Audio Engineering Is a Multi-Faceted Multi-Disciplinary Multi-Industry Essay

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Audio engineering is a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary, multi-industry profession that endeavors to make sure that the consumers', artists', and/or clients' recording needs are met. There are many duties that an audio engineering is responsible for and as technological advancements occur, there are many duties that the audio engineer has to take on. While audio engineering can be a very lucrative job, there are certain skills and education that a person must possess in order to do their job successfully. Additionally, there are also various settings in which an audio engineer can work in, such as performing services within a studio or providing recording services for a live production or performance.

An audio engineer is responsible for setting up, operating, and maintaining electrical equipment for "radio and television broadcasts, concerts, sound recordings, and movies and in office and school buildings" []. In addition to being responsible for the set up and upkeep of equipment, an audio engineer is responsible for recording audio, editing recorded materials, and creating an audio mix showcases the best audio sound possible [ROOS n.d.]. When it comes to recording audio in any setting, whether in a studio or live, the main goal of a recording session, and the audio engineer, is to get the cleanest and purest recording of audio [ROOS n.d.]. Any fault or glitch in software or recording hardware can render a recording obsolete so making sure that everything is set up and working properly before a recording session begins is of utmost importance. In addition to knowing how to set up equipment properly, an audio engineer must also know how to troubleshoot any issues that equipment may have in order to resolve any issues that may arise. An audio engineer not only sets up the recording equipment that will be used during a recording session, but they must also make sure that the software and recording equipment is in good working condition so that it can capture a recording. An audio engineer is also responsible for controlling audio consoles that are used to mix recorded sound and dubbing machines to "play back edited dialogue, music, and sound effect tracks" []. Additionally, an audio engineer will need to know about a studio's patch bays, mixing consoles, dynamic processors, audio cable connectors, audio monitors, mics, and samplers [BLABER n.d.]. Nowadays, many of the sound recordings that are produced are made using digital audio systems which allow audio engineers to record hundreds of tracks simultaneously and save them on computers. Digital audio recording techniques "allow recording engineers to work in a non-destructive format, at a faster and more efficient pace while collaborating with others in locations throughout the world" []. There are some audio engineers that still employ analog methods of recording; analog technology, unlike digital recording, requires that an audio engineer have physical space to store equipment and recordings and while analog may be considered less efficient by some, there are artists that prefer analog recording to digital because of the sound quality and authenticity of the recording process that it provides. It can be argued that the rise in accessibility to recording equipment and software has imposed limitations on individuals that want to learn audio engineering and producing on their own. In the past, engineers and producers learned their trade through hands-on experiences, and may have also received formal training through vocational programs or courses at a school. Mike Clink argues that that "the experience of learning from other people isn't there" and "watching a How to Do It video is not the same as actually being in the room with a working professional where you can ask a specific question about how to resolve a problem or just watch what they do and figure out why on your own" [DRONEY 2005].

Once an audio engineer has captured the best recording possible, often after recording several versions of the same track or instrument, then he or she must take each of these separate recordings and tracks and mix them separately or together in order to get a single polished track []. In essence, an audio engineer must know the studio that he or she works in like the back of their hand and should know how common instruments sound when they are recorded and how they sound when audio tracks are manipulated [].

Within a studio setting, an audio engineer is responsible for "supervising audio technicians and technologists, project management, working with clients, and providing advice and acting as a resource" []. While there is no such thing as a typical day in the recording industry as all artists have an aesthetic that they are trying to achieve, audio engineers may confer with producers, artists, and others that are involved in a particular recording session to determine the style and approach that should be taken in order to capture the producer and artists' vision [MCKAY n.d.]. For instance, audio engineer and music producer Brad Edwards at Audio Loft Recording Studios in Macks Creek, Missouri reveals that many times he arrives at his studio at 8:30 in the morning and then adjusts his schedule depending on what is going on in the studio that day. If he has a late evening recording scheduled, then he will adjust his work day to make sure that he is prepared for the late night session. Also, the amount of time that is required varies from artist to artist, so Edwards must also ensure that he has enough time to make sure that everything is recording during a specific session; sessions can last from one hour to "six or eight or ten hours at a stretch" [NELSON 2002].

While the producer of a project may be an entirely different person and/or role that need to be fulfilled, an audio engineer may also fulfill the role. Because the roles of a music producer and audio engineer are quite similar, it is not uncommon to find overlapping duties or people that act both as an audio engineer and a producer. For instance, like an audio engineer, a producer must be have a wide knowledge of music history and theory, which helps him or her to determine what kind of sound or genre is best suited for a project; a producer, as well as an audio engineer, must know about composition and songwriting to provide advice and insight into how an audio recording may be improved upon or altered; and a producer must know the ins and outs of copyright laws, finance and marketing, and be self-motivated and have an entrepreneurial spirit []. Another reason that an audio engineer's and a producer's roles may be filled by a single person is because both roles require that the individual dedicate spending countless hours in a recording studio to make sure that an artist gets the sound that they are going for. Mike Clink, a producer and audio engineer, states that a "true producer takes a band to the next level. He or she can deliver an idea that a band has in their heads and make them better than they would be on their own. A producer gives a band insight into things they wouldn't normally think about. They're also the funnel for ideas, taking the pressure off individual band members" [DRONEY 2005]. As an audio engineer/producer, an individual may experiment with sound, "trying dozens of different microphones and microphone placements until they achieve an entirely original sound" [ROOS n.d.].

After audio has been captured by digital or analog recording equipment, then the audio engineer must master the audio tracks. During the mastering process, an audio engineer will make sure that the audio that has been recorded is coherent and that quality of sound is mixed well so that it can be listened to on all devices. During the mastering process, an audio engineer will check and make sure that the volume on all the audio is at the same level, ensure that "all frequencies are accounted for in the recording; bass, mids, and treble" so that there are no areas in the audio where these frequencies are missing, remove noise from the audio -- more frequently heard in analog recordings, encode the audio so that it is ready for mass production, and check for errors that may occur when transferring digital files to media [COLE n.d.]. Today, audio mixing is performed using computers and audio editing software; in larger studios, a special mix engineer may take over the task of mixing audio [ROOS n.d.].

In order to be a successful engineer, there are skills that an individual must have -- outside of knowing how equipment is set up and operates. In order to be a successful audio engineer, an individual must have strong interpersonal skills and oral communication in order to be able to relay and interpret the creative message of an artist []. Moreover, an audio and recording engineer must be able to follow directions. This is especially important because not following directions can cause equipment to malfunction; also it is important to…

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