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Recording Arts Technology/Technician

Program Description

Just the Facts

Recording Arts Technology/Technician. A program that prepares individuals to apply technical knowledge and skills to the production of sound recordings as finished products or as components of film/video, broadcast, live, or mixed media productions. Includes instruction in sound equipment operation and maintenance; music, dialogue, and sound effects recording; soundtrack editing; dubbing and mixing; sound engineering; tape, disk, and CD production; digital recording and transmission; amplification and modulation; and working with producers, editors, directors, artists, and production managers.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

Those born to rock can follow their love of music and sound in recording engineering programs. Students in these programs learn to record and mix music. They use the latest techniques and high-tech machinery.

Students are surprised by how intense this program can be, says Bryan Forrester. He is chair of Music Technology at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Recording engineering students usually study theory, attend lectures and work hands-on in recording labs.

Students can choose from certificates that take a year or less, college diplomas or four-year bachelor of music degrees. Shorter courses focus more on skills.

Degrees offer a more rounded education with theater sound, physics, computer science, and other general arts and science courses. Many programs offer co-op terms or internships to help their students break into the industry.

"It's not like a liberal arts degree where you go to school to 'find yourself.' Our students are already interested in this career," says Forrester.

Admission requirements vary significantly from school to school. Sometimes letters of reference, essays, submission tapes or auditions are required. Other schools have very few admission criteria.

The computer technology used for audio recording is always changing. It's important to find a school that associates with the industry. Having instructors who also work in the field can help.

"It's not about keeping up, it's about bringing our day-to-day practice into the classroom," says Rob Schlette. He is an instructor at McNally Smith College of Music.

Most importantly, instructors must know how to capture great sound. "As educators, the basic and advanced techniques that make great recordings still need to be instilled into young audio engineers and musicians," says Alex Perialas. He is the director of the Sound Recording Technologies program at the School of Music Ithaca College, NY.

Recording is going digital. This means it's cheaper to pump out high quality tunes. This has changed the nature of work for recording engineering grads.

"More people are working out of their homes all of the time. The chances of landing a nine-to-five job in the music field are not what I'd call high," says Scott Hammond. He is the coordinating instructor of recording arts at a college.

"This is a freelance industry, and it has always been like that. Depending on the field a graduate chooses, it may or may not be risky," says Raul Valery. He is the program chair of Music and Sound Technology at Valencia Community College in Orlando.

Work is also available in post-production for film, sound design for video games and multimedia.

"Most successful recording engineers or producers are hired for his or her 'musical' skills and ability to communicate with others, especially musicians, as well as their recording and production skills," says Perialas.

There are very few women in the recording industry, but it shouldn't stop young women from studying recording engineering.

"As a recording professional for more than 30 years, some of the best engineers that I have worked with were women," says Perialas. Like most professors, he agrees that he teaches a lot fewer women than men.

"I think this a major problem in the music biz these days. In some genres we're only working with half of the good ideas that are out there," says Schlette. He advises girls to sit in on classes and ask questions. "If a school is going to feel like an 'old boy's club,' you'll be able to tell in no time."

Most recording engineering students are musicians and there is a strong musical component to the program.

"Experience in any high school band or playing in your own rock band is important," says Forrester. But it is not necessary to be a musician to be a recording engineer. Hammond recommends building teamwork skills and taking technical courses and computer technology. Any audio-visual experience is also helpful.

"Much of the work and learning is accomplished by experimentation, exploration, and a willingness to evaluate and critique one's own work and accept the criticism of others without feeling hurt or defeated," says Perialas. His school prefers candidates who have taken physics and calculus classes. They must also pass a music audition.

Students can expect to pay for textbooks and a good set of covered headphones. There may be fees or costs for materials like CDs and DVDs. Any travel associated with an internship is up to the student.

Forrester recommends you find a school with good recording equipment for students. Use the equipment supplied by your school and don't buy any yourself. "With the changes in technology, it may be obsolete by the time you graduate," he says.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians

Recording Magazine
An online publication for recording engineers

Electronic Musician
Articles about home studio recording


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