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Old 06-08-2001, 07:27 PM
PwAg PwAg is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Location: San Diego CA
Posts: 188
Default How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

First off, awesome board...learned more tricks here in 2 weeks than 3 months of browsing at some Logic/Cubase forums...OMG those were such a waste of time!

Consider me young and inexperienced when it comes to "pro" sound engineering/recording/production ... I'm just an amateur... will be 21 in a matter of days and have taught all I know (engineering/recording wise) to myself...no instructors/tutors or friends to aid me...just the internet/forums/tutorial literature/manuals. Currently an undergrad at RPI (senior in fall) studying Biomedical Engineering ... minor in electronic music...and I'm still torn in which direction I want to take my career (yes I know...kinda late in the game to be thinking what I want to do..but...). Biomed is a great field, don't get me wrong...lots of money to be made and job opportunities...but I'm just not sure if I really see myself happy as an biomed eng/or physician 10 years from now. I'm just so nervous that I might lose the desire to keep up in these academically intense cut-throat fields...not even sure if I'm cut out for them...ultimately I think I've lost the drive for them. Maybe I'm burned out after all these years on the books and my wheels are simply not cranking in the forward Biomed/Med school direction anymore.

I caught the producing/recording bug about 2 years ago and have progressed pretty quickly I'd say. Have been musically inclined since 4-5 yrs old. I think I'm intelligent and talented enough to make the leap over to a sound engineering career...but to a successful career? how do I know for sure? Is it worth the risk? What factors should I consider that I'm more than likely overlooking as a young ignorant guy? I know these are really vague or general questions, but sharing just a bit of your educational history and sage would be sooo appreciated...just give me a taste of the love you have for your career...and the hate for it as well.

I'm in a really confused period at this time, and have not been getting great advice from school advisors/parents etc...they all think I should stick with my current track because it's the right thing to do...they just don't realize I've lost interest...not even sure if I had it in the first place...think I was doing it to follow my fathers footsteps (a vascular surgeon).

I've been a classical pianist since I was boy... know my theory ... would consider myself fluent with VA/Analog synths/d.machines/samplers/Logic Platinum programming...have a grasp on the compositional/production elements of electronic music...but making pro recordings is still not my forte...probably mostly due to the fact I havent been surrounded by the right people and instructors. Is it too late though? Have I missed the boat? I don't even know anyone local (Albany NY) here that is on the same wavelength as myself ...and say I did apply, what kind of credentials do they look for? I really don't have many at all...just hard sciences/research and athletics...and some high distinctions in classical piano. And say I did get into a Sound Engineering school...arent most of these people already ahead of me in the ball game...I'm sure they've been on the court longer than I have.

I'm not experienced in recording/engineering for "other" parties... only my own productions (piano/progressive house/techno)...some mic work here and there...but I'm talking simple mic stuff. I don't know how to play a variety of instruments...so how would I know how to master them...give them the necessary flavor/eq/compression/blah blah...is this all taught in sound engineering school? Or does it help to be somewhat familiar with "many" instruments before-hand jumping into the pool?

I read many of these posts here, and the degree to which you engineers have mastered your talents/careers/equipment makes my jaw drop...I know you've put many many hrs behind the wheels of high powered/well funded studios and have been taught very well some way or another...but how did you guys know you were cut out for this field? What kind of motivation or encouragement did you have to pick your careers? How did you know you had the talent at my age when you were probably going through some type of education? Which schools do you recommend I look at? Would I have to start an undergrad schooling over because I'm on a completely different track as we speak?

Well I'm going to play it safe for now...get my biomed eng degree...and start from there. But I really need to start thinking about this now...because if I were to apply to a sound engineering school, this would be next fall-spring...but maybe not...maybe I should take a year off and figure myself out.

Guys, this is post is really important to me...after getting a feel for the professional atmosphere here at the DUC, I felt that this would be great area to ask some of the basic questions. Hopefully this will help other young guns in the process.

Thanks in advance.


[This message has been edited by PwAg (edited June 08, 2001).]
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Old 06-08-2001, 07:40 PM
scenaria scenaria is offline
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Austin, TX USA
Posts: 123
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

I dont have time to respond to your post in length right now, but let me say this....

I very similar to you had the same decision to make, went to school for electrical engineering and had to make a decision as to what it was I wanted to do.

For me I went with my heart rather than my "common sense" mom/dad wasnt too happy especially when I spent a few years out of college making VERY little money.

