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Careers in Recording

If you love music, and if you love the idea of working in a recording studio, a career in recording might be just the thing for you. The recording industry is always in need of talented professionals who can help bring music from notes on a page to a thrilling recording that listeners all over the world can enjoy. Behind the musical artists doing the playing and singing are many others who work behind the scenes to make sure a recording is the best it can be. Here are just a few possible careers in recording that you might consider.

Music Producer. The music producer essentially oversees every aspect of a recording. On the music side, this includes working with musicians to bring out their best work, collaborating with the audio engineer during tracking and mixing, and sometimes participating directly in the process by writing songs and laying down tracks. On the business side, it means working within the budget, hiring the studio and musicians, and having an eye for up and coming talent. Music producers can become as famous as the artists they produce–names like Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, Timbaland, Butch Vig, Pharrell, Berry Gordy and the notorious Phil Spector come to mind.

Audio Engineer. The audio engineer is the magician behind the controls in the recording studio—the person responsible for capturing and manipulating the sounds generated in the studio to create an ideal recording. The audio engineer has mastered the principles of microphone placement, signal flow, signal processing, recording and mixing, and will work with both the producer and the artists to achieve the desired sound on a record. Many audio engineers master certain tricks of the trade to develop their own “signature sound” that places them in high demand. For that reason, an audio engineer is part artist, part technician, and of course, part magician.

Mastering Engineer. Some audio engineers are particularly good at “fine-tuning” a recording once the initial tracking and mixing have been done. A mastering engineer specializes in tweaking the final mix on specific songs to optimize them for broadcast and commercial sale, and also balancing the final mix of an entire album.

Beat Maker. Nowadays, more and more artists in the pop and hip-hop genres especially are looking for professionally designed original drum loops and beats for their recordings. A beat maker specializes in creating these sounds and rhythms, working extensively in the MIDI environment, using samplers, synths and drum machines to create danceable or catchy grooves to underlay the artists’ songs.

Studio Manager. This person is in charge of running the actual studio, scheduling studio time, hiring and overseeing the staff engineers, and making sure the facilities are always in top condition. A studio manager understands the business and marketing aspects of the studio, as well as the technical side—and he/she must also be a “people person,” a diplomat able to strike a balance between satisfying artistic egos and maintaining a responsible and professional working environment. If you enjoy the business aspects of the music industry and know how to work with a variety of people, this might be a great career for you.

Session Musician. If you love to play music and prefer the musical side of recording, you might really enjoy becoming a session musician. These are the people the studios call on to become part of the “band” backing the recording artist in the studio. A good session player is extremely skilled on his/her instrument, has a really good ear and/or the ability to sight read, can pick up the gist of a song within the first couple of listens, and can lay down a quality track within a short amount of time. Since great musicians are difficult to find, the best session players frequently find themselves in high demand.