Sound recording engineer
Sound recording engineers operate technical equipment to record, amplify and mix sound to the highest possible quality.
They are also known as audio engineers, studio managers or sound technicians.
Sound recording engineers record sound for different purposes across the commercial and public sector. This can include advertising, corporate videos, commercial music recordings, computer games, multi-media websites, live performances, film and broadcasting. Responsibilities may include:
In live shows
- Set up sound desk, microphones and speakers
- Complete sound checks before a performance
- Check audio links with presenters, contributors and external studios/control rooms are working correctly
- Operate the sound desk and monitor sound levels
- Take down equipment after performance
Recording music, effects, speech
- Discuss requirements with producer/editor
- Set up studio as required
- Record and monitor sound
- Working in post-production mix edit and balance speech, effects and music. Re-record and synchronise audio and sound effects for multi-media, film and TV
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for sound recording engineers
- Understanding of how to function in a studio or live recording environment
- Good communication and teamworking skills
- Knowledge of electronics, acoustics and digital technology
- Creative approach to problem solving
- Quick thinker and ability to use initiative
- Good time management skills and ability to prioritise
- Resilience and willingness to work long hours
- Knowledge of health and safety procedures
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of sound recording engineers
The recent advances in digital technology has resulted in the move away from large recording studios to smaller ones. Although this has made recording more affordable it has also resulted in a change of working patterns as very few studios are able to employ full time recording staff and contract freelancers for project work. There are still some full-time positions available at major broadcasters.
- Commercial music organisations and venues
- Advertising, multi-media companies
- BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five and S4C
- Independent radio stations and production companies
- Satellite, cable and digital broadcasters
- Outside broadcast companies
- Job vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry
- publications and specialist recruitment agencies
England and Wales
Qualifications and training required
Most people enter this career because they have a passion for music and recording sound.Some knowledge of physics is useful but not essential.
Entry can be at graduate level (with a specialist sound/acoustic engineering degree) For entry to a relevant degree course the usual requirement is 3 A levels, normally to include Maths, and a Science or Technology subject, often Physics. GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C or above are also required along with a good mix of other subjects, including English. Others may enter following a general degree or a college course. There are a wide variety of courses available eg. music technology, engineering (acoustic and sound) at different levels which may lead City and Guilds (BTEC) qualifications, HNDs, foundation degrees and first degrees. Apprenticeships are also available.
Many sound recording engineers are employed on a freelance basis and most courses include units on basic business/entrepreneurial skills.
For more information about audio accredited courses, go to the Joint Audio Media Education Support website. Always make sure you check individual university, college or employer entry qualifications carefully, as specific requirements may differ.
Having work experience in a broadcast or related setting (sound operator at your local theatre/hospital radio) is also a good way of showing your interest and commitment to this career.
In Scotland college courses in sound engineering are available at Higher National Certificate/Diploma level. These tend to require 1 to 2 Highers, the most preferred subjects being English, Maths, Music or Physics. Degree courses usually require 4 Highers (Grades A-C) to include Maths and Engineering science/Physics in addition to National 5 English.