There is alot more to engineering/producing than simply knowing theory and understanding software/hardware. All of the above maybe makes up about 5% of what I really need to know, I learned real fast that for me one of the most important aspects of being an engineer/producer was having a decent ear and more importantly being a "vibe master" it can take alot of work pulling out a great performance from an artist.

Think long and hard before making your decision, for alot of people turning audio/recording into a "part time" hobby keeps them just as happy.

Ohh yea by the way, some of the best assistants I have ever had are the ones who never went to school instead their heart was completely behind what it was they wanted and I just spent time working with them. I have one now who has been with me for 2 years and she is absolutely amazing. This is not to say that school cant be a benefit however in my experience the assistants I worked with who came from one of those "specialized" schools would come in thinking they knew it all carrying with them a bad vibe. I think a few bad fish just left a bad tast in my mouth.

Best of luck,


[This message has been edited by scenaria (edited June 08, 2001).]
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Old 06-08-2001, 07:53 PM
PwAg PwAg is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Location: San Diego CA
Posts: 188
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

Thanks for the input Steve. Part-time is definitely a consideration for me. My dad thinks I'm on a high right now...and it may die down after a while...and where would that leave me? hehe. But on the other hand...if I've lost motivation for my current track...what then? A lot of people I work with at a huge powerhouse research center (Wadsworth Institute) tell me they are miserable...they do what they do for the money...and then they go home and forget work. I just don't think I could handle that...I want to love what I do for a living.

How are you doing now though? Successful? What does successful even entail? I know if I finish strong with Biomed coming out of RPI I may be able to land a $50-75K position somewhere if I'm really lucky...and then pay gradually increases as I work longer. I can see myself living on 25-35k as a s.engineer for a while...but eventually I'd want to jump it up so I could you know...support the wife and kids etc etc. Do you know what the average engineer makes?

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Old 06-09-2001, 02:02 AM
AnalogTree AnalogTree is offline
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 218
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

Your approach to this is intriguing. Match your precision with decision and you'll do amazing. More platitudes and generic advise follow:

Ideas: Find time to locate a studio and work out some way to help out and also gain exposure to learn stuff, that is to say, stuff that YOU want/need to learn...to be happy and satisfied personally. If it's a personal need, for instance, to be in a certain studio or to use a certain board or whatever, or if it's to master a sound, or whatever, you'll need to get there creatively on your own. There isn't a set way to get there. Get a real hands-on taste of the overall reality of the position you desire. Gain exposure and put yourself in an environment that will spark your interest and evoke questioning and lead to opportunities for answers. Ask the right questions. Seek an over all development individually as to where you stand and as to what opinions you have as an engineer or as an artist. You could probably learn the technical stuff, enough to be competent, in a very short time, but are you confident of your ears, do you know what's good and why and do you have a vision yet? Obviously something is burgeoning within, but don't be misguided by glamour and all that, because you will not be led into success by that route. Otherwise, continue to follow your heart and be sensible. You really don't need to hear stories, etc. even though they are perhaps motivating and definitely interesting. You already know the answers, that it sucks for many and rocks for many, plain and simple. You know some people do well in this career because they love it. People love the technical and artistic aspects, the glamourus random perks, the personal growth. They find at times the challenge to be grueling too, but in any case it isn't going to be your experience they offer. Avg. engineer income? I dunno, everage succesful engineer or avg. unsuccessful...they run the gammot. Guys with gold records are sometimes wealthy and sometimes not making enough to buy a happy meal. You must just get out there in the big bad world and find a studio to cooperate with your needs and carve your own way. Doing it for the money may be possible but you'll have to create that reality in your own special way. Let's say you find school will be a necessary help to you and manifesting YOUR vision, that it will boost you up to THAT place that you want/need to be at, then by all means take the initiative. It's safe to say that aspiring to be successful or even wealthy as an engineer will require an amount of drive, knowledge and great talent. Most of all though, to glue everything in place realize the importance of being easy to work with, because knowledge only gets you to the door, the knowledgeable cool heads will get in the studio and find regular work. Be open minded but not a pushover. Anyway, some general things to consider, maybe for any career choice. Good luck, and oh, it's not too late for you to start thinking about this particular career your wondering about pursuing. Fuggetabowdit okay.
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Old 06-09-2001, 02:43 AM
MacPhearson MacPhearson is offline
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 30
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

For God's sake, do what YOU want to do! Be true to YOURSELF......Do not ever do what you think others expect of you, because if you do, you are not being true to yourself, and therefore, you will NEVER be any good to other family members, wife, etc., because you will be in a misplaced line of work which will truly make you miserable.

