Most people relate being a sound engineer and being a musician. But these two are different fields, they may work hand in hand but they serve distinct functions.
A sound engineer in music is responsible for handling the production of the song. Therefore being a musician is not a prerequisite for being a sound engineer. You only need to have good knowledge of music and the technical parts which are recording, mixing and mastering. You don’t need to be a full blown musician in order to sound engineer.
Most sound engineers available today are not musicians at all, but you’ll find that most musicians can carry out sound engineering processes.
A sound engineer has to have a good ear for music and knowledge of how to capture sound and edit it to make it a full body of work.
What do musicians do?
Musicians write music which may sometimes be written lyrics to a song or the actual melodies of the song written in music language.
Sound engineers don’t need to have the ability to write music at all because they only handle the actual production of that music.
For musicians, writing music is absolutely critical because it is their job description.
Song writing, composing and performing are the key functions of musicians while these skills are not needed for you to engineer sound.
The role of a musician is to record their music and have it ready for release.
After the composition is done and written down the recording process is the follow up.
The role of the sound engineer is to ensure that the musician deliver the recording properly.
A sound engineer does not need musical abilities to record their own voice, all they need is the technical knowledge to properly capture these sounds.
The technical knowledge of the sound engineer is discussed in this post.
Musicians have the final role which is to basically be able to perform their recorded music to their intended audience.
Sound engineers can help with setting up equipment and having it ready for the live performance.
This is basically the job if the sound engineer them having the ability to perform music is not necessary at all.
From the brief description of the various roles of a musician it is easy to deduce that these skills are not needed for somebody that is just engineering sound.
Furthermore, sound engineers focus on the technical work which facilitates recording of the music and editing it making it ready for mass consumption.
What do sound engineers do?
One of the duties of sound engineers is to properly record vocals and other instruments into their DAW.
You don’t need to be a musician to know this, you just need to know how to use recording equipment and a Digital audio Workstation.
Mix instruments and vocals
After recording, the follow up process is to mix the recording tracks which involves, using effects to remove noise from the track, compression to give it a good dynamic range, delay, reverb, de-essers etc.
Sound engineers are also responsible for the final part of song which is the mastering process, which essentially improves the mix and makes it radio-ready.
What qualifications do I need to be a sound engineer?
In a formal setting a sound engineer will usually be required to have a degree in a relevant sound engineering or audio engineering degree or diploma.
For informal work, like working in a recording studio that has less formal qualification requirements, a sound engineer will just need to have the relevant experience and some reference tracks that show their abilities, plus a live demonstration of their work.
Do sound engineers produce music?
Sound engineers are trained to deal with the technical aspects of music production which involves manipulation of audio by using various techniques and effects.
They are responsible for putting all the pieces together in order to have the final song. They indeed produce music.
Is it hard to become an audio engineer?
There are quite a lot of technical things to learn and understand which may difficult for some people.
With the right teaching and the right motivation to learn it can be a less difficult path.
Can I be a sound engineer without a degree?
You can learn how to engineer sound on your own, a degree may be helpful in seeking formal employment but it is not a requirement in most cases.
If you can show that you’re able to engineer sound to the required standard, you can usually get hired even without having a degree.
Do sound engineers make beats?
It’s not hard to find sound engineers that are able to make beats.
Most people that get into sound engineering usually have had some experience and background making beats.