Do you REALLY have to go to school to learn to be an Audio Engineer?Jan 09, 2023
I get this question a lot:
“Do I really need to go to school to learn to be an audio engineer or producer”?
Let’s be honest. The short answer is No! You do not need to go to Audio School to learn to be an Audio Engineer or Producer. You could just hit the street and get some gear, meet some people and start recording and producing tracks from the software you already have access to. Like GarageBand, Logic, and FL Studio. Pro Tools, Ableton, Etc, Etc.
Now, that is one way to go, Yes. But, ( yes, there is always a but ).
You will get more out of learning in a mentor/mentee situation. That is where someone that already knows about recording and mixing, and making music can show you what they know and guide you along the way to help make you a better engineer or producer.
Let’s dive a little deeper into three different scenarios:
1 - Traditional College:
A traditional college is a way to go. If you are the type of person that likes structure and stability in their educational needs. You may like having to move to another location. Another state or country depending on where you want to go. Some excellent universities will teach you and guide you to a degree. With that degree, you can cover a hole in a wall if you frame it. It’s not worth that much.
Is it prestigious to inform everyone that you went to a Big Ivy League school and took some classes about recording and producing? Probably.
But you know who won’t be impressed? Any studio owner that you send a resume to. We don’t care about where you went to school. Or if you have a degree. We want to know what you can do. You can show that by having some product that we can hear and think, “Wow, this person is talented!”
Another massive issue with a traditional college is that it can be SUPER expensive. You can graduate from a traditional college with a debt that will take multiple years to pay off unless you have the means to pay for everything upfront. It’s not uncommon to come out of even a state school at $30 - $50k in the hole. I know some people that have been paying off their student loans for 15 years. And, now, they have a part-time job at Starbux. No Thanks.
2 - Trade Type Schools:
These could be specialty schools like Full Sail University and SAE. Or even the Musicians Institute, LA Recording School, LA Film School, Etc. Etc. All great schools, I’m sure. But, again. SUPER expensive.
A big difference between these types of schools over Traditional Universities is. At least you are there with others for the same reason. This could be a great networking possibility. You know your peers in this industry. Otherwise sometimes referred to as competition depending on where you go. If you’ve ever been to Hollywood in September, you know what I mean. If you see a person walking down Hollywood Boulevard with a guitar strapped to his back, chances are pretty good that he is headed to Musicians Institute.
These schools are about as helpful as going to a traditional college. I taught at the Musicians Institute for a semester, and I can tell you from experience. The students are mostly there for networking. But is networking with your future competition worth $45,000?
The programs at MI, for instance, were at one time pretty good. And, then, at some point, it turned into. If your check clears, You’re in! Not what you might need.
The others in this category, such as Full Sail University. You have to relocate to Florida. So, now you have the added expense of living and doing cool stuff. Like eating food? This can cost a lot more because you have to go there and stay for four years. Sometimes longer. They have great gear at Full Sail and M.I., and SAE. But, because you will probably be one of 20 others in your class, you may not get a lot of time to spend with the actual gear.
Don’t get me wrong, if a student wants to do something and is willing to just go for it, and there are many opportunities after graduating from any of these schools.
Since I am a studio owner in Los Angeles, CA, I see many resumes coming to my email inbox around May and June of any year. These are usually recent graduates of the various schools mentioned earlier.
The only ones I even consider talking to are those who do a follow-up call. That at least shows me some kind of hustle. The ones that call and bug me once a week are the ones that I will invite down to show me some of their work and talk about how we can mutually benefit each other.
Bring a recent mix that you’ve completed. Or a track that you have been working on. Something.
You can’t just tell me you are an engineer or producer. The proof is in the music.
3 - Mentor Type School:
Here is where you will be placed in a working studio to work with a professional that does this for a living.
They might know what’s up. Because they do this for a living, they already know what it takes to be successful and which things you should avoid.
Because they have already done it, you can learn from someone who has already made the mistakes you will make. What an awesome concept. Learning by doing. And learning from someone that already does it.
Let’s look at a few more advantages of a Mentorship.
- You are learning in a working studio - You have access to actual clients and producers coming through that studio that will maybe get to work with you or at least hear your work.
- You will have actual stuff to put on a resume. On your resume, you might be able to list that you worked on the ABC Project and you assisted on the XYZ project, which is currently at number 15 on the Billboard charts. See where this is going?
- Another great plus to this type of learning is that you are in your local market. You are working with local artists and producers. They are a great network of people to know and to “know who you are.”
- This type of school is a fraction of what you might spend at a traditional college or private trade school.
- You will have a ton of money left over to live on and maybe start investing in your gear, which will make you your money in the future.
The advantages here are too many to list.
I have been a mentor for Recording Connection for more than 17 years. Not only do I enjoy dealing with “hungry for knowledge” students, but three of the guys that work here with me at the moment have, at one time, been my students.
One guy has been working here for 12 years. He is an excellent engineer and an even better producer and musician.
I am very fortunate that this school exists. I only wish I had known about Recording Connection before I went to a regular Trade type School and spent $30k to learn Pro Tools.
This brings me to another question:
Do you need to be Pro Tools Certified?
Most schools listed offer an Avid Pro Tools Certification that usually costs extra. And the cool part is, you get a nice, frame-worthy certificate that you can hang in your locker down at the warehouse where you go every day to drive the forklift because, with a degree like that, you might find it hard to get a job in the recording industry without any experience and maybe some projects that you can show what you can do.
CAN YOU DO THE WORK?
That’s all you need.
I have a certificate from Avid. I am a Certified Pro Tools expert. No one has ever come into my studio and said. “Before we get started, let me see your Avid certification?”
No. That doesn’t happen. The clients come here. And I am sitting at the engineer's spot. They just assume that I know how to do stuff. Why else am I here?
You may only need the Avid certification if you teach and certify others.
If you want to succeed in becoming an Audio Engineer / Producer.
First, check into the other schools. Compare costs. Compare the skills that you will end up having. Make a rational decision based on where you want to go with your career.
If you are a hobbyist that wants to record yourself on the weekends.
Go to YouTube and get pointers from guys like Graham Cochrane at Recording Revolution.
(A fantastic resource, by the way).
But, if you are in this for some actual experience and knowledge, reach out to us here at Learn Pro Recording. We can help point you in the right direction.
We can refer you to a specialist at Recording Connection in your area to help you find the right mentor and studio for you to learn.
One last note about your education choice:
As a Recording Connection student, you are more available to do other things while learning your craft.
For example, you may want to attend a traditional school or a local community college to get a degree. Recording Connection allows you time. With Recording Connection, you work on “your schedule.”
This is great for taking some business and marketing classes. Trust me. This is only going to benefit you in the end. You will find that these skills will come in very handy while trying to sell yourself and your art.
And, maybe learn about accounting to help you keep track of all the money you’re going to make!
Go forth and learn what you need to learn, and then get out there and get your hustle on. “Git Er Done,” as they say. It’s all about You!
** Below are some links to help you determine which educational path might be right for you.
Musicians Institute, Hollywood
La Film School
Recording Connection Audio Institute - If you would like a Rep to contact you - Fill out this form