Learn from an Audio Mentor

Latest posts by Liya Swift (see all)

Recording Connection mentor Tre Nagella and student Dez Ward

Gearheads often think they know all they need to know about audio. They’re passionate about their technology. They know every spec about every piece of gear they own and have opinions on what’s the best piece of gear to use for each occasion. They’ve consumed a wealth of online tutorials. None of this is useless information, but is it relevant to being a great audio engineer?

Practically speaking, to a large degree, such gearhead knowledge is superfluous to being a great audio engineer. It’s analogous to what it takes to be a great cook—just because you have an ingredients list and a recipe doesn’t mean the dish you’re preparing will be edible.

Being a successful audio engineer (or a chef) requires more than just gear or even technical knowledge. It requires insight that’s gained from practical experience. You can have all the gear in the world but unless you have the skills to use that knowledge and apply it in the right way at the right time in actual recording session or mixing session, you can end up sorely disappointed by the results.

This is where an experienced audio mentor can come in. Like a gearhead, he or she is down with current technology and its specs. However, most audio engineers are not obsessed with their gear. They look at their gear more as valuable and essential tools to accomplish what they envision when they prepare for an audio session—not as the end-all, be-all. Gearheads can run the risk of being masters of minutia without the ability to grasp the big picture. For instance, a gearhead will be able to tell your every spec and all the history behind a particular microphone. The audio engineer, based on his experience, will be able to tell you whether it’s the right microphone to record a specific instrument, voice, or session based on the environment where the recording is to take place and the sound the artist is going for.

Being mentored by a successful audio engineer will open up many new horizons for the gearhead. The audio engineer deals in real-world practicalities: how to maintain a constant level of business (i.e. where do they find the clients who will pay them); how work flow needs to be scheduled; how signal flow forms the basis for all recording sessions; how to deal with difficult clients; when to just let things happen and when to take charge of a session; and a host of other real-life situations that have nothing technical to do with audio recording but have everything to do with becoming a successful audio engineer and remaining one! Additionally, an experienced audio engineer can teach you a lot of the technical tricks they’ve picked up over the years—things that never make it into books or tutorials but in fact are often better ways to do things than those who’ve been self-taught.

The biggest asset having an experienced audio engineer as a mentor can be the relationship you have with your mentor. He can be your best advocate, he can give you constructive criticism, he can be a sounding board for new ideas and he can help you develop to your full potential. Many experienced audio engineers love to mentor up-and-coming audio engineers as a way to “pay it forward.” This does not mean they are actively searching for up-and-coming audio engineers to mentor; rather it means that if they come across someone who needs mentoring, exhibits the drive and passion for knowledge and success, and understands the value a motivated mentor can bring them, then such a mentor/student relationship can thrive. So, where does the gearhead who is looking to expand their horizons find a mentor to teach him audio skills for the real recording industry? Recording Connection’s audio engineering programs are one solution. These programs are all taught on the mentor/extern model of education—meaning you learn audio engineering from an experienced audio engineer in their studio. If you have some knowledge but want to build on it or even if you’re completely new to audio, Recording Connection may be the solution for you that’ll take you just 6-9 months.

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