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what does a recording or audio engineer do or what does such a career consist of?

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I'm asking because I plan to major in audio/ recording engineering in college this fall. #engineering #studio #audio

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Alyx’s Answer

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Hi Briana,

Recording technicians operate recording equipment to record music, dialogue, and sound effects. They may record for records, advertising, radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, or movie soundtracks.

Recording technicians operate tape and disc recording equipment. They control volume and intensity levels to ensure that they remain within specified limits. They control microphones and special effects equipment, which change the sound of whatever may be recorded. Often they must be able to repair and service the equipment and machinery they use for recording.

Many people in this occupation are self-employed.

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Great answer! One thing I'll add is that many of us mix music, changing balances of instruments in a musical way. As a professional audio engineer, this is one of my favorite aspects of my job.

Alyx’s Answer

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I also found this testimony for a day in the life of a recording technician. Hope it helps!

A Day in the Life of ... "I help bands record their music so that people can listen to it all the time," says recording engineer Jake Portrait. "When a consumer listens to a CD of a band that I recorded, I want them to experience the music as if they paid to get into a concert and see the band live."

Portrait, 20, is also the lead singer/guitarist of the rock band Easy Target. "I've always loved music," he says. "I've been playing in my band for four and a half years. When my band made our first recordings, hearing myself on tape was fascinating to me. Listening to ourselves allowed us to analyze our performance and make improvements. I'm always trying to learn new things and improve myself. So, whenever we recorded, I kept an eye on what the studio engineers were doing and asked a lot of questions, trying to learn more about the process. Getting into the recording business seemed like a natural transition."

A year ago, Portrait decided to build his own recording studio "to offer good, inexpensive recordings to help bands along in their music careers. I figured it would take $25,000 in student loans to earn a college degree, or it would take $25,000 in loans to get my studio up and running and have a career. In the freelance world of music, I think experience is far more important than a degree. I visited other studios and tried to get as much advice as I could. I had to research my credit history and my parents' credit history, and had them co-sign on the loans to buy the equipment. I also did a lot of research on how to construct a studio. Books, magazines, the Internet and the library were a big help. I was up and running in about three months time."

So far, Portrait has recorded nine bands. He began in his garage and later moved into a warehouse. At first, he continued his day job as a salesman in a clothing store. Six months later, he quit that job to devote more time to his studio. The loss of a regular paycheck meant that he had to live a frugal lifestyle, but he "was willing to make that sacrifice to pursue recording full-time." His dedication paid off as more bands came to him, and the experience gained has recently landed him a second job at a more established studio.

The recording process can take a single day or several months, depending on how much time the band needs. "We start by making sure all the instruments are tuned properly and then move on to 'miking,'" he says. "I place microphones in different locations around the room to pick up different types of sounds from each instrument. As an engineer, I have to find the 'sweet spots' in my room where each instrument sounds best." Sound waves reflecting around the room can affect a recording. For example, the low frequencies of a bass guitar may cause objects in the room to rattle. It takes a bit of experimentation to find the right location for each instrument.

"The musicians rehearse while I adjust the EQ [equalization of treble, bass and mid-range frequencies] by choosing different ways to shape the sounds that are coming through the microphones into my mixing board. When everyone is ready, we roll tape and the band lays down their music. I do most of the EQ on the board while recording, and later process the sounds through the computer." Musicians often re-record parts that they didn't play correctly on the first take. "After that, I mix the instruments so that everything is audible to the band's satisfaction. Then I 'master' the recording, which brings the overall volume to a level that is industry-standard." The band receives a master copy of their recording and can use it to make CDs.

"I have a different schedule every day, depending on the band," he says. "We might work in the studio all night, but on the plus side, bands never work early in the morning! When I wake up, I turn on my computer and check my agenda. I always have recordings to mix, bands to meet and people to call. My attitude is that business doesn't find you. You have to actively look for it."

Because his band plays frequently, Portrait is always meeting other musicians at concerts. He finds business for his studio by "networking," or "talking to musicians around town and letting them know what I do." Oftentimes, bands approach him after hearing good things about his work. In either case, "communication skills are very important. If a new band comes in to see the studio, I show them around, describe my services and play examples of my other recordings. I listen to them, learn about their recording goals and explain how I can help them achieve those goals. I need to make them feel confident in me and show them the benefits of recording at my studio, rather than going to another studio in the area."

"Understanding musical structure and knowing how to play different instruments," are also important skills, he says. "You can never put too many hours into practicing your craft." An engineer who plays many instruments, and is familiar with different styles of music, can communicate more effectively with musicians during a recording session, he says.

"It's really important to be able to handle your finances, or to find somebody who can do it for you," Portrait adds. "If you don't keep track of paying your bills and taxes, there's no way you'll be successful."

"My favorite part of the job is being around music all the time, and it's exciting to run my own business," he says. "My entire future is in my own hands. I'm an entrepreneur as much as an engineer."

His least favorite part of the job is collecting money from clients. "It's hard because most bands don't have much money," he says. Portrait charges $40 per hour for his time in the studio, "which may seem like a lot, but it's a common rate in this business. I'm using that money to pay off my loans and startup costs. Also, business isn't always constant. I'm definitely not getting rich."

To get started in the recording business, Portrait recommends "banging on a studio door, or calling studios and saying, 'I love music. I'm interested in recording. Can I sit down and watch you?' That's how I got started. I decided to find the best studios in the area and learn how they run their facilities." College-level recording classes "are a good path, but not the only path. I think experience is the most important thing for developing your ear and operating the equipment. As long as you're learning from someone who knows what they're doing, and you're willing to work hard and listen diligently, you'll have a huge start."