Interested in working on the technical aspects of recording including microphone placement, balancing levels and processing audio tracks? Do you enjoy operating audio, video, lighting and broadcast equipment? Love talking about and making music? After vocational school, most new audio engineers start out with a few technically accomplished tracks that are good enough to get hired. The next step is to start networking and learning on the job. One way to accelerate this process is to find a mentor.
A mentor can help a new engineer:
- Learn tricks of the trade
- Get constructive feedback on your work
- Learn how to manage interpersonal problems on the job
- Gain moral support
- Become inspired to try new things
- Open up doors in the music business that may be hard to open
There are five steps to finding an audio engineering mentor. First, it is important to lay the foundation of your audio engineering knowledge by completing a degree program at a audio engineering school. Next, you will want to find a potential mentor by working in local studios and networking within the industry. Building connections and fostering relationships will help you find the right mentor.
Step 1: Get a Degree in Audio Production and Engineering
To accelerate the process, make sure the potential mentor knows your value and what you can help with around the studio. Finally, continue to learn and grow. Expanding your knowledge about the audio engineering industry with the help of a mentor will open many doors that you may not be able to open alone.
Obtaining a degree in audio production and engineering will not only lay a foundation for the student’s future but will also show how committed they are to the music industry.
Most audio engineering programs can be completed in only 2 years. During advanced audio production and engineering classes, students hone their creative and technical skills while working with advanced recording, editing, mixing and mastering techniques, song arrangement, chord structure and harmony.
Step 2: How to find a potential mentor
There are many different ways to find a potential mentor. The graduate can get known at local studios, conduct informational interviews, network using social media, join a professional organization, atten
d industry events, and/or use current connections to meet new people in the music industry.
Get known at local studios: A new audio engineer can get their foot in the door at local studios by asking for tours. This is a great way to begin introductions, and also to share one’s own interests, skills and value proposition. Get to know the employees of the local studio as they may offer internships to recent graduates.
Informational interviews: An informational interview is a great way to start a potential mentor relationship with an experienced audio engineer. By interviewing the audio engineer, the graduate is not only learning about the industry but showing the audio engineer their breadth of knowledge about audio engineering. The expert may take them under their wing to mentor them further.
Social media: Lots of engineers are online sharing their work and talking about the profession. The important thing on social media is to build a relationship by connecting, commenting and showing interest before asking for anything. YouTube is a great place for audio engineers to learn advanced techniques and find mentors that post video content on a regular basis. Other social media communities that share audio engineering tips and music alike include Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and BandCamp.
Professional associations: There are many professional associations for people in the recording industry. Some even offer formal mentorship programs. A list of organizations and associations is offered by The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Another great place to meet a mentor and become a member of an association is by joining the Audio Engineering Society (AES).
Industry events: Attending conferences, workshops and other events is a great way to get to know people. Members of the Audio Engineering Society have access to the top industry events around the world including the International Pro Audio Convention that has been running for 70 years.
Use current connections: Musicians and music industry professionals including those you meet in audio engineering college may be able to suggest someone and make an introduction. You will also forge life-long relationships with classmates at the audio engineering college and these industry colleagues will help you network in the industry.
Step 3: How to build a connection
Most relationships won’t start with a request to become a mentor. Start with an informational interview, a coffee or a phone call. It’s easier to request this if an initial introduction has already taken place.
Do research and become familiar with the work of the potential mentor. This makes it easier to establish mutual interests and discuss why the relationship might be a good fit. Of course, it may turn out that there is no connection or that the other person is not interested in mentoring. If so, it’s important to be courteous, thank the person for their time and ask if they may know of anyone else who might be a good fit.
Step 4: How to offer value
People are busy, and it can sometimes be difficult to add mentoring to one’s schedule. Some things that you as a new audio engineer could offer are:
- Help around the studio
- Referral traffic to the studio
- An ear to bounce ideas off
Courtesy and a willingness to learn will also go a long way to convince the mentor that the relationship is worthwhile.
Step 5: Learning and growing
A mentor is a trusted authority, but the most memorable engineers in the industry eventually carved out their own style. In audio engineering a “sound” can sometimes serve as a calling card. It doesn’t mean that all of the recordings will have the same sound, but many creative sound engineers find it helpful to carve out a niche. The mentor may have advice to share on how to do this. It’s a good idea to let them know that this is a goal so they can help find opportunities for developing a unique voice.
A mentee should take advice on what works from the mentor, but also remain open to receiving knowledge from many different spheres. Listening widely and showing an interest in recordings from outside one’s preferred genre can help grow one’s own versatility.
A mentor relationship can be one of the most effective ways to build on the technical skills you obtain in audio engineering college. However, if it doesn’t work out, there are numerous sources of support and information available online and in professional life that can help grow one’s career. Keeping one’s mind (and ears) open to new ideas, sounds and opportunities is key.
The audio production and engineering program at the Institute of Production and Recording is an occupational degree program designed to train producer engineers who are entrepreneurs, musically and technically creative, and proficient in modern recording technology and technique. Students learn the fundamentals: acoustics, audio signal flow, recording, music theory, digital audio workstations, MIDI sequencing, and music and entertainment business essentials. Throughout the program, students are involved in hands-on exercises and real-world studio projects that enable them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills.
At the end of the audio production and engineering program, each student presents a portfolio — a selection of his or her best work to date. This serves as a demo reel for potential employers and clients — an audio resume with professional content that highlights the graduate’s talent and skill.
Contact us today to learn more about the audio production and engineering program and starting a rewarding career in the music industry.