Creating and producing music requires artistic as well as engineering skills. In this article, find out who is an audio engineer and what does an audio engineer do.
Who Is An Audio Engineer
Audio engineers work with Music Producers in commercial studios. An audio engineer is a person who is responsible for recording, editing, mixing and mastering music or audio. Audio engineers are technically well versed with in and out of music equipment, technology and consoles. They understand how sound behaves and how to make it better.
What Audio Engineers Do
During the music production process, audio engineers are responsible for four major tasks
- Recording Audio
- Editing Audio
- Mixing Audio
- Mastering Audio
On a daily basis in a studio, audio engineers work with consoles and recording equipment. Audio engineers spend most of their time glued to the soundboard (mixing board) in an audio studio or processing pre-recorded audio files using a workstation. Audio engineers balance the levels and frequencies of the different channels of sound so that the output is high-quality and has the best characteristics as per their music producer needs.
Types of Audio Engineers
There are 5 different types of audio engineers in a commercial music studio
- Recording and Tracking Engineer
- Editing and Arranging Engineer
- Mixing Engineer
- Mastering Engineer
- Audio and Sound Designer
Let us understand the roles of each type:
Tracking Engineer / Recording Engineer
A tracking engineer is responsible for carrying out the studio recording session. Tracking is the process of recording the various instruments that are used to perform a song. In the tracking stage, all different instruments and sound sources are tracked/recorded separately on a separate medium or channel.
Tracking engineers work with recording equipment like microphones and consoles. Tracking engineers collaborate with artist/performers and record their performances. Tracking engineers are well versed with session setups, miking techniques and recording workflow. Tracking engineers are generally assisted by one or two studio technicians who help them setup and carry out studio recording sessions.
Once the recording is done, editing engineers come into play. Editing engineers are responsible for improving upon the recorded sound. They make alterations like removing unwanted noise, removing unwanted parts, rearranging, editing out unwanted takes, normalizing sound etc.
Once the sounds are tracked and edited, they are mixed. Mixing is the process of combining all the instruments you’ve recorded into a mono(emanating from one position), stereo 2-track mix (left-right) or surround(5.1 or similar) sound.
A mixing engineer is responsible for balancing, panning, equining, adjusting dynamics and adding effects to the recorded sound. Mixing engineers work with recorded sound using consoles, workstations, eq's, compressors, limiters, effects like reverb, delays etc.
Knowing how to mix well is an art form that takes years of learning and practice. A great mix can completely enhance the way music sounds.
Mastering is the process of making all the songs sound coherent, part of the same album and industry-ready. When recording an album, artists sometimes use various studios, producers and engineers for different songs. The result is that each song will have its sound and characteristics.
In the mastering stage, a Mastering Engineer ensures that all tracks are made to sound as part of an album and adjusted for loudness and accuracy. Mastering also ensures that the song sounds accurate when played on different streaming platforms or playback systems and is adjusted for loudness according to client requirements.
Mastering Engineers have great ears and are experienced enough to master a track with just a few alterations.
Audio and Sound Designer
Audio and Sound Designer play an important role for genres that involve a lot of electronic sounds and samples. They are responsible for synthesising new sounds and making beats. In most electronic studios, sound designers are also called beat designers.
Other than these roles, audio engineers also work as audio technicians or sound technicians, responsible for maintaining and managing the studio equipment and gear. Audio engineers with less experience are generally employed as sound technicians or audio technicians, and fill a subset with roles that would normally be filled by an audio engineer.
On a day-to-day basis, audio engineers spend most of their time glued to the soundboard (mixing board) in an audio studio or processing pre-recorded audio files using a workstation.
As they work, audio engineers balance the levels and frequencies of the different channels of sound so that the output is high-quality and has the best characteristics for their client’s needs.In some cases, this may mean reducing the incidence of unwanted sounds in the audio track or altering the volume of some channels to emphasise them.
Likewise, they are responsible for physically operating and maintaining the audio equipment involved in recording as well as processing sounds. Some of these engineers may be employed as sound technicians or audio technicians if they have less experience and are filling a subset with the roles that would normally be filled by an audio engineer.
Skills Required To Become An Audio Engineer
- Responsible and Professional : — Being an audio engineer demands the person to be responsible with clients and studio equipment. An audio engineer should be professional with clients and his team. Audio engineers should also ensure the safety of the equipment as studio gear costs millions.
- Critical Listening: — Audio engineers should have a well-trained ear. They must be able to easily identify troubling frequencies, dynamic changes and phasing issues.
- Technical Skills: — Professional studios use complex equipment and setup. An audio engineer needs to be well versed with working and maintenance of studio equipment.
- Creativity: — Creativity of an engineer helps the music producers and clients. Getting creative with the recording process and mixing process really adds to the feel and vibe of the songs.
- Teamwork; — Every field demands that a person is a good team worker and helps to govern the projects with ease. No one likes an a*s.
Hope this article helped you learn about audio engineering. In the next article, you will learn how you can become a music producer or an audio engineer.