So You Want To Be A Recording Engineer?

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Two of the most common questions we are asked are “How do I become a recording engineer/producer?” and “How can I get a job at Morrisound?”  Since the answers to these questions have a lot in common, I thought I’d take a shot at giving a response here.

First, a quick disclaimer – there is only one reason to even consider a career as a recording engineer – absolute love for the craft of making music recordings. The pressures that working as a recording engineer bring to bear on our family and social lives, and the day to day struggle that most of us fight to make a living in this business, make this career a horrible choice unless you truly love making records.

There are many paths that can be travelled to become a successful recording engineer or producer.  When we started Morrisound in 1981 the choices were pretty slim.  There were few if any formal education programs that taught the skills required.  The start up cost to have any significant recording capability was roughly equivalent to the cost of buying a 5,000 square foot house – just for the electronic components, never mind the cost to build the facility.  The competition for entry level jobs was fierce.  All of which meant that getting a chance to try your hand at recording was extremely difficult.

Today, in 2010, there are many educational options to learn about the craft, and the cost to own an excellent recording setup is only a few thousand dollars, and can be easily installed in your bedroom.  What hasn’t changed is the level of competition for entry level jobs.

Since 9/11/2001 the number of home based recording studios has skyrocketed, with an accompanying decline in the number of full time professional recording facilities.  What that means is that there are more and more people that have a reasonable knowledge of the recording process looking for work at fewer and fewer studios.

That means that only those candidates that have a good grasp of the fundamental aspects of recording technology and the motivation and drive to excel, no matter what the task, will have a chance to make it in the shrinking work force that staffs studios today.  The abilities to learn quickly, communicate clearly, get along with many diverse personalities and above all, be productive (read “self starter”) make all the difference when trying to impress other studio staff and the artists we all work for.

Of all the entry level employees I’ve hired over the years, one stands out in terms of exemplifying these traits.  He first came to us because he wanted to learn from us.  He was mixing live sound for a local band and wanted to try his hand at recording them, but knew that he would be over his head in a studio.  He made a deal with his band that he would pay for half of the recording session if they would let him do the recording with one of our engineers helping.  When he finished the session he asked about job opportunities with our studio.  I was so impressed with his attitude that I hired him as an assistant engineer.  When one of the engineers he was assisting had some health issues, he stepped up and finished the session as a first engineer.  His attitude and work ethic were so good that when I received a call from Road Runner Records about sending an engineer to Brazil to record a new band there, I had no hesitation in recommending him for the job.  The success of that project helped launch his career as a producer, and a very successful one at that.  Scott Burns is a great example of what motivation, attitude and technical ability can achieve.

While his path may not be the one for you, the only way to rise above the masses in any job is to do your best to exemplify the kind of hard working, dedicated music lover that everyone in this business wants to work with.  With that kind of drive, intelligence, personality and a bit of luck, maybe you too will find success as a recording engineer/producer.  It’s even possible that we would hire you.

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