The Qualities & Skills of a Successful Sound Engineer

Workstations for a successful sound engineer

Do you enjoy the exhilaration of only having one take? Practice makes perfection, but in live production you only have one chance to get everything right. There will always be a few slip ups along the way but having the right qualities and skills will allow you to persevere. If you are strong, decisive and have the ability to own your mistakes, becoming a sound engineer might be the right career path for you.

Sound Engineer Qualities for Success

Certain qualities are present in successful sound engineers. Some are born with these qualities and others learn them during a live sound and show production degree program. Either way, prepare yourself for a career in sound engineering by gaining these qualities to help you succeed.

Quality #1: Creativity

Creativity and inventiveness are near the top of this list. Sound designing for live production requires a great deal of creativity, particularly in the face of strict deadlines and physical limitations. In addition to a rich imagination, ready to conceive soundscapes and put them into action, creative solutions to problems are a frequent necessity in live show production.

Quality #2: Safety Minded

Having a mind for safety is also an important quality. Live production poses its own safety hazards, and it’s vital for the sound engineer to keep safety in mind as they go about their work. They will also be responsible for communicating safety guidelines to other technicians on the live set, and ensuring that the soundscape they’ve conceived is safe to execute and falls in accordance with the overarching safety policies of the production space they work in.

Quality #3: Resourceful

The sound engineer must be able to do a lot with a little, particularly for small or minimalist productions. Any audio equipment they have access to must be used as wisely as possible and creativity must be applied to the usage of that equipment to make each production as real as possible to the audience. They must also apply creativity in situations where no audio equipment is available at all, and work to adapt.

Quality #4: Responsible

Sound engineers are in charge of live show production and must take responsibility for the actions of their team. A sound engineer must be held accountable for their action. If a production goes poorly and lighting is off or audio effects are wrong, the engineer must have the courage to own the mistake and move forward. By owning these mistakes, the team will have more trust and confidence in their sound engineering leader.

Quality #5: Resilient

Issues happen with any project, and the sound engineer must keep pushing forward. A successful sound engineer will learn from their mistakes and work to correct them in the future. A live show may have its hiccups, but a successful sound engineer knows how to quickly recover and move forward with the production.

Quality #6: Reliable

A sound engineer must be reliable. Colleagues must be able to trust them and their decisions. The sound engineer must be confident and have good judgement, to produce positive outcomes in a live show production. If the team can’t trust the sound engineer, they will not take responsibility for their own actions. This can cause turmoil in any live show production.

Quality #7: Punctual

Nothing is more important than being on time for a live show. The audience is waiting, and they don’t want to be disappointed. The easiest way for a sound engineer to inspire confidence in colleagues is to be punctual at all times. The show must go on and preferably on time.

Quality #8: Patient

Many things will be going on all at once. Not only will a sound engineer need good multi-tasking skills, but they will need to be patient. Live shows are made up of many different elements, and the sound engineer must trust colleagues to perform their duties. This involves delegation and patience.

Quality #9: Open-Minded

Working with creative people can be challenging because they all have their own idea of what should happen. A good sound engineer can keep an open-mind and consider changes to the status quo. One never knows when a good idea will present itself, and having an open mind allows those ideas to be considered.

Quality #10: Composed

There is some inherent stress involved in a live show or production. A successful sound engineer will stay calm, keep a level head and offer instructions to colleagues with a composed demeanor. By staying composed, a sound engineer will lead by example, keeping the team calm in the process.

Quality #11: Decisive

The show must go on and any successful sound engineer knows that they must make decisive decisions during a live show. There is no room for error, timidness or uncertainty. Actions and decisions must be decisive to keep the show moving forward in the right direction at the right pace.

Sound Engineer Skills for Success

There are many different skills that supplement the sound engineer’s qualities. They include communication, active listening, problem solving, flexibility, teamwork, organization, and continuous learning. With these skills, a sound engineer can prepare themselves for a successful career.

Skill #1: Communication

Communication skills are possibly the most critical to the sound engineer. The sound engineer will work with a wide array of professionals including performing artists, audio techs, stage managers, directors, producers, and music directors. Maintaining open lines of positive communication is essential to the success of not only the sound engineer’s career, but of the many productions they work on.

Skill #2: Active Listening

It is important for the sound engineer to read the room. They can watch the audience and understand whether the sound is audible. The sound engineer must listen to colleagues and understand their point of view. By actively listening, the sound engineer can hear what needs to be done and how it needs to be fixed.

Skill #3: Problem Solving

Every live show will run into a problem or two. The breakers on the electricity might blow, an amp might be silent, or the sound equipment might need a quick fix. The sound engineer must identify the problem and work to solve it, even with the most complex issues.

Skill #4: Flexibility

Every now and then, a sound engineer will need to make changes and be flexible. They must be open to change as the situation changes around them. Having an open-mind and being receptive to change is a great way for the sound engineer to be flexible during a live show.

Skill #5: Teamwork

It all comes down to teamwork. Everyone on the team must work together to achieve a common goal. The sound engineer must lead the team to a successful live show from start to finish. Part of teamwork is the ability for the sound engineer to delegate to subordinates. By trusting others with tasks, the team will work together and get more done in the process.

Skill #6: Organization

A live show or production can get disorganized and a successful sound engineer understands order and that there is a proper place for everything. A successful sound engineer will keep a schedule with deadlines, declutter regularly, and keep only what is needed for the live show. Everything in its proper place.

Skill #7: Continuous Learning

Research skills are also necessary for the role of the sound engineer. The professional must consistently update their skills as new audio and acoustic discoveries are made that impact the way live productions are executed. They must also research past achievements in soundscaping to inform their present work and listen to a great deal of recording productions to glean ideas and inspiration for their own productions. Research is also important for historical context in live production, and that context very much informs the soundscape choices the sound engineer makes for each and every live production.

Final Thoughts

Do you have the qualities and skills that it takes to be a successful sound engineer? If you don’t, don’t worry. The good news is that you can learn a lot during a live sound and show production degree program from your local creative arts college. Build a solid foundation during the degree program and find yourself ready to start your new adventure as a sound engineer.

Live Sound and Show Production

Did learning about the skills of a successful sound designer interest you? Throughout the Live Sound and Show Production Degree Program, IPR students are involved with hands-on exercises and real-world shows and events that enable them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills. General education requirements in the areas of communication, social science, natural science and humanities provide analytical and communication skills as well as a global perspective of diverse cultures.

If you are interested in a career in audio production and engineering, you should tour our Minneapolis creative arts college, see the labs and meet our staff. Call 1-612-351-0631 or contact admissions to make arrangements.