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What Do Audio Engineers and Music Producers Do?

Music producer sitting at mixing board, music producers
Hispanic sound engineer working at mixing panel in the recording studio

Do you analyze how music sounds and the intricate nuances that could be improved? Do you have a passion for music? Then, being an audio engineer or music producer may be the right career for you. Audio engineers or music producers are the center of a song and how it is made. They are the liaison between the artists, music, and audience. But what does an audio engineer or music producer do, exactly?

What does an Audio Engineer Do?

An audio engineer is responsible for all aspects of capturing the musical recording. The audio engineer operates and sets up recording equipment to record and manipulate instruments, voices, and sound effects. Additionally, an audio engineer makes sure sound levels are correct for performers as well as for those attending an event.

Furthermore, it is the audio engineer’s job to take sound coming from various audio sources and make them blend in a way that is pleasing to the ear. The audio engineer also prepares sessions and sets up instruments and gear.

What Do Music Producers Do?

Although an audio engineers and music producers work is very similar, there is also a big difference in these two roles. The music producer is responsible for all of the musical aspects of the recording. This includes working with the artist on the final arrangement, lyrical content, and getting the best musical performance from the performers. Music producers also work directly with the audio engineer and the artist to improve the song. As a result of these combined efforts, this ensures that the session meets the intended quality for the artist. 

Who Does What in a Session?

In this day and age, it is not uncommon for one person to do both jobs during a session. This means that an audio engineer may not only handle the recording process, they may also work with the artist in production. For this reason, both producers and engineers need to be familiar with the studio as a whole, including common equipment.

Instruments

Recording sessions can be very diverse and feature an array of instruments that span genres to create a track. It is important that audio engineers and music producers are familiar with as many instruments as possible. Depending on the instruments in the session, the audio engineer needs to understand the most effective techniques and microphones to capture the sound.

Amplifiers

An electronic device that increases the voltage, current, and power of a signal.

Attenuators

A device that reduces the strength of an audio signal without degrading the integrity of the signal.

Equalizers

Equalization adjusts the loudness of specific frequencies. Certain frequencies are louder than others to our human ears. An equalizer can boost or cut frequencies in an audio signal. Professional music equipment also uses multiple bands to offer more division and a wider range of sound for the human ear.

Speakers

The speaker system transforms an electrical signal into an audible sound. Speakers contain an electromagnet, which is a metal coil that creates a magnetic field when electric current flows through it. Speakers are transducers that convert the electromagnetic waves into sound.

Microphones

The microphone converts sound into an electrical signal, which is the opposite of what a speaker does. Different types of microphones can also translate the sound differently, which offers a unique sound for the music track.

Mixing Boards

A mixing board brings together different parts of the music into one central place. Even more, the mixing board allows the audio producer to change any parameters of the track. For example, these parameters include the volume, frequency content, stereo position, dynamics and effects.

A mixing board is separated into two sections, the input section and monitoring section. The input section receives the signal from the sound source and sends it to the audio recorder. In contrast, the monitoring section allows us to listen to the signal that has already been recorded.

An audio engineer has a deep understanding of EQ levels and how to best use them in a session. Additionally, audio engineers understand the components along a signal path, and the implementation of various effects to achieve desired results. Music producers also work closely with singers to create the perfect sound on a recording.

Skills of an Audio Engineers and Music Producers

In addition to technical training, an audio engineer or music producer needs many different skills to be successful. Some of the most common skills include creativity, communication, listening skills and an ear for sound, attention to detail, organizational skills and tech savvy.

Creativity

A music producer must have creativity to come up with unique and new sounds. This imagination makes a great song. In addition to original ideas, a creative audio engineer identifies a new home for an old sound through sampling. Sampling is a creative art that many audio engineers and music producers use to create unique songs.

