Sound engineering skills grow with each project…

Experience and practice

There is nothing against schools of audio engineering being written here. Infact, their existence is very much needed. It’s a different story that the quality of courses being offered by some requires drastic content improvement and also fee reduction 🙂

Growing up with a professional sound recording studio in my own house, i have met many “recordists” who joined the profession primarily as their passion. And many of them grew up to become well-known “sound designers”. In the last five years, after interviewing various audio professionals, this fact got nailed into my head even more. That it is the ON THE JOB experience that helps an engineer hone his or her skills.

Unlike what many think, this line of work is non-glamorous. You do get to meet film stars or singers you idolise, but then the relationship remains just work-related. Plus remaining stuck for 12-14 hours everyday in a windowless room is stressful too. Especially when it is life long.

Most of these talented, behind-the-scenes people i met shared a common thread – passion. Well, that’s true for any form of art, or even business. During my own B-school education from one of India’s top business schools, i learnt that the realities of “on the field” are pretty different than what we feel they are sitting in a classroom. Many companies teach the fresh B-school recruits (floating-in-the-sky, nose-in-the-air kind) to first come down on Earth! We’re put on the field with an experienced salesman who takes a backseat for a few days or weeks in our training period, and enjoys seeing many of us succumb to the job pressure realities.

In his #converSAtion, sound engineer Aditya Modi shared what he was taught at his own sound engineering school in USA – “the first thing you will do in a recording studio job is to learn how to make coffee.” Read it again! And this was at one of the world’s best school of sound engineering!!

No one is made to sit on the recording console immediately. Infact, sometimes it takes years before this even happens. In his own audio school (SoundIdeaz), Pramod Chandorkar gets his students to serve tea to clients who come to record. There have been cases where those who find such errands as a lowly job, and feel “i did not sign up for this”, end up quitting the course. Pramod says, “The idea behind getting students to do this is to make them humble enough to handle all sorts of situations in the studio, besides learning the technical stuff.”

Shantanu Hudlikar of YashRaj Film Studios with a two decade plus recording experience talks about first getting the basics right. Even while studying at an audio school, students should be open to learn more from the world around them. He asks them to attend various types of concerts, to listen to a variety of music and even learn about musical instruments. “First know the instrument well before attempting to even record it. Depending on today’s software technology is not enough. The basic knowledge of music and recording needs to be deep.”

Technology has in a way spoilt the seriousness of sound engineering today. Many young engineers simply depend on the software tools to record and then “fix in the mix”. “And this ruins a song too”, says veteran recordist Satish Gupta. Having won several awards as a best recording engineer, Satishji says that today’s engineers also need to understand the words of a song! He says, “The focus now is too much on mixing. But then how can you mix a song well if it is not recorded correctly?”

All this is something that no school can teach. So how long should can one learn on the job? Sound engineers Farhad K. Dadyburjor and Vinod Subramanian say that even after 25 years in the business, they are still learning! And all engineers echo this thought. With changing technologies, newer forms of music, one can never say that he has arrived or knows everything.

So one may ask, why even go to an audio school!? Well, (1) No one at a running studio has the time or the energy to make you sit and teach. (2) An audio engineering course teaches the physics of audio and technology. This knowledge may not help while handling a client, but surely comes in useful when handling frequencies and other technicalities while recording.

With an engineering education, the learning curve on the job becomes easier, smoother and chances of growth in the industry are higher, provided the results are delivered. However, like in his #converSAtion sound engineer Mujeeb Dadarkar says, “becoming tiki-tiki champs is not that important. People skills are. And the one crucial quality in you to grow as a sound engineer is… PATIENCE.”

Subscribe to India’s only YouTube channel – – dedicated to music producers and sound engineers, and keep watching #converSAtions to stay inspired…

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