, becoming an audio engineer is a fantastic idea.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s an indie rock band looking to release their debut album or a TV news segment on the smog in Los Angeles, audio engineers are the glue that keeps the entire production together. There’s no one better behind the scenes.
If you don’t notice anything unusual with your favorite TV show or movie’s music or audio, then an audio engineer’s work is complete. Experimentation, education, and valuable work experience make being an audio engineer a gratifying and exciting career path.
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