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The Old Soundman: A Youngster’s Revolt
The wise OSM offers alternatives to audio production institutions of higher learning. "We are not the idiots you make us out to be." Yes, you are!
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The Old Soundman (in case you were wondering...)

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Hey Old Soundman:

I keep up with all of your writing, and I’ve got to say: you sure seem to hate us youngster sound guys.

You know, the ones who go to expensive schools, so we can be brainwashed into believing 5.1 surround is the best thing for music, and louder is better.

You said it, not me.

As a spokesperson for us young sound guys, I must say this. We are not the idiots you make us out to be.

Yes, you are!

I personally am going to a school to get a firm grounding in audio production without all the trial and error.

Trial and error is the only route to true knowledge. You must try. And you must err. It’s the only way. Do you want to be an audio producer at Fox News or something? Do you think that will get you a dream date with Jillian Barberie?

Our parents tell us that we have to get degrees because no one will hire people without degrees these days. (Sadly true in any field.)

Not in the field of ice cream truck driving. Have you never seen the film “Tree’s Lounge”?

School is a way to get us working with the stuff that sounds good, and not the Radio Shack-brand four-channel “D.J. mixer.”

What’s wrong with that? Get on the mic! If a white guy like Eminem can do it, so can you. “My name is Josh, I go to Full Sail, they taught me not to touch that 48-volt rail!”

We can’t just “go out there and start working.”

Yes, you can, what the heck are you raving about? Go to Beercan Billy’s Boathouse down by the lake! Pay some dues! Oh, but you don’t think you have to pay any dues…

No one is going to let us touch their equipment anymore, because they think that just because we don’t have 20 years of experience we are absolute idiots.

(Insert sound of muffled chortling.)

Just to show you that I’m not here to completely chew you out, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I agree with you about zoned dual mono.

Now you’re talkin’, Josh.

Music in my mind doesn’t have to ever be more than this, and shouldn’t be more than stereo. Those 5.1 (expletive deleted) can sit in the middle of their speakers and pretend that it sounds better, but most of my personally enlightening moments have come from listening with a good pair of headphones.

And enjoying your “freedom smoke,” yes? Then you read “Get Your War On” – right?

Anyone can sit around and whine about my arguments all day, citing examples, which do exist.

Read the great philosophers, Josh. Sartre. Camus. Bill Hicks.

But while you old guys do that, most of us youngsters will continue to do what we do best, which is keep an open mind, try new things, and keep learning. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

I dare you to answer this.


You should have bet me something, Josh, but that is what full-grown men with the courage of their convictions do. O.K., so totally pickled alcoholics at greyhound tracks in Florida also do it, as well as chain-smoking grandmas in Vegas at the slot machines.

You still should have bet me something! Because I could be collecting on it right now.

Luv -
The Old Soundman

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Comments (3) Most recent displayed first
Posted by Rob Lavender  on  09/19/11  at  09:38 AM
Love the old soundman columns, keep 'em going. I am also an old soundguy having been at it since 1971. One thing I can say for the schools, you get out of them what you put into them. The grads I have worked with are all over the place when it comes to actual knowledge, yet they have their certificate or diploma. The ones that asked a lot of questions rather than being awed by all the pretty lights seemed to be pretty decent sorts. Bigger problem is all of them needed some real world experience to get to the true basics of this biz. Sound checking the snare drum should not take half and hour. Too many had the attitude that "Hey I went to school for this so I know what I'm doing" when in fact they barely had a clue. The few that realized they only had a license to learn are the ones most likely to have a career in sound. The one item most lacking in all of the schools is what to do when things go wrong (and things will go wrong).
Posted by Bill King  on  09/07/11  at  03:54 PM
I'm a little different than most old soundmen. I just started doing this after I retired from my day gig as a machinist for the past 25 years, so I am an old soundman with the experience of a young punk. I was a musician back in the 70's so it's not like i don't know jack about the music business, but I got started by DJing for the past 10 years, then took a sound class at my local community college. After that, I started doing sound just like you suggested, in crummy bars for little money. And yes, I agree that experience is the way to go. I would suggest that you try to hook up with some local band that is just getting started and grow with them. Check your local resources for affordable classes like at your community colleges and music stores. Go to some low key local events and ask the sound guy if you can observe. Some guys are real friendly and they might show you a thing or two. You also might go to a local sound company and ask if you could get started being a grunt and working your way up to run a board after you learn. The main thing I want to say is that I really enjoy your stuff, Old Soundman, and I look foward to it. Keep up the humor and throw in something technical once in a while.
Posted by John-Michael  on  08/30/11  at  09:22 AM
I can't believe I've never heard of The Old Soundman before today. Good day, this one. As a "youngster" of sorts, I must say that I agree with The Old Soundman here. A LOT of people I talk to in the industry, most in fact, say that the best way to get into the business is to "start working with a local production company" (verbatim from an engineer of a touring show in a darn huge arena). Sure, schooling might land you a job at Fox news or something as above stated, but they simply can't teach you everything, and schools like that are expensive as hell. Has the School of Hard Knocks been tough? Absolutely. The homework is hellish sometimes. But real world experience is valuable beyond measure, and employers hire people based on performance and getalongability. It's a profession that's best learned as an apprenticeship in my opinion, because no textbook is going to scream feedback into your ears and MAKE you fix it ASAP, while simultaneously knocking you off of any high horse you might have been riding. But to each his own I suppose.
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