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Sound engineer

Sound engineers are professionals who manage and operate recording equipment and amplification machines. They usually work at recording studios, film studios, radio and television broadcasting networks, concert venues, theatres, and similar venues. They are most frequently employed by production companies.


Sound engineer

On the job

Sound engineers can work either in production or post-production. Those working in production will record sound on location, while engineers working in post-production will be responsible for mixing and editing pre-recorded audio. 

Key knowledge areas

Sound engineers must have an excellent knowledge of the physics of sound and of technology and equipment used in recording and post-production. A strong technical aptitude is essential in the field. Degrees in sound engineering, sound technology, or media production will increase a candidate's chances of employment.

Skills

Sound engineers need to be people oriented, and have good communication skills. They need to have a reliable background in sound engineering, and significant experience with amplifiers, microphones, monitors, and audio lines. They must be familiar with controls and be able to adjust them precisely as required. When he or she hears a voice for the first time, the engineer must know precisely the volume of the vocals, which always is position above all instruments and has perfect clarity. A thorough understanding of the recording process is fundamental, and most sound engineers study and obtain degrees. Four-year degrees are usually not a requirement, but knowledge of sound engineering, electronics and computers is a must. A good sound engineer must have excellent hearing and be an exceptional listener. He or she must be able to focus on isolated sounds and ignore all others.

A sound engineer must be able to communicate clearly both verbally and in writing, because reading contracts, providing set-up instructions, and other documents, is all part of the job. Working with artists, musicians, and music managers can be stressful, so the ability to work in high pressure environments and within tight deadlines is essential.

Work duties

Sound engineers are responsible for assembling technical equipment used to record, enhance, amplify, and reproduce sound. Their day-to-day duties will vary greatly from job to job, as they can work across a wide range of industries. 

The sound engineer employed in production makes sure everything is set up right. The artist and each instrument are important to create an amplified sound. It is the engineer’s responsibility to have a clear-cut sound coming from the monitors as well as from the speakers. If the vocalists and the musicians are on stage, it is important for them to be able to hear themselves above the audience and stage noise to play in sync with each other. The sound engineer also will know how to stage instruments so as not to cause feedback.

It is critical that each musician is set-up independently during a sound check. Each instrument is on its own channel on the soundboard and marked. When each musician is happy with the sound, the engineer has to blend the sounds together, inward, and outward.

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