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Why do you want to be an engineer?

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Postby MarkS on Thu Aug 07, 2003 11:31 pm

I want to be an engineer.

I make beer now, and have always wanted to be in music. Go figure; we drink, we listen, we want.

I don't know the first thing, but I am interested. What do I do? Where do I go? Any and all advice is welcome.

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Postby mnotaro on Thu Aug 07, 2003 11:47 pm

Intern_8033,

It is not a matter of 'want' for me. It was something I was brought to do. Not necessarily needed for breathing, but a good boost for it. I don't know where the notion came from. I stopped sleeping when I was eleven. I became interested in AC/DC when I was twelve. Then I started messing around in a machine-boy sort of sexual way at a young age and now I am 23 doing basically the same thing.

I will put every last effort and dime into it. It is something I could do when I am blind and in case I go deaf, I study electronics. I might never make a living at it, but it doesn't owe me one.

Maybe, Andrew, I will become a farmer. I will still have a setup in my barn though, and find the best possible way to mic an utter or an udder, in a non-sexual way, unless the cow has some idea that the sexual way will better her performance.

Find the Crass reference and I will buy you monkey soap.

-Mike
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Postby MTAR on Fri Aug 08, 2003 9:55 am

At first I just wanted to record my own songs. I was having a jolly old time recording my songs, and soon became interested in fidelity.
Then I wanted to see what it would be like to record other people's songs. It was also fun. I realized I would be extremely happy if I could do this my whole life. So I went to school for it, did it all the time, and kept having more fun. Engineering is a perfect fusion of science and art, there is really no other profession like it. There are so many things to tickle one's fancy, and it seems like the deeper I get into into, the more there is to learn. Acoustics, electronics, recording techniques, hogloads of fascinating gadgets, tools and devices. Mics that look like mice. And to be able to document a musical moment in time is a good feeling.
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Postby faucet on Fri Aug 08, 2003 2:00 pm

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Postby greasygoose on Fri Aug 08, 2003 3:23 pm

I’d say I got into this business to make a living doing something that I find rewarding and challenging, the same reason a lot of people choose their professions. When I was in college, a lot of my older friends graduated with various liberal arts degrees. Most of them invariably either went on to graduate school with the end goal of teaching/researching, or they entered the job market in a field in which they may or may not have had any direct training. I didn’t really envision myself being in school for the rest of my life, and I figured I could always find a job somewhere or teach myself a science or something pragmatic. I recognized sound recording as something that fascinated and inspired me and that I might even have some aptitude for, so I quit school and immersed myself in the recording studio. The processes of interning and assisting and engineering are a lot like going to school, I think, with the added bonus that your efforts may have some tangible results. There’s little security in this profession; still it beats banking or pushing pencils any day of the week.

As a listener, few things bother me more than hearing good music mired by poor engineering or, even worse, someone’s deliberate effort to mark the recording with their particular stamp or “sound.” I want to concentrate on the music, not the production tricks or recording techniques. My basic goal as an engineer is: don’t fuck it up. It’s the musicians’ music to ruin. The engineer should be impartial and forthright. If his opinion is desired, he should speak it honestly (and you don’t necessarily have to be a dick to say that you don’t like something, though it can be a lot of fun). The cream will eventually float to the top, and so will the shit, whatever that means.

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Postby mnotaro on Sat Aug 09, 2003 12:25 am

As I understand it, you will "fuck up" something at some point. If not I guess you're god.

-Mike
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Postby MarkS on Sat Aug 16, 2003 12:31 pm

How did you become an engineer?

What is the best way?