Money is not a consideration when it comes to YOUR life, though there are many very shallow people who would be devastated at the thought of not being able to live in a two million dollar home, not owning a new Mercedes and Jaguar, and not being able to maintain an expensive membership at an exclusive country club.....all of this stuff is pure bull **** ! What the hell good is money if you are miserable? You will be much happier, healthier, and live longer if you do what your heart and gut tells YOU what to do! You will have a much happier marriage and family life with the right lady as well, if you are true to yourself.

Do not allow family or anybody else to put you on a guilt trip for doing what you want, as opposed to doing what THEY want you to do!

Typical situation that happens when one goes into the WRONG field because of family pressures and influences..... for example let's say you become a doctor, instead of a musician and/or recording engineer, etc.....you will attract a lady who wants to marry a doctor....she thinks she is marrying DR. RIGHT, but her "so called" DR. RIGHT would much rather be a musician.....he can never change his deep rooted desires....he is never very happy being a doctor, and he does not fit into the main stream social interactions with other doctors, because he is different than what they are, because they really wanted to be doctors, but the other guy did not....he has always wanted to be a musician, recording engineer, etc.,.....After a year or so of marriage to his wife, who always wanted to be married to a doctor, things start getting rocky in the marriage because he is not fitting her ideal "husband the doctor" image the way she thinks he should. The marriage goes to hell because he married a shallow brain, controlling, gold digging BITCH. She then files for divorce, so that she can go out and find a "real doctor" to nail.

YOU absolutely do NOT want this kind of life. I was 47 years old when I became a full time musician and recording engineer, after many years of misery. I do hold graduate degrees which catered to my previous profession. I am very much in favor of education, but my only regret is that I did not major in music, which I really wanted to do years ago when I was in college. Instead, I was the obedient son who majored in a different field in order to please everybody else, other than myself.

I can honestly say, I am very happy that I am now a full time musician and recording engineer. The only regret I have is not making this change years ago, but it is certainly never too late to change.

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Old 06-09-2001, 05:51 AM
Ray Lyon Ray Lyon is offline
Join Date: Dec 1969
Location: Waynesville, NC
Posts: 723
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

Pete, my advice is to latch on the dream you have in your heart and go for it... that dream comes from the deepest and truest part of you... it will take some sacrifice but you won't be happy (in the long term) with anything else... neither will you be true to yourself...

also, if you are a person of faith in God, pray for guidance and God will guide you... I have always found this to be true.. if you are willing to accept it, God will open doors for you to find work... face it... if he designed you the way you are (musically inclined/technically oriented) it's inevitable and ultimately the path of truth (to yourself and to your Creator) is that you follow the pattern he has already created in you... therefore, all possibilities lie open before you..

third, in order to serve your clients (and this is one of the keys to success) be a MUSICIAN first... not a technician... this is SO important so that you can relate to clients and serve their needs... learn/continue on your instrument... write songs... have a VAST CD collection...

fourth... recognize that it WILL take hard work and most of all perseverance and great patience...perseverance is an especially difficult to cultivate character trait in our culture... which is one of instant gratification and "easy" solutions... and the paradigm set by many "quick" overnight successes is not a true one but rather, and anomaly...

hope this helps and may God bless you!

Ray Lyon

Boca Raton, FL
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Old 06-09-2001, 07:40 AM
PwAg PwAg is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Location: San Diego CA
Posts: 188
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

I'm just flattened by the input guys...seriously! I've never received such sincere/down to earth advice like this...even from the people I've known and loved for years. Appreciate you taking the time to speak your mind to a wandering moutain goat like myself.

I very well know I have to be true to myself...it's just hard for me to know 100% if I make the jump, I will be ok. It's not about the glamour and "cool" factor either...that's not even an issue. Have been at production for 2 years...and am terribly drawn to it. I sometimes make excuses to friends and the girlfriend that I'm not feeling well or won't be able to hit the bars/clubs or whatever...but in reality I'm trying to figure how to apply just the right amout of compression/ratio on that kick drum...get the excitement out of that $50 mic..hehe... etc etc. When I go to class, it's all I'm thinking about. At first I was only thinking about gear and equipment...after-all I'm a real tech head, and technology always makes me tingle inside....but soon realized it's not the right ball game I was playing...like one of the guys above wrote it's literally 5% of what a sound engineer really needs to know and be worried about.

