The subjects you need for sound engineering are Physics and math to help you understand calculations, acoustics, audio electronics concept of frequency, vibration, electricity, voltage, rate as well as time. You also need knowledge of basic electronics, equipment and engineering to help you cope with equipment handling and the like.
The good part is you don’t need the core knowledge of these subjects.
A fundamental understanding of the principles will do just fine and you won’t be lacking with that kind of knowledge base.
Additional knowledge in music theory can also help a sound engineer career.
The subjects discussed here are brief and I shall expand on them further so you have a better understanding of the knowledge you need for a sound engineering career as well as why you need this knowledge.
The Scope or Sound Engineering
To understand why we need the subjects we need for sound engineering. We need to use and rely on the actual scope of sound engineering.
This is because, the scope will give us more detailed info rather than generalizations as to what is involved in this field.
1. Fundamentals of Sound
Audio Principles are the core foundations that make up sound engineering.
This basically involves the study of sound in scientific form taking into account all crucial elements of physics such as waves and the types of sounds that make up the frequency spectrum as we know it.
The audio principles also explain and teach the student; the relationship between the human ear and sound in general.
This is essential because sound engineering revolves around the understanding of sounds as a human.
The audio principles also touch on the levels of sound and frequency responses as well as linearity.
From this discussion above you can see the implication of sound engineering for its use of physics.
All elements that constitute sound and audio have units in which they are measured and this helps us as we do our work.
For example the Decibel (dB) is one of the measurements that are crucial in sound engineering.
The fact is, the use and understanding of math has its firm application in sound engineering because it is used in determining various measurements such as audio intensity etc.
Furthermore, understanding measurements is also useful in combining things like decibels and voltage when dealing with audio.
For example, distortion is a huge part of audio engineering and is a nightmare for most music producers.
Therefore knowing how to measure it using math so we can either reduce or use it some how relies on our ability to calculate which is basic math.
Acoustics are basically how environments are able to conduct sound. This is very crucial and vital in sound engineering.
Because generally, we want to preserve audio within a room by blocking outside sounds from entering our environment.
While simultaneously ensuring that we preserve sounds produced inside the room.
Basic physics is very operational when it comes to acoustics because it helps understand things like sound reflection, refraction and diffraction.
Furthermore, things like the Inverse-square law level change is important when dealing with acoustics.
Plus knowing how other factors like humidity play a role altering frequencies and the like.
This is why physics is a huge part of sound engineering and always has to be mentioned (as far as sound engineering subjects go) next to math because they compliment each other.
2. Audio Electronics
Power supply and design
Sound engineering also takes a deep dive into electronics.
In this section I’ll briefly explain some electronic components that are useful in sound engineering and why such knowledge of electronics is needed if you’re looking to get into this career.
Sound engineering relies on having knowledge about electronic components like capacitors, transistors, diodes, integrated circuits, plugs, sockets, switches and a lot more.
These components are the material you’ll work with in sound engineering and hence having some electric and or electronic knowledge is certainly an advantage.
Which is why I listed it as one of the important subjects needed for sound engineering.
3. Pre-amplifiers and amplifiers
Pre-amplifiers and input signals
Audio amplification is another key element involved in sound engineering and it therefore pays to have background in electronics, physics and math.
Because you’ll have to deal with signal voltages and impedance levels. This requires a good understanding of sound, phsysics, electronics and some decent math.
You’ll have to balance audio signals by knowing just how much voltage you need as well as parameters like gain and amplitude that various circuits can load.
As you can tell from this description sound engineering is pretty demanding on your knowledge of electronics as well the other subjects I keep mentioning here.
4. Digital Audio
Digital Audio Fundamentals
Sound engineering is not only concerned with the highly technical analog stuff we’ve discussed above. It also encompasses digital audio fundamentals.
With digital audio the playing field changes because you’re no longer dealing with analog technologies.
Digital Audio requires from you a deep understanding into the workings of your computer and the audio data that you process with it.
This is why technical knowledge in electronics is an important subject needed for sound engineering.
With sound engineering You’ll learn how your computer interacts with the audio data that you record with it.
This means understanding several computer parts such as the processor, hard disks, ram, sound cards etc.
All this information in one way or another affects the effectiveness with which one can pull off high quality sound engineering with their computer.
Furthermore, digital tools like audio compressors also have to be understood. Plus other variable components that are important in sound engineering.
This is why having knowledge in subjects like physics, math and electronics is so vital because it can aid you in understanding digital and analog processes.
5. Representation of Audio Signals
Sound engineering also involves recording.
Most sound engineering is closely related to music production now more than ever.
Which means you’ll have to know how to turn analog vocals into digital data that can be processed and engineered.
With recording you’ll need knowledge of your computer and equipment. and a lot goes into perfecting your skills at this.
But, with the basic knowledge of physics, math, and electronics you can actually quickly grasp the art of recording and how to do it in an effective and proficient manner.
Audio interfaces are external sound cards that work to substitute your computers inbuilt sound card because it is not optimized for large audio processing and operations.
This is equipment one has to learn to use in order so they can effectively engineer sound.
Having background knowledge of physics, math and equipment will easily help you understand the workings of such equipment faster.
Digital Audio production
This forms the bigger part of sound engineering which involves the actual processing of audio to make it fit a desired outcome.
It involves the use of various equipment as well as digital tools like Digital Audio Workstations to host audio data and process.
This takes some good ear training and the ability to isolate various audio components so they can be properly processed individually.
Which is why some knowledge of equipment and electronics can help.
Microphones in audio and sound engineering are held in high regard because they are tools with which audio signals are captured.
In sound engineering, you’ll be taught how you can use mics, how you can pick them and how you can calibrate them so they help you achieve what you want to achieve.
Knowledge of physics, math, equipment and electronics is certainly foundational in sound engineering, which makes them subjects necessary for sound engineering.