All of our interviewees value the experienced staff and freelancersthey employ, and offered the following tips to young would-be soundengineers.
Ken Porter suggests that entry-level people adopt theentrepreneurial spirit to do whatever it takes to make the productionsuccessful for everyone, as a team member. “It’s harder to findemployees that want to make the clients happy all the time and arewilling to do what it takes to make the job work,” Porter says. “I’mseeing a lot of kids that just want to push the faders and twist EQ oreffects knobs, but don’t understand how to put up a system and make itsound good.”
Tom Source offers the same advice he would have given 15 years ago:Get practical experience, either in the shop or on tour. “And work ondeveloping your interpersonal and political skills,” he adds. “Allthings being equal, the person with the better interpersonal skillswill go further in their career.”
Dave Shadoan mentions that finding a good band, working hard andlearning audio systems inside and out are just the beginning. “Tuneyour ears!” he emphasizes. “Understand the intricacies of a song-wehave a lot of people out there that understand sound, but not thesongs.” He also suggests spending less time on gadgets and more onlearning how to make a song sing. “Learn how to mix. I’d much ratherhear a guy mix on, say, an 800B with no effects, than a guy with a rackfull of gizmos who can’t use them properly.”
“First, find a very understanding person to live with,” Mike Jacksoncounsels. “Then learn as much as you can about everything, includingelectronics, physics, acoustics, business, design and architecture,because it all factors in. It’s a much wider skill set than most peoplecomprehend, and the people who become the most successful are the oneswho understand the most about everything, not just pushing up thefaders.”
Scott Harmala thinks that the term “engineer” is used too looselyand does not accurately reflect the level of technical knowledgetypical among sound engineers. “I think the best asset a personstarting out can have is a well-grounded understanding of the physicsand technical aspects,” he advises. “With all these new widgets andsolutions, it’s giving us more capability, but it’s also adding a layerof complexity. If you’re familiar with the underlying concepts andfundamentals, it becomes easier to grasp the new technologies as theycome along.”
“Learn physics,” is also Jeff Barryman’s advice. “It’s just amazinghow many people you run into, even now, whose careers are hindered bythe fact that they don’t understand the basics of sound propagation orlearn the psychoacoustics of hearing.” However, he doesn’t think youngpeople are intimidated by software, quipping. “You know the joke: ‘Thissystem’s so complicated, it’s going to take a 12-year-old old to figureout.’ No, it’s worse than that! It’s going to take an 8-year-old!”