Welcome to Smooth Sound Productions!
When you go to YouTube and listen to a song that you love right now, you notice the beat, the singer’s voice, the deep lyrics and how great it all sounds. What you’re actually admiring, however, is not the quality of any of that, but recording of it – the sound production. After all, sound production is the reason that the song sounds as good as it does.
You could have the best singer and song in the world, but if it’s not recording at a high quality or it’s done by someone who doesn’t have the proper training, it won’t sound very good at all. There needs to be talent and quality of work on both sides of the equation. Here’s everything you need to know about “the man behind the curtain” of your favourite singer.
The person who does all of the work with the buttons and getting everything sounding exactly as it should be to please your ears is called an audio engineer. This is a well trained professional that goes to school studying music, acoustics, and then a more specific educational background in sound production that would allow them to apply their previous education in music and computer skills to the technology that they will be using. Focusing only on sounds and not into technologies about visuals and videos or fixing electronics at all.
Sound Recording Studio
In a recording environment, an audio engineer works with a sound board, a piece of equipment that will allow them to move buttons and dials that control certain aspects of the recording process. This is often referred to as “mixing”. This means getting the right sound that they are looking for.
Mixing can either be done in a recording setting (recording a singer for a CD), or it can be done live. This means that when a singer is on stage performing, the audio engineer is responsible for making sure s/he sounds as close to the CD as s/he can. As you can imagine, it can be a tough job and one that requires a lot of education and patience to do right.
Sound production goes far beyond an audio engineer. The engineer is, really, the man who pushes the buttons. The science of sound production is in the audio processing, which is the process in which the audio is recorded. As you can probably guess, this is a highly technical process that requires a lot of work and training of the audio engineer. This is why the education process is so complicated and detailed.
The sound board has a number of functions (ex: reverb, pan, EQ, low, high, etc) that the audio engineer can manipulate at will. This isn’t in regards to auto tune or anything like that, just the typical effects that are applied to singers voices in order to even them out and allow the quality of their voice to be heard.
If a singer’s voice, for example, is so powerful and loud that it makes a strange noise in the microphone, the audio engineer can use a sound board control to compress the vocal, meaning that the voice will sound as fantastic as it did before without the strange noise in the microphone. This is the beauty of technology.
So, I can imagine that all of this is sounding pretty exciting right now. It’s totally normal if it is, this is a pretty neat process that will really amaze you when you go from the raw product to the final and finished one. Even to someone who is not “in the know” on sound production, this is pretty exciting. Alright, so now that you understand its magic, you might be wanting to look into getting into it on a smaller scale yourself, am I right? There are ways to do it if you are really serious about recording your own music.
First of all, you’re going to need a relatively affordable, professional microphone that can plug into your computer. This may seem like a strange expense because most computers have microphones built into them, but you need to make sure you have a goo microphone because it’ll give you a good sound (meaning less editing and tweaking needed).
Next, you’ll need a good set of speaker monitors that will allow you to get what’s called a “flat sound”. This means there will be no automatic manipulation of the sound to make it more pleasing to a listener. Most speaker systems sold in stores have this built in, so you’ll have to look at professional ones to get this for your home.
If you play an instrument, you’ll want to take a look at a synthesizer component, because it’ll give you the oppourtunity to make the sounds of different instruments without actually having to find someone who can play them. Since this is meant for recreational purposes, this is a great idea.
A must-have is audio editing software which is on the computer. This will allow you to manipulate the recording as it is happening as well as after the fact, just like a professional audio engineer! GarageBand is a great example of software. Plus, it’s free with Apple products. Always a plus.
From there on, it’s more up to you. Find a quiet space that works for you and play around with the software and equipment. No matter how much you read online and get educated in, you’ll see pretty quickly why audio engineers need the training that they do, this is hard and complex stuff that requires patience, time, and understanding of why things work the way they do.
Sound production is a detailed and highly sophisticated job that requires a lot of training and learning on the job, not to mention that the engineers need to keep up to date on all of the technologies that come out to make sure that they can use them to their benefit. It can take a lot of effort and work to get the right thing pulled together, but once you do, it turns into that “flawless” YouTube song that you simply can’t get enough of. That’s how an audio engineer knows he’s done his job right.