Communication

The most valuable asset both audio engineers and music producers have is communication. An audio engineer or music producer needs to know how to communicate with performers, recording assistants and others to get the proper sound. Furthermore, they need to know how to interact with different individuals. Engineers and producers will encounter all types of people in the music world and that means many different communication styles. 

Listening Skills & an Ear for Sound

Being a strong listener is an important part of being an audio engineer or music producer. An engineer or producer monitors the sound to understand how an audience will hear it. The most important tool at their disposal is their ears. They will have to understand how all pieces of the song sound individually as well as together.

The audio engineer or music producer will need to correctly assess if the optimal sound is used in any given part of the song. Having good ears comes naturally, but can be cultivated with training. It is one thing to be a good listener, but it takes experience and training to know what you should be listening for.

Attention to Detail

Engineers and producers need to have a strong attention to detail. They need the ability to be thorough and accurate when working on a track. It is up to the audio engineer and music producer to verify every aspect of the set-up, as well as to be knowledgeable about the equipment and how to troubleshoot common issues.

Organizational Skills

It is important for an producers and engineers to stay organized. In many cases there is a defined process to most aspects of an audio engineer and music producer’s job. For this reason, they must be able to do it correctly every time. Audio engineers and music producers alike have deadlines to meet. Keeping everything in its proper place saves time and reduces error which can derail any audio production.

Tech Savviness

New equipment is introduced every day, and it is up to a producer and engineer to keep up with that technology. Not only will they need to have knowledge of audio equipment, but also trends in recording technology. From mixing boards to audio software, the world of technology in music is ever-changing and it is the audio engineer and music producer’s job to keep up with the change.

Walking Through a Music Studio

Walking into a recording studio, there are several parallels. For example, the main goal of any recording studio is to achieve desirable sound, regardless of the size of the space. Most studios will have a waiting area for guests, which connects to the control room, where the magic happens.

Additionally, there is usually a window that separates the control room from the studio itself. For those with a DIY or home studio, there might be just one room in a house. In this case, the audio engineers and music producers multi-task in this area. Regardless of the setup, specific noise damping must be added to the entire area to make sure no noise creeps into the track.

How Does One Get into Audio Production?

The best method of getting into audio production would be going to a school that offers it as a course of study. Not only do you have the benefit of being surrounded by industry professionals, but you also have the support of IPR’s Career Services team. For this reason, it is important to use your resources while you are in school, but also attend networking events, internships, apprenticeships, and job assistance post-graduation.

Additionally, an aspiring audio engineer or music producer can shadow an established producer or engineer. The benefit of this is experience is that it allows a graduate to see the ins and outs of the industry. However, this is a route that requires having the connections to gain this position.

Finding a Job

When our IPR graduates are ready to find work, there are many ways to achieve your goals. For example, some choose to pursue internships in hopes of employment. Additionally, there are entry-level positions and freelance opportunities for audio engineers and music producers.

Networking as an Audio Engineer or Music Producer

Also, a graduate will have strong relationships with their instructors and fellow students that could likely lead to employment.  One of the ways that an audio engineer or music producer can help to connect with others in the industry is through networking.

Networking means taking opportunities to meet with others and engage in your community for the benefit of your professional development. Regardless if you are looking for full-time employment or want to pursue freelance opportunities, networking is critical to gaining traction as an audio engineer or music producer.

IPR’s Career Service Team

Make sure to connect with IPR’s Career Services team to help you make the most of your employment opportunities. Not only does the Career Services team have connections, but they also put on career fairs, hiring events, and are happy to help you in your job search.

Final Thoughts

The definition of what goes into being an engineer or producer has become more and more elastic as the tools available for creating music have evolved. Now, a music producer could be the mastermind that starts from an idea all the way to the release of the music to the public.

While things change in the industry, one aspect of audio production will always be the same. It is a field for creatives, dreamers, go-getters, and doers. Few things in life can offer up the satisfaction of seeing something you were a part of make its way out onto the radio.

Want to Learn More?

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. 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 programs and starting a rewarding career.