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Why Audio Engineers Might Want To Focus On More Than Music

Expanding our horizons and at least think about other ways to use our skills...
This article is provided by Home Studio Corner.

Today, I want us to take a look at something other than music.

I have nothing against music, obviously, but as audio engineers, it would behoove us to expand our horizons and at least think about other ways to use our skills.

With that in mind, I called in an expert, Nick Maxwell of Nick’s Tutorials.

Nick’s a great guy and very knowledgeable about all things sound design.

Check out his answers to the questions below. Good stuff.

What options to audio engineers have aside from recording music?

Music recording is just the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to utilizing this skillset. Sound design for music, film and video games, foley, sound library creation, and live sound are just a few examples of disciplines which heavily overlap with the skills involved in recording.

Nick Maxwell

In fact, recording experience is an advantage when transitioning into the world of sound design because an understanding of microphone types and placement is important when you’re capturing the source material that will eventually be manipulated in the studio.

Define sound design…

The phrase “sound design” has evolved to encompass a lot of the different disciplines that I mentioned in my answer to the first question. I’ll spare your readers the long historical discussion of how is came to be.

I would define sound design as the art and science of telling a story through non-compositional audio elements. I borrowed that last phrase from Wikipedia, by the way, because I think it fits really well. If you listen to a movie or game’s sound, there’s a score and then there’s all the other sound. Sound designers are generally responsible for “all the other sound.” Creating the growl of a monster, the sound of a spaceship, or performing footsteps in a foley room are all good examples.

Same thing with musical sound design, where the act of composing or songwriting is a separate issue from what sounds are used to voice all the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies of the composition. The advantage is that the composer can focus on the important task of telling a musical story without getting caught in an endless cycle of making sounds.

What draws you to sound design over music?

Music is one of the most important parts of my life, and I do spend time writing tunes for my own pleasure as well as for testing out my new sounds. However, in a “professional” context I prefer to spend my time with designing sounds as well as teaching other people how to do so.

I suppose this is because it’s equal parts science and art, and I can freely move between the left and right sides of my brain when I get tired of what I’m doing. For instance, I’ll conjure up a sound in my mind which is purely a creative act. The next phase is to make that sound a reality to the extent that my current skillset will allow, moving toward technical problem-solving.

Breaking down a creative entity into its component parts in order to determine an efficient process for building it is a very exciting process for me. When this technical process is complete, I start back toward the more creative end of things and add bits here and there to make the patch really shine beyond the original idea. In short, the creative and technical parts of the process inform one another.

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