That is the most asked question I get from up and coming engineers. It's not always a simple answer. There are so many factors that all play into falling into an engineering career. I guess the main factor for me was my constant propensity to tinker with things and discover how they work.
Like many many people in our industry, I owe a lot to my church upbringing and several individuals who gave me opportunities and let me quite literally abuse the equipment. I was first a musician and had many chances in school and at church to play. Along with that came the breaks to help with sound.
On to college, I got the chance to work in the audio department of a real television production studio. This was not a hands on classroom type situation (where you might only get one hand on) that are so prevalent today. My college actually did national television broadcasts so I was in the thick of "real" production. That really opened my eyes to what it takes to operate in a real technical environment.
After college I went on to tour with a few CCM artist as a bass player. I also was called upon to help with the sound aspects of touring. Good experience again. During this time I was fortunate to be called to play on local recording sessions. I befriended a couple of engineers and they let me help out, for no money mind you! I helped one completely build a studio. It was one of the first LEDE (Live End - Dead End) control rooms built in the 80's. That was quite a learning experience.
I guess you could say I got started by starting.
My advice to those wanting to "get started" is to find situations where you can be involved, even if it doesn't pay. Church, school, the library, anywhere that might use audio.
My second tip would be to pay attention. All the training and schools won't do you a bit of good if you can't do that. I've learned that the hard way.
I feel like I'm still in the beginning of my career...but this is how i've gotten to where I am so far.
I came to Nashville, New Years day, 2003. Didn't know a single person in town, didn't have a job, didn't have a place to stay. I picked up an internship at Dark Horse Studios, where they let me sleep in a closet (no...seriously). My first day there, Ed Simonton needed an Assistant on a tracking session, cause the one he had, needed to leave (he must have been scheduled at starbucks that afternoon). I assumed it was normal for a guy to be asked to assist his first day as an intern, so i jumped right in. Luckily I didn't screw anything up too badly (which is the first, and most important qualification for Assitant Engineer at Dark Horse), so I kept getting asked to assist. For the next 2 years I lived off of cheezy peanutbutter crackers and mountain dew, while sleeping in a closet (I actually upgraded to an iso booth shortly after i began). I managed to gain A TON of experience working with people like Mat Kearney, Big And Rich, Relient K, Jeff Coffin, Victor Wooten, the Judds... and slowly began to make a living at it. Then I met Producer Vince Emmett, who had moved to town about the same time i had. He offered me a job and I've been working with him ever since.
So I guess it was a lot of persistance, hard work, a good attitude, and some good old fashion luck that's kept me from ever having to work at any Starbucks or Best Buy in this town.
I was one of the A/V geeks in middles school days, and when I started playing in bands in high school, I always wound up running the PA. I took an interest in studio work after going to my first concert at age 15 (Moutain) and realizing things were different between LP and stage. I continued doing sounds for bands I was in and also for a coffee house at the college I went to. I found out about the audio school I went to through a friend of my father, whose son had just enrolled. All down hill from there!
Been TOO long ago! 1980-Muscle Shoals Alabama: Sound Tech for an outdoor event had a diabetic insulin reaction, and was admitted to hospital. Seeing as my Peavey MarkVIII was known around there, I got the call. Been doing live sound every since. Recently graduated UP to line arrays, & LOVE THEM! Also being a drummer helps get the "drive" going! NOTE: When mixing on other than my own system, I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BLOWN LOW END DRIVERS!!!!!
In 1991 I PERSISTANTLY called every studio in the phone book from Palm Beach to Miami and asked if anyone wanted an intern (as in indentured servant). I found one (Audiovision) and I was so green I showed up in a suit and tie (they "hired" me in spite of this!). It was there that I made a lot of mistakes and I hung out with Frank Cesarano because he was a guy that "had what I wanted". I never got hired there but my experience and the fun and the contacts that I made were priceless. I became teachable and if I ever lose that quality, it will probably be time for me to do something else. For the new people I encourage you to be persistant, find a mentor, get involved in AES and don't be afraid to mess up a lot of recordings (God knows I have)
I'm now a mastering engineer and it has been a great career for me. The measure I give is the measure I get back. I really enjoy what I do and the people I work with (mostly) and I think Nashville has so much to offer engineers.
