Recording Connection mentor Miah Lajeunesse on Studio Etiquette, Turning Passion into Strategy & more!
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Recording Connection mentor Miah Lajeunesse is a largely self-taught audio engineer who is a prime example of how to turn your passion into a full-time career. As the owner/operator of The Sound Lair in Knoxville, Tennessee, Miah stays quite busy working with artists in a wide range of genres and, he’s frequently called upon to fix other people’s mixes. In a recent conversation with RRFC, Miah weighed in on the value of in-studio training, and offered key career advice for students of the program. We share the best nuggets of this conversation with you below.
ON HOW HE GOT STARTED IN HIS CAREER:
“I got into recording just by buying some equipment and having an interest in it in the late 90s, and discovered that I really loved it over the years and decided to take the plunge and hang up the corporate day job at the very beginning of 2006. So when this year wraps up, I will be doing this [for] ten years, full-time as my sole means of support…There was no YouTube at the time; I was just reading articles that I could find, magazines, periodicals. I used to enjoy EQ Magazine back in the day and reading user forms that existed in the earlier days on the web and just educating myself, making lots really lousy demos and learning about how the process works until I got better and better. I didn’t really have anyone to show me the ropes, so I’m very self-taught.”
ON THE TYPES OF MUSIC HE RECORDS AT THE STUDIO:
“Some studios will focus on certain genres; I will record pretty much anything. The client [that] just stepped up this afternoon was a voice over client….The guy I have coming in this evening has a metal project, so we are going to be working and switching gears and working on that, had a couple rappers in last night. So it is a little of everything: gospel, hip hop, acoustic music, contemporary Christian and movie soundtracks, scoring, a little of everything.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING VERSATILE AS AN ENGINEER:
“I think it makes you more a well-rounded engineer to work in a lot of different genres. People that specialize certainly [are] in demand for the kind of work they do. But I think, it tunes your ear to frequencies and the craft of recording and the approach of how to work up a mix. If you try different kinds of music, you get some kind of cross pollination between the way that you work between genres.”
ON THE BENEFITS OF LEARNING ONE-ON-ONE IN THE STUDIO:
“If a student has questions, he [or she] has my undivided attention….I have had five students through the program so far, and every one of them requires a different amount of explanation…they’re getting a level of attention that they probably wouldn’t get if they are sitting in a classroom…In that way, a student can get the attention they need for themselves…It’s been enjoyable for the students that I’ve had, and especially for the variety of the work. Some of them would prefer to see more metal sessions. Some of them are more interested in the hip hop sessions that I’ve worked with. So I think they enjoy just seeing this thing that actually happens. These are actual paying clients, decisions being made on the fly, and they are included in it.”
ON WHAT HE GETS PERSONALLY OUT OF BEING A MENTOR:
“Having the chance to mentor students who have come in, it gave me a sense of kind of [how to] organize my thoughts, and think about how I came upon the knowledge that I have through just blind stumbling or reading, and then attempting some techniques based on what I was reading. Gave me a chance of kind of formalize and relate to them, ‘This is how I discovered that it worked and why it works for me,’ and let them make that same discovery.”
ON WHAT CAUSES HIM TO BE IMPRESSED WITH A STUDENT:
“Anticipating what needs might be in place for a session. Helping set up microphones or moving microphones on the drum kit or checking where they are located in the middle of tracking…just the transparent things that need to go on, and if they can see that that needs to happen, if they take the initiative to do that, that impresses me.”
HIS ADVICE ON HOW STUDENTS CAN GET THE MOST OUT OF THE PROGRAM:
“Go home and learn these skills and the things you see me doing repeatedly Go home and master that…How many hours does it take to become an expert? They say 10,000. If they go home and start doing these things, then they gain ground for understanding how to interact with the software, how to physically do the operations that render the sound. That helps close the gap between imagining what they want with the sound and actually making that sound come out of the speakers.”
HIS ADVICE ON PROPER STUDIO ETIQUETTE:
“It’s a business practice of mine that I just never will use profanity in front of my clients. After a couple of sessions, I’ve called a couple of my students aside when they got a little casual with them. So you know, be above that. Just speak in a way [that] you represent the studio, you represent the school, and don’t get too casual with your speech with them. Be professional. Don’t use profanity. That’s a particular of mine.”
CAREER ADVICE FOR NEW AUDIO ENGINEERS:
“You’ve got to be driven and you have to take the steps with as many people as [you can]…I stumbled into it, and basically people find out you have some recording equipment and then, ‘Hey we’ll re-record it for free or for low charge.’ You can start off doing that but when you start turning out recordings that are of a better caliber and look like they could command some amount of revenue, you’ve got to plan your business and set goals for where you want to be. And you have to actively market yourself…They’ve got to establish their name quickly, they have got to network, they’ve got to be professional in the way they interact. They can’t be known for being arrogant or difficult to work with or sloppy with their work. I have been very calculated over the years with being timely and friendly with all the people I work with, and you win people with a good personality that way…Just chase the passion.
Chase the hobby until it becomes a new profession. It’s the best way to work because it never feels like work. The students that I have can discover that for themselves, discover how to turn what they love into a way that they can make a living. You can’t ask for more than that.”