One thing that I’ve learned from my time as an audio engineer is that landing a job in music production isn’t something a lot of people just “fall into”. I can’t say for sure, but I highly doubt that anyone who ended up a mastering engineer or a foley artist found their path through one of those career aptitude tests back in high school. We all ended up where we are because we wanted to be a part of the process of a craft we so passionately love.
However, just because you know that industry you want to work in, doesn’t mean you know where you fit in. If you’re interested in a career in music production, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 7 careers in music production you might not know about.
A recording engineer is a person who controls a sound board in either a recording or live setting. In a studio setting, this person is the technical director of a recording session, similar to a director of photography in film.
Recording engineers work with assistants to ensure microphones are placed correctly near instruments. Since different instruments require specific microphones, they would be in charge of knowing which is the correct ones to use. Engineers may work on singles, albums or musical scores, voice overs for TV, film or video games and a number of other sound-related media productions.
You will also find audio engineers at live concerts as the one in control of the live sound board. This is the controller where all instruments, voices, and recordings are sent through. The quality of a live performance usually hinges on whether or not the audio engineer did their job correctly!
Producers are sort of like the directors of the music world. Producers are brought on to albums to help shape the overall sound and quality of the project. They would be instrumental in picking the right people to work on a particular project such as audio engineers, session musicians, mixers and mastering engineers.
Their involvement may be involved in the actual songwriting process, or brought in to the studio to help direct the band and audio engineer to achieve a desired sound.
While it’s not a necessity, many music producers have a background in musical theory or are musician themselves. In many cases, producers help write the song with both songwriters or the artists directly.
A mixer is someone who edits the recorded musical session using an analog or digital mixing board. For this reason, many audio engineers mix on the fly during a recording session. However music mixers typically work during the post production phase, after the recording is done. As most engineering is done on digital audio workspaces or DAWs these days, each instrument and voice are recorded onto separate tracks. These tracks are determined by the sounds being picked up by each microphone. Mixers add effects such as panning: left or right in the speakers; equalization: adjusting frequency response; compression: making a track more or less dynamic and other effects. This task requires a certain artistry; like a painter making certain colours more or less prominent and adding flourishes to the finished product.
A music programmer is someone who composes music using a DAW or similar audio software. Whereas a computer programmer uses code to write software, a music programmer uses notation to write music. These artists use digital equipment to notate music, or perform them using MIDI keyboards. Many programmers also play with music samples from previous recordings to achieve a desired sound. Many artists who write their own music are music programmers, and the same goes with producers.
Have a knack for fixing things? Do you like taking things apart and putting them back together? Sounds like you might be a great Studio Technician. There are hundreds of pieces of recording equipment in the average studio, and it’s the studio technicians job to make sure it’s all functioning correctly. Sometimes a change in temperature or slight movement can affect how equipment like amps and receivers perform. Technicians may also play a role in keeping the studio’s recording drive up to date. Otherwise all of their precious recordings are lost. A recording studio can have the best engineers and assistants in the industry, but with improperly functioning equipment they face serious issues.
If you love music production but prefer to work on the business side of it, you may enjoy a career as a studio owner. Studio owners are the ones who deal with the day to day of running a recording studio. That means hiring talent like engineers and mixers, purchasing the best equipment and finding new clients. Studio owners are usually quite social, attending music conferences and events finding new people to work with.
Now this is not something that can happen overnight. Becoming a studio owner takes years of time working in the industry. They are required to have a great deal of knowledge for how the industry work, have relationships with other industry professionals and are up to date on the latest music trends.
A mastering engineer is someone who prepares a mixed song (album or score) for distribution, such as CD, vinyl or digital release. They are the last person in the production chain before the song is ready for release. Using a series of specialized audio-processing programs, these engineers take the final edit of an analog or digital recording and tweak the sound so it sounds most pleasing to the human ear. These processors allow them to edit out unpleasant squeaks, scratches or other sounds that stick out. Mastering Engineers will also listen to an album as a whole and make changes so it sounds consistent throughout.