There are different types of engineers and they all basically engineer things that are relevant to their field.
For example, an electrical engineer, is a person that solves electrical problems through engineering.
That’s a rough definition of course but you get the idea.
You may be thinking, how is this all relevant? not to worry. This post is about sound engineering because I got a really interesting question revolving around this subject and I’m going to discuss and answer it with this post.
…enough with suspense let’s get to that question…
is a sound engineer a real engineer?
Sound engineers are as much real engineers as any other kind of engineer, the only difference is that they engineer an intangible aspect of the world which is sound; getting it to desirable state through the use of various physical and digital tools such as mixing consoles, digital audio workstations, and other audio equipment.
Sound engineers mostly do their work digitally which most people don’t consider as real engineering but it is real engineering because it uses scientific method to design and build audio.
The work of a sound engineer
Sound engineers have to possess a deep understanding of sound and audio equipment. They need this in order to carry out their work properly.
This means knowing how to use equipment like microphones for recording and picking up audio. Which is important in almost all fields of sound engineering because you’re going to be dealing with some sound transmission of sorts.
You also have to know how to set up various equipment such as mixing boards, consoles and other audio equipment that is necessary for the capturing and processing of sound.
Just like mechanical engineers set up their tools is the same way an audio or sound engineer will set up their tools.
So yes, a sound engineer is a real engineer.
The first role of a sound engineer is recording which can mean a number of things depending on the nature of work that the sound engineer does. I’m going to discuss recording with regard to music production, film and gaming.
In music production, it means basically recording vocals of musicians which means getting people to sing the right way, directing them and offering guidance.
The sound engineer is expected to have some expertise in the field of music. At least enough to be able to direct musicians so they can do the right work.
In sound engineering for film, recording will automatically be a different ball game and the sound engineer will be expected to have experience in recording audio for film.
This may mean microphone placement, having an understanding of acoustics and how audio for film should be carried out.
This skill in itself is engineering…let’s move on to another career in sound engineering..which is sound engineering for gaming.
In this career path you obviously have to possess an understanding of recording elements for a game.
This usually means working with people to record game dialogues, finding the right foley artist’s and getting the right sound effects in order.
Sound engineering for gaming is somewhat similar to that of film. Especially now that most video games are pretty much like movies.
Editing audio is another aspect of sound engineering.
It basically involves getting all recorded audio in place. Cleaning up vocals, arranging them how they should be arranged and getting them ready for mixing.
Sound engineers use various digital and analog tools to help them edit vocals.
The digital tools are usually digital audio workstations which is basically sound editing software.
Analog tools are mixing boards, audio interfaces, microphones and other tools that can help the engineer properly carry out the processes of recording and editing.
Mixing is the part of sound engineering that is a lot mechanical. The sound engineer at this stage has to ensure that they process audio and get it to a desirable state.
This involves the use of digital tools like DAWs and plugins.
The sound engineer will use compression plugins, EQ, Saturation, De-essers and other tools to ensure that a vocal is clean, crisp and clear.
This is why sound engineering is as much real engineering just as other fields.
Usually the last stage in digital audio processing is Mastering which involves getting audio to a ready state. A ready state is simply a state where audio can now actually be available for consumption.
If its in music, it means finishing up the record so it can be released.
So many processes are involved here.
The sound engineer will work with various digital plugins to get audio to sound good on various systems.
This means enhancing the record and dealing with any issues that may have been missed during the mixing session.
There’s a lot of diversity in sound engineering therefore it is considered real engineering. If you need more context check out this article detailing the in’s and out’s of sound engineering as a career.