Eight Simple Steps To Becoming A Better Recording Engineer

Quick tips to help your hearing, career and maybe even your blood pressure

Regardless of how long you have been in the business, there’s always room for improvement.

Here are some tips to help your hearing, career, and maybe even blood pressure while in the recording studio.

Praise the Lowered
Work at lower volume levels. If the level must be up, get your sounds, then insert your earplugs, checking the sound once in a while at lower levels. There is nothing in the recording studio as important as your hearing.

Longevity in the recording industry means good hearing for decades to come. Plus the loud level might wake up the producer.

Be Consistent
Quality is no accident. Success comes from working every day at your craft. Getting good results every day requires hard work and dedication. You are responsible for keeping the session running smoothly, including setting up the control room, choosing the microphones, organizing the signal flow, choosing the track layout, getting the sounds and pressing the record button.

Good sounds or bad, the buck stops with the recording engineer. The ultimate goal is to be the recording engineer that everyone wants to use because of your ears, your expertise, your vibe, and your impressive collection of Ramones t-shirts.

Get Musical
Recording music is so much easier if you understand music. Music plays a key role in a vast majority of recordings, so most clients prefer musical engineers. If you don’t play in instrument, buy a guitar or keyboard, and learn some basic songs.

While learning to play an instrument may seem daunting, you don’t need to become a virtuoso player, you just need to grasp musical progressions and changes. If you get musical, you get work.

Be Professional
This is your craft, and you must work at it. I have seen engineers lose gigs because they got wasted and became an idiot. Do what I do. Wait until your day off to start drinking at 7 a.m.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
An even temperament goes a long way. Mistakes and frustrations happen in all jobs, and in the long run, so what?

A good engineer keeps the session at ease, especially during stressful times. Do you want clients and co-workers to remember you as the engineer who blows up, or the engineer who is a pro and can work around anything?

Make it Look Good
Some engineers go through their careers simply putting up a microphone and pressing the record button. Engineering is an art. Much like cooking and sex, presentation is part of the package.

If you want loyalty in the music business, get a dog. Don’t get too attached to a project. They will say they love you, love your engineering, are definitely going to use you next time, you’re in the club, the sounds are awesome.

Next week you hear they are using another engineer. Well don’t let it bug you. Do your job, take pride in it, and at the end of the day, realize that no matter what they promise, you don’t have the gig until you’re in the chair.

Long Hours Benefit No One
If the client expects you to work 18 hours a day, explain that you really aren’t at your best after ten or twelve hours. Some engineers state before the project that there must be certain limitations on the length of sessions.

Engineering can be draining, and the eighteenth hour is when mistakes happen. You want clients to remember you for your skills as an engineer, not for erasing the kick drum due to fatigue. And once you start working long hours, the client expects it.

Rule of Thumb
When deciding which instrument takes precedence, make the guy who signs your check sound best.

Be the Heavy
Sometimes the engineer must also be the heavy, doing the unpleasant tasks when sessions get out of hand. State firmly and professionally “You can’t smoke in the control room.” “Don’t set your latte on the console.”

From the book “Recording Tips for Engineers” via ProSoundWeb. Used by permission.