Is it going to a school like Full Sail, or going straight to a studio and learning there?
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Postby nick92675 on Mon Aug 18, 2003 10:32 am

pretty much every engineer i think is good started by getting a reel-reel 8 track and learning themselves, and recording bands for beer in thier basement. i have followed the same path and i'm getting close to thinking i may be a "real engineer" soon. get a day job so you can afford said recording things. you can learn at your own speed and spend endless time learning the ins and outs of your stuff. of course there are tons of benefits to straight up interning, one disadvantage (from what i gather and have experienced) is you don't get quite as much hands on time with the stuff, which is what really matters. the studio is kind of hesitant to risk thier paying clients on letting "the intern" do too much, understandably so.

at any rate, the commonality between engineers that i think are good and what they've done - seem to never include going to recording school, in substitution recording as much as possible in ghetto ass situations with limited means while you learn your stuff in and out.

hope that helps.

or, put more succinctly by jack endino here:

http://www.endino.com/faq.html#edu
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Postby MarkS on Mon Aug 18, 2003 3:42 pm

Thanks for the advice.

I have started tinkering with Cool Edit on my PC, and have been wondering about Pro Tools. What is the verdict on that one?

My interest has been intensified because i have been transferring vinyl and tapes to CD with Cool Edit. I know tweaking a pre-recorded song is a far cry from engineering, but i think it is a start.

The reel to reel 8-track, where do you find something like that? I understand what you mean by learning on your own. Any other important stuff to have? Good mics? Sound proofing? etc.
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Postby nick92675 on Tue Aug 19, 2003 10:33 am

i'm not the guy to talk about computer recording stuff. i have cool edit and use it for making rough mixes and stuff.... you should get yourself a free subscription to tapeop magazine, and start hanging out on the message board here:

http://www.tapeop.com

theres a computer recording forum and all the questions you asked are talked about a lot over there too - you'll find a lot of people in the same boat you're in.

for 8 tracks, you can do ebay, or better yet, the buy/sell thread at tapeop - the people there are generally much more trustworthy than an everyday ebayer.

some people love pro tools. in the interim maybe i'd download pro tools LE or whatever the free one is. but i'd think before buying any more inputs to your soundcard. pretty soon you'll want to record on more tracks simultaneously - and you could spend 5-800 for one of those A/D interfaces, or just get a tape machine... the correct answer for you will pop up eventually. i asked myself where i wanted to be in 5 years - running a 2" or running a computer (which i already do), so i bought a tape machine. a 2" is just a super super fancy 8 track.

sounds like you're on the right track. get a mic and start recording stuff. you can learn a lot from just having 1 mic and recording 1 track at a time. you'll outgrow it, but it's a great place to start. ultimately yes, good mics and all that stuff become important, but the most important thing is to get experience with what you have.

if i were to start today, i'd buy an SM57 and a cable and start recording. (they're cheap, but decent enough to learn on. in comparison to tons of other mics, they aren't that hot, but for a first mic, i think it's a good choice. it's good to know what they sound like as a reference, so when you get your first condenser you'll understand the differences that much more.... and a ribbon and so on.

ultimately you're the most important part of the chain since you're gonna be pressing the buttons, so you gotta educate yourself! have fun w/it and welcome to the horribly addicting world of recording. turn back while you can!
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Postby steve on Tue Aug 19, 2003 4:36 pm

I started making recordings as an outgrowth of an interest in music, paralell with being in a band. I like the work, and I think I have an affinity for thinking through systems like signal paths, mechanical linkages, etc.

That's why I'm suited for it, but I couldn't tell you why I like it better than all my other jobs.

Once you get this far into it, questioning it as a choice is fraught with peril. It's the same sort of quandary parents must find themselves in: The time to decide if you want to be a parent is before you are one, but once you are one, you can't really undo the decision if you don't like it.
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"parent"?

Postby Mayfair on Tue Aug 19, 2003 6:12 pm

Steve? Are you trying to tell us something? Becoming a parent?! Does Heather know?!
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Postby MTAR on Wed Aug 20, 2003 10:33 am

nick92675 wrote:at any rate, the commonality between engineers that i think are good and what they've done - seem to never include going to recording school, in substitution recording as much as possible in ghetto ass situations with limited means while you learn your stuff in and out.


