Recording studio engineers and staff handle the technical side of recording music.
Artists depend on studios to provide access to professional equipment that will take their sound to the next level. Studios are specialty recording facilities filled with all kinds of gadgets, from mixing boards with endless knobs and settings to rare synths and amplifiers. There are different ways of recording music. Some traditionalists use tapes, though the industry standard has shifted to include digital audio workstation softwares. No matter what an engineer uses to capture the sound in a studio, they must know their tools well and be able to solve problems as they arise. If the sound goes out, if a volume level is off, if an effect doesn't come through as expected, a recording engineer should be able to locate the source of the issue and fix it.
Studio staff typically consist of engineers, maintenance staff, and sometimes business managers or producers who handle the administrative side of things. Recording engineers often have assistants who act as apprentices, developing their skills with guidance and handling the bulk of a studio engineer's busy work. Maintaining a recording studio's equipment is a job on its own; there are cables to test, instruments to clean and set up, and upgrades to install. Recording engineers work closely with artists and music producers, continually adjusting studio equipment to capture the desired sound over the course of a recording session. In contrast, mixing engineers work with recorded material long after a session has ended, putting the pieces together and turning them into a recognizable song. Some studios also employ mastering engineers, who tinker with tracks that have already been constructed, making subtle changes that make a track feel polished and complete across various audio playback systems. These are all different types of audio experts whose combined skills, along with artist input and the guidance of a music producer, allow for the creation of most of the music we hear.
Work as a recording studio engineer or staff member may include...
- Operating a soundboard during recording sessions
- Using music software to capture and manipulate sound
- Setting up instruments and studio facilities for sessions
- Troubleshooting issues as they arise
- Preparing and organizing audio tracks
Some recording studios are independently run, and their revenue stream relies on recording artists renting their services. Others are owned by record companies or music producers, and provide recording services to the artists they represent. Some studio staff, like recording engineers, are present while artists record; others work to ensure that things are ready for them when they arrive and that order is restored once they leave. This can mean long, odd hours; many studios operate outside of business hours to accommodate artists who may have unusual recording schedules. A studio's employees must be flexible and quick on their feet, as live sound engineering is a tricky business where all sorts of things could go wrong. When issues arise, a member of the studio's staff should be prepared to make things work in any way possible.
There are a few tracks to working as a studio engineer; degrees in sound engineering, music production, or similar fields are common among studio personnel. Programs in audio production can be a great jumping off point for those looking to work in the recording industry; they typically include hands-on training, allowing for creative exploration and plenty of opportunity to improve technical skills. Internships and apprenticeships can be a great option for recent graduates, as well as those who enter the field without formal education; most studio technicians and engineers learn their craft under the guidance of a knowledgeable mentor, whether in school or as an assistant in the studio itself.
The Audio Engineering Society is the only professional society dedicated exclusively to audio technology.