Guest post by Evan Zwisler
Working in production can be a great career for anyone who is passionate about music and interested in sound recording. And while most music lovers might not immediately consider it, working in a recording studio can just as interesting, rewarding, and fulfilling as writing and performing your own music.
So if you have a deep love for audio gear (or even a curiosity!), and would like to help artists create music, here are a few jobs to look into in music production:
1. Intern/General Assistant
Getting a paying job at a studio can be difficult at first, especially if you don’t have experience. Becoming an intern is a great way to gain experience and make connections. At first you might just be shuffling gear around and grabbing coffees, but if you’re engaged and interested the producers will take notice and eventually give you more responsibilities
2. Assistant Recording Engineer
This would likely be your first paid job in a studio. You’ll need to know how to set up microphones, wrap cables correctly, set up many configurations of drum kits and amps, and do whatever the producer or engineer needs you to do. Your job is to help the engineer make the recording process go as smoothly as possible.
3. Recording Engineer
The main responsibility of a recording engineer is to capture the way a band or musician sounds live. This position requires a lot of experience in sound recording, and many training programs exist for certification in this role.
You’ll have to know the sound qualities of a broad range of microphones and amps, the challenges presented by various instruments, different recording techniques, the benefits and drawbacks of analog and digital recording formats, and countless other details. You’ll be overseeing the artistic and technical elements of the recording process. This role requires a lot of knowledge and know-how, and it’s probably the first job on this list that can be a full-time job.
4. Mixing Engineer
A mixing engineer is responsible for collecting the individual tracks captured by the recording engineer, and combining these various sonic elements into a single track. Mixing is usually a very involved process that requires a solid combination of technical expertise, good communication skills, and sharp instincts.
You’ll need to figure out what the musicians want to do, and be able to bring their vision forward. In my experience, this step is where the components of good ideas and great-sounding individual tracks are combined to create an amazing song.
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5. Mastering Engineer
A mastering engineer takes a song that’s already been mixed and prepares it for distribution. The changes are subtle to most people, but let’s think of it like waxing a car: That car may have seemed fine before, but now it’s got extra shine. Mastering is an extremely technical process and can take years to perfect, but experienced mastering engineers can work quickly and make good money.
A producer oversees and manages the whole recording process. Often a producer will act as their own recording and/or mixing engineer, taking a more hands-on approach. Other times they’re just there to guide the recording process from start to finish. A producer should be able to access a band’s process and sound, and make sure that these qualities come through on the final record.
Producers sometimes offer feedback on song structure, and can be included in the songwriting process. A producer isn’t hired for only for their technical skills, but for their tastes and opinions as well. They should hear an artists’ ideas and balance those with what they know works, so that the end result is a better product.
7. Studio Manager
It’s not the best use of a producer's time to be managing the day-to-day operations outside of recording, so many studios have managers. These managers oversee the marketing and promotion, financial management, budgeting, and often act as a link between the artists and producers.
This job is mostly a step removed from working directly with musicians, but you’ll be able to wield much more influence over the studio’s success as a whole.
8. Studio Owner
As the owner of a studio you’ll have to decide what sort of studio yours will be: will you focus on a specific genre? Are you going to have a trademark sound? If you’ve already answered these big-picture questions and are certain that you want to eventually own your own studio, it’s a good idea to start with a home recording set up. That way you can test running your business on a small scale before investing money into a larger venture.
Evan Zwisler is a NYC-based musician who is most notably known for his work with The Values as a songwriter and guitarist, and is an active member of the Brooklyn music scene.
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