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The Problem With Audio Engineering Schools

7/12/2012

If you’re dreaming of becoming a music producer or recording engineer, you might be scoping out different audio engineering schools to figure out where to get your education. If so, you’re likely to find quite a few different options. Depending on where you live, you’ll find anything from full-blown college degree programs at local colleges or universities to short-term certificate programs at specialized trade schools. These schools generally promise to train you in the aspects of audio production, qualifying you for a number of different jobs within the music industry.

However, while many of these schools do a fair job of teaching the technical skills of audio production, plugging you into the music industry is another matter entirely. The sad fact is that many audio students end up graduating from these schools with few (if any) job prospects and no industry connections, having a working knowledge of professional audio but no place to put that knowledge to use. Meanwhile, many of them feel pressured by the weight of student debt, and end up taking non-industry jobs just to pay the debt off.

The problem with most audio engineering schools is essentially two-fold:

  1. They make the students work toward a degree or diploma, while the music industry has no real regard for either; and
  2. They train students in isolated campus environments, while the music industry basically runs on inside connections. (Hiring is generally done from within.)

In short, the two things that matter most to the music business are work experience and industry connections, while most traditional schools cannot help their students with either of these. This has prompted many aspiring producers and engineers to look for alternative ways of getting their education, ways that will help them connect to the industry in a more effective way.

A WORKING ALTERNATIVE

If you were to ask most music industry professionals what they feel is the best way to learn professional audio, they would likely tell you that traditional school is not the answer. Instead, they’d recommend that you get into a real recording studio and learn the ropes directly from a working professional. This, in effect, is how everyone learned the ropes before schools began offering audio engineering courses. In-studio training not only teaches you the concepts more effectively, but it also gives you the experience and connections that traditional schools can’t provide.

One alternative education approach that is gaining in popularity these days is the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach. Rather than placing you in a classroom, a mentor-apprentice (extern) school actually places you as an apprentice (extern) in a real recording studio, provides a structured curriculum, and arranges for one-on-one training under a working producer or engineer.

Make no mistake—you need some sort of education in order to make it in the music industry. It’s just that you also need to get some experience and connections in order to be competitive. In-studio training can provide this, while most audio engineering schools cannot.