Next week I was planning on visiting a couple of the local studios...see if I could sweep floors...even scrub toilets ... just to get a feel for the arena. Maybe I toss in some knowledge, and maybe a spark flys and they ask if I want to be an assitant of an assitant of an assitant...if I'm lucky. lol. But damn, I'd take that position in a second. All I'm looking for now is someone to take me under his/her wings...just show me the ropes of a full-time working studio. It's the only way to do it...as you guys have pointed out.

I'll follow my heart for sure...it's just scarey though being my age and not knowing what it's going to be like in the future. Sure you guys can say it's something you just got to do...don't be an idiot...but you all know it was ball-busting for you when you were young. Maybe I think about this sh*t too much...maybe I better get off the comp and get some cycling in...

Thanks again guys...means very mcuh to me...seriously.
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Old 06-09-2001, 09:06 AM
scenaria scenaria is offline
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Austin, TX USA
Posts: 123
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

I met this girl a few years ago, we hit it off real well but didnt get "too" serious anyhow...I asked her to marry me and she declined (for various reasons involving her parents) non the less I kept asking her over and over hehe....this past Xmas she finally said yes! (more than likely I wore her down and she just wanted me to shut up)

Point is, nothing comes easily. You have to be persistant and take risks, that doesnt mean you have to completely give up your lively hood you went to school for, who says you cant work both sides of the fence?

I think you came up with a great solution, get your foot in the door of a studio and learn as much as you can, this doesnt mean you cant work a day job. although you will be VERY tired

Best of luck!
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Old 06-09-2001, 02:01 PM
Corey Shay Corey Shay is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Orlando, FL, USA
Posts: 755
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

Pete, since you are in biomed you are probably much smarter than I am. I took 2 semesters of college and crashed and burned. After that I decided to try out my fantasy of being an audio engineer and went to Full Sail at age 20. I haven't looked back. I don't play any instruments really (I played guitar at age 17), and I have limited musical theory education. Now I'd hesitantly say I am a good engineer (not my opinion really, just the opinions of others).

I think you need 3 things to make it in this business...

1) Drive. You'd better really enjoy doing it. Genius alone won't give you good ears or good recording instincts. These come from the willingness to put yourself in recording situations day in and day out, and when not in those situations, you'd better be thinking about them.

2) Humility. Even after you think you've learned a lot, you still need to keep in mind that the next guy (even the homeless guy) might be able to teach you something about recording that you don't know. This quality also makes you a better teacher.

3) The good vibe thing. If you're an ******* you're not going to get anywhere. In this business people usually don't care how much you know or how good you are. They usually care how well you can work with others, and in the music field, how well you work with bands, and bands are very difficult. This takes a lot of patience. You have to be the guy who's still ready to go after everyone else in the room has gotten into a huge punching spree.

The vibe I'm getting from you is that you have at least the last two qualities, and the drive will come if you want it. With the amount of intelligence you likely have going to school for this might seem like a step backwards, but it might be what you need to get you motivated.

Maybe you might try working part time at studios and persue your biomed career, and when you've saved enough money start your own studio. You probably won't have much time to sleep though.
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Old 06-09-2001, 08:43 PM
Peter Steinbach Peter Steinbach is offline
Join Date: Dec 1969
Location: San Francisco, CA USA
Posts: 332
Default Re: How did you pro\'s know you were cut out for sound engineering? Schools you attended?

Hey Peter-
If you fear that you may be bored with biomed in ten years, why not wait ten years and see? If you do, you'll have a lot of dough to finance your interests in recording. It won't work the other way around, that's for sure.

I've been doing sound design for about ten years, and have worked on some pretty high profile stuff. You may want to consider this: Even people who work on the best, sexiest projects sometimes find it to be a grind, that it's just churning out a product. Don't get me wrong, I often love my job, and would usually not trade it for anything. I'm incredibly lucky to have actually found something that I like and am quite good at.

Every now and then I wish I had studied medicine. You can save lives in biomed, you probably won't in sound.

This is only my opinion, and it should mean very little to you. You don't know me, so for god's sake don't take my or any other person heres word for it. Listen to yourself, your family and your friends, in that order.

You will do the right thing, I'm sure...whatever it is. Let us know, P
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