Slated for November Techís Files, but Axed...
Audio Education and Then Some
ã 2002 by Eddie Ciletti
The purpose of an education is three-fold: to acquire
knowledge of a particular skill, learn to recognize (and circumvent) the
sand traps of life and then to advance to the desired goal with a minimum
of lollygaging. Thatís the theory at least. Knowledge is not wisdom. That
comes with time. Getting there should be part of the fun.
Since technology is the ultimate moving target, advances
made every 18 months create a need for education that is not exclusively
the domain of those beginning a career. Users, facility owners and educational
institutions are constantly being challenged by new technology; keeping
pace translates into time and money.
To get more from any educational program it is necessary
to experience as much as possible, hands-on or "ears-on" in this case.
It is only through experience that you can know what questions to ask.
If the learning process is accomplished by making plenty of mistakes, then
Iím a genius. Keep that in mind while reading this column. The topics are
inspired by close encounters of the "duh-uh" kind óa few course suggestions
from the "skule of hard knox."
FUN: DA MENTAL
Throughout the course of a career, the typical audio enthusiast
encounters a wide range of overlapping disciplines including Acoustics,
Coffee Brewing 101, HVAC, Maintenance, Management, Music, Production, Psychology
and Technology (to name a few). I canít tell you what school to go to or
what classes to take. I can tell you that the fundamentals of Audio Production
havenít changed. There must be talent at the mic and a basic knowledge
of electro-acoustic issues, although these days "talent" seems to be equated
with barely-legal females exposing the maximum allowable space below the
MISS ING: LINKS
The importance of understanding and speaking the language
of music is a prerequisite for those who want to record it. I am not saying
that one canít be accomplished without the other, but it sure helps. Recording
Classical and Jazz will be a humbling experience because, in general, the
musicians mix themselves. Young musicians taking a stab at popular music
need plenty of practice, patience, pre-production and more often than not,
Overly generalized, perhaps, but for an engineer starting
out it may be hard to know where the problems are and way too easy to blame
the gear. To paraphrase, "Tis a poor crafts person who blames their tools."
Music and Audio Production are linked, whichever course is the major, be
sure to minor in the other to round out your education.
So often overlooked and worse, untreated ó Acoustics are
the foundation of an audio environment. Same with microphone "dynamics."
Understanding how microphones and loudspeakers interact with their surroundings
is the key to getting the most from a control room, studio and performance
space. Each is its own animal; the taming techniques are application-specific
requiring a sixth sense that can only come from studying with a master.
If an acoustics course is offered, take it. If treatment has been ignored,
then address it.
From an acoustician Iíve learned to avoid the overkill
approach. Think of acoustic treatment as a five-frequency-band "see-saw."
Each band has an unknown weight at one end called RT60 (the reverberation
time). Treat each band until all of the "saws" are balanced. Too much treatment
of the high frequency band, for example, will make the other bands all
but impossible to balance.
SIGH COLLEGE E
Hereís one course option I bet you never expected. How
do you interface with people? How do you get people to do what they donít
want to do and make them think itís their idea? How much patience do you
Although it may not seem immediately obvious to the novice,
the infrastructure of the traditional recording environment serves a purpose:
to minimize confusion and stress by creating various job responsibilities.
There is an Engineer and a Producer for a reason even if it may seem that
one person can do the job. Each additional job niche further reduces the
amount of distraction and stress during the creative process. When addressing
delicate personalities, a calm, structured environment is fertile ground
for Patience. (This from an Italian, mind you!) A minimum of one class
in "Human Interface Dynamics" is highly recommended.
If patience with humans isnít your bag but geek science
is, then perhaps a position in the Maintenance and Technology Department
will be more suitable. For those with A Beautiful Mind, your direct and
logical approach is well suited to the Technical profession and there are
many avenues of study including computers, analog and digital electronics,
wiring and installation, power and grounding.
My daily flow of e-mail includes occasional requests for
apprenticeships. I can only accommodate geek-grasshoppers at the virtual
level by providing simple schematics with the instructions "build this."
No one has followed through yet, although some visitors have built the
tube mic preamp available at www.tangible-technology.com and then
e-mailed questions or details of their progress. Patience for hardware
is a challenge in this age of PDAs and wireless networking.