How do I Become a Live Sound Engineer?
There are a number of paths which someone can take to become a live sound engineer. Live sound engineers are people who handle sound at live venues. When a band plays a live concert, a President makes a live speech, a radio broadcasts coverage live, or an orchestra performs in a concern hall, there's a live sound engineer behind the scenes who makes sure that the performance goes smoothly. These professionals monitor sound quality and control sound quality with a variety of tools, from baffles installed before the event to manipulation of the sound during the event through a mixing board.
One way to become a live sound engineer is to attend a school which trains sound engineers. Technical schools can offer training which may include extensive opportunities to practice, and people can also attend audio engineering programs at colleges and universities. Graduates of such programs have an extensive knowledge not only of live sound engineering, but also of the math and physics behind sound.
Another option for someone who wants to become a live sound engineer is to learn on the job. Trainees can start working for venues, companies which provide audio engineering staff for events, or specific performers and groups. On the job training may start with being a glorified errand boy, but eventually the trainee will learn about all of the equipment used and start to acquire skills which can be used in live sound engineering. Trainees may work their way up the ranks to become senior staff, or opt to start their own companies or find employment elsewhere once their training is over.
Once someone is a fully qualified live sound engineer, it may be necessary to join a union such as the stagehands' union, depending on where the engineer wishes to work. It is also a good idea for someone who has become a live sound engineer to subscribe to trade journals, attend conferences, and use other tools to keep up with advances in the field. Technology and techniques are always changing, and a good sound engineer is flexible to change along with them.
Someone who wants to become a live sound engineer obviously needs a good ear for sound, and ideally an appreciation for a particular sound-related pursuit such as classical music, opera, radio, or political speeches which will make work fun and interesting. Technical skills are also important; live sound engineers need to be comfortable with electronics and tasks such as wiring, basic construction, setup of instruments, and so forth. It also helps to have good people skills, because the sound engineer needs to work with the person or people performing to generate the best sound quality. Being able to coordinate and work together with performers and other members of the crew is a very valuable skill.
@Fa5t3r - I can see why that might be a problem, since all the people I knew in university who were interested in live sound recording were computer or music geeks and weren't all that interested in interacting with people who didn't have the same interests as them. Which is fine if their field didn't require them to interact with performers, but since it does they need to learn how to deal with that.
@Iluviaporos - Usually there isn't anything that complex happening at school assemblies and it's just a matter of knowing how to plug the principal's laptop into the speakers. I'm not sure that working on the sound at high school would give you any advantage in becoming a live sound engineer.
It's more likely that the kids who were interested enough in sound to help out at their high schools continued to be interested and took relevant courses later on in life.
I will definitely agree with the fact that you need good people skills though. I've given a few speeches for various organizations that wanted to record it and it makes a huge difference if the sound engineers are willing to be patient and take the time to explain what needs to happen. I've worked with one who was very rude and it made the whole experience horrible for everyone concerned.
I've visited a lot of high schools and they almost always seem to have a handful of students who know how to do this working behind the scenes at school assemblies and concerts. I'm guessing they just kept hanging around the people who were doing it until they learned how to do it. It must be a fairly good thing to put on your resume, even if you don't necessarily want to be a live sound engineer, but if you do think you might be interested in doing that, and you're still at high school, it's something to think about.
Post your comments