I whole-heartedly aggree that hands on experience is by far the best way to go. However, I think that the reason that many of our favorite engineers never went to recording school is because our favorite engineers are those that are well seasoned and have been recording professionaly for more than 10 years. They didn't have recording schools like we do now. The recording school is a new phenomenon which in most cases is a load of shit, but some programs are very effective. I am a graduate of the IU audio program. Even though I went through the program during a shaky transitional period, I still feel it was a positive experience. Now that it is under new direction and starting to offer even more courses, degrees and getting a lot of great gear, it's even better. The program gives you hog-loads of hands-on experience including 180 hours of live to 2-track recording a year (for three years) plus up to 20 hours of studio time a week. Most students don't take advantage of these luxuries because they are lazy. Those that do however come out ahead of the game. I was fortunate to have a lot of my own gear while in school, so I was constantly sharpening my recording skills as I went along. However, even though I had my own gear, and was able to experiment on my own all I wanted, audio school definately sped up the process for me and guided me in the right direction. Most importantly, recording school taught me recording theory, physics (of sound), basic electronics, music theory, and other stuff that simply does not come from tinkering with a Mackie mixer. Sure, anyone can learn this stuff on his or her own, but it's very helpful to have experienced people pointing you in the (not always) right direction.

For computer stuff you can also check out http://www.audioforums.com. The audio stuff on here sucks pretty bad, but the PC computer forum is by far the best one Ive seen, and really the only one that gets any attention on there (there are also software forums on there for just about any recording/editing software you can think of).

blessings,
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self taught vs. audio school

Postby MarkS on Wed Aug 20, 2003 6:27 pm

Are there "default" skills that engineers learn from an audio school?

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?

Probably not.

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?

Put another way:

Will technical skills only take you so far? Is a good recording a result of how good someone's "ear" is?[/quote]
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Re: self taught vs. audio school

Postby MTAR on Thu Aug 21, 2003 10:50 am

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?


No.

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?


No.

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?


Of course

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.

na zdorovya,
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Postby howiemarx on Wed Oct 01, 2003 2:19 am

because i enjoy it.
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Postby StevenMallory on Wed Oct 01, 2003 2:30 am

.
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Postby cal on Wed Oct 15, 2003 4:47 am

You also have to think about the idea of being an engineer versus actually doing the work. I've spent years assisting, working with bands I don't like, etc., just to get the experience and it's paid off well; I'm completely comfortable in so many situations now. But on the other hand, I've dedicated so much time to this, I can't really do anything else other than play in a band. It's getting harder and harder for me to just be able to work. I'll work with a band - 9 times out of 10 something I wouldn't buy - they'll love how everything turned out and then it's two weeks before something else comes down the line. In the down time, I'm constantly trying to figure out what the fuck is going on that I'm an adult male and I'm not working everyday. Then, a project comes along and the whole cycle starts all over again.
One thing these recording schools don't teach is how you can totally mind fuck yourself because this job has a lifestyle that goes along with it.
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Re: self taught vs. audio school

Postby brianbiv on Tue Nov 11, 2003 3:43 pm

MarkS wrote:Are there "default" skills that engineers learn from an audio school?
[/quote]

I will be graduating Columbia College Chicago in May, that doesn't mean that I know anything about recording or will get a job. You really have to have a passion for it and work your ass off. Go looking for opportunities, don't expect them to come to you.
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Postby Chris Hardings on Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:06 pm

I have to agree with the aforementioned "mind fuck". I was still in high school when i first started out. But it was SLLLLLOOOWWW. You have to have the balls to push through. To stick with it until you have work every week.
I'm an engineer because I love it. I find myself cutting a band a break almost every week if it will get them into the studio. Unless it's some sellout crap. I have a hard time helping them. I just make them pay flat out. no corners cut. But anyway.
I think I also do it so I can afford to paly shows with my band.
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