What Does an Audio Engineer Do?
Life as an audio engineer is in many ways similar to being a music producer. Like music producers, audio engineers work in the recording studio. In many ways their job descriptions are similar. In fact there are many people who work in both capacities, often at the same time.
Like music producers, audio engineers may record, edit and mix real audio sound in the studio. They also must work with singers, arrangers, musicians, record producers, artists’ management and everyone else, to try and create the best sound possible.
Generally however an audio engineer’s side of the equation is more technically oriented than that of a producer. While a producer may sit in the booth coaxing singer’s performances and artfully adjusting sound levels to blend best with one another, it is the audio engineer who has generally set up the microphone the singer is singing into.
They’ve also very likely had to mic the drum kit, plug the guitar, bass and keyboards into the soundboard and organize the background vocalists. Professional recording sessions for major artists often involve a producer and an engineer working together.
Life as an audio engineer can often mean being a second set of ears as well as a sounding board for the producer to bounce ideas off of. Good audio engineers often wind up contributing a lot more to a record than merely laying the cable for a tambourine mic. During the actual recording session it is the audio engineers job to make sure the recording of the studio is as “clean,” as possible, meaning that none of the technical elements interfere with the musical performances.
Audio engineers often work with artists for weeks before a recording begins. Setting up equipment, arriving at good studio sound for voices and instruments, helping musicians and singers feel comfortable in the studio, are all things that must be done prior to actually starting a recording session.
During recording sessions many audio engineers will function as producers or co-producers themselves. Others will merely stay on top of the technical side of things, making sure that everything runs as it should and making adjustments as necessary.
A good audio engineer will learn the studio he or she is working at like the back of their hand. They also should have a good working knowledge of how common musical instruments produce live sound and how best to capture that sound on tape or through digital means.
Life as an audio engineer can be an exciting and very lucrative career for anyone with a burning passion for music and the drive and technical aptitude to put it into action.