I get the feeling these are rhetorical questions intended to prove a point... but I’m going to answer them anyway.
MarkS wrote:Are there "default" skills that engineers learn from an audio school?
I guess you could say so. Different schools choose to teach different things. I believe that cable coiling should be one of them, but apparently some schools don't teach it.
Is there a formula that engineers are taught so it then provides them with the ability to mix drums with guitars and singing to produce a song worth listening to?
What I mean is; if I were to learn what buttons to push and when, could I make a good recording without really listening to the music being played?
I am sure that every person would mix a song a little differently. We all have preferences towards bass or drums or vocals, so how much personal bias comes out when recording?
It all depends on whom you are recording. Ultimately, it's the client's decision on how they want it to sound. This can be a touchy subject when what your client thinks sounds fantabulous, you think sounds like tin foil. However, to answer your question, the sound of a recording is completely based on "personal bias". Who makes the sonic decisions is different topic.
Will technical skills only take you so far?
Is a good recording a result of how good someone's "ear" is?
Not absolutely. Although ears may be the most vital recording tool in any engineer's arsenal, they are useless without knowledge, experience and "good taste". There are probably hundreds of thousands of people on this planet with "good ears" who couldn't make a good sounding record. Why not? They don't understand signal flow. They don't know what impedances are. They don’t know what mics sound good on what source. They are not intimate with the audible frequency spectrum. They don't play a musical instrument. Someone may have great ears and horrendous taste. I have a good pair of ears. However, this same pair of ears is helping me make much better recordings now, then previously. I’m not saying that you have to go to recording school to become a good engineer. That's just stupid. In fact, a lot of the recording schools out there can probably destroy your recording career! All I’m saying is that I had a positive experience at my academic institution. The technical skills, hands-on experience and guidance that were given to me greatly accelerated all my audio related skills. Of course I've also had to unlearn a lot of stuff since then, but that's all a part of the learning process. Like I said before, I feel that experience is the best way to learn anything. Whether it's dicking around with a four track, building circuits, going to audio school, interning, listening to as many records as you can, or whatever, as long as you are keeping yourself busy and are willing to improve your skills, you will get better with practice. Some experiences are just more helpful and efficient than others. I guess it's just a matter of how you learn and want to spend your time.