I guess you could say that I'm still in the beginning stages. Like Bret, I owe a lot to my church upbringing. I started out as a musician, drums, then a few years later I began learning guitar. In 2004 a friend of mine gave me an old copy of Cakewalk that he wasn't using. I bought the cheapest audio card I could afford for my PC, plugged it in and then just started recording. At the time, I was just doing it so I could record myself and the songs that I had started writing for the band I started.
For the next three years things stayed about the same. Then a year ago this month, I was contacted by an independent artist about the possibility of using some of my original songs for her next album. I was like "Ok, umm.. sure!" During that process, I ended up pitching about 35 songs to her that I had recorded and ended up getting 4 co-writes on the album. It was around this time that something switched inside me. I guess it was the feeling of validation from having someone else enjoy some of my music enough that they wanted to record it.
So I began to get more serious about songwriting at that point. My (incredibly awesome and supportive) wife got me a Digirack 003 with Pro Tools LE for my birthday. It was quite a jump from Cakewalk, that's for sure. I spent the next couple of months just trying to get an understanding of the software.
Then in January of this year I joined a company called TAXI. During the first few months I was getting quite a few songs forwarded but the one common theme that I noticed in both my forwards and returns was that the recordings weren't "broadcast quality." So I took the next couple of months and just immersed myself in books, seminars and training DVD's on Pro Tools and recording in general, trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could.
Even though I've been recording since 2004, I don't feel like I've really started until this past April 'cause that's when I really started getting serious about it. I know I have a long ways to go and there will always be more to learn, but I feel like I've made a ton of progress and I'm heading in the right direction. And even more than that, I enjoy it!
In the 60s at the ripe age of 8 or 9 I was amazed at the 45rpm singles my dad would get, stuff like "Ring of Fire", "Big Bad John", and "The Battle of New Orleans". Later when the British Invasion hit the states, we started a band in the forth grade. Long story short my first sound system was a 4 channel Silvertone with 2 JBL 12" speakers, I was hooked, It became a passion to sound like the records did. I still have that passion and curiosity today and it still serves me well. Always looking for the best will be clear when people see and hear you're work.
Been working with 4trk tape since I was 14 yrs old. Guitar was my main focus, which resulted in sessions and touring, in my teens through my twenties. Relocated to LA when I was 30 and went to work in a cartage company who's clients were Toto, The Jacksons, beack Boys, Van Halen, Niel Schon, and David Williams, from the Jackson sessions. One day, David asked me to tech for him on a Madonna tour. From that, I spent my money on 2" recording gear and converted my 1 car garage into a studio. I also bought 2 Mesa boogie amps and a rack of delays and compressors. I joined two writers workshops in LA to improve my craft( in which I HIGHLY recomend to other engineers - great way to meet people that need help with their music). Apparently they liked what I brought in, so I began recording friends (for $$). That led to partnering in a better studio... and then, selling everything accept my box of mics. With only that, I started working in my (writer workshop) friend's studio on Venice beach, in Santa Monica, CA. for 2 years. I also went to the 1st Pro-Tools demonstration in LA., when PT was only 16 tracks. Anyways, in late "94, I relocated to Nashville. On the way here, someone stole my case of digital masters of EVERY recording I EVER made... somewhere between Vegas and Oklahoma. After 3 months of sulking... I found an old studio named Comanche (MCI 600 console), in Hendersonville. They allowed me to re-organize the room, and I began freelancing there. I met and recorded many of the "older ledgendary" country artists, there... whom I was totally un-familiar with. But apparently, they liked the way I ran my effects - little tricks I picked up from LA., and my experience as a guitarist and vocalist didn't hurt either. I also worked at a Hendersonville studio called Magnolia (MCI 500 desk) on occasion. I began to work with the artist Dobie Grey, recording a cd in progress too. Then the owner of Comanche, relocated the studio onto "the row" a year later. There (MCI 600), I did many demos (Sony, EMI, Warner Bros, Bug,) as well as branched out into other studios such as "Hilltop" (? desk), Abotrax (Otari desk), The Sound Kitchen (Neve V desk), Voytek studio (SSL desk), etc... Then, a friend showed me a new private studio in Franklin, named Oz Audio. I worked out of there for 2 years, recording Dobie Grey, Phil Vassar, Mark Collie, Englebert Humperdink, etc... I also had the pleasure to assist some great engineers such as Jim Demain and Justin Niebank there, on a few of their projects. Michael McDonald purchased the studio 2 years later and asked me to stay. The next 4 years was a great time, working with Mike, and other great performers. Then, when the project (Blues Obsession disc) was completed...I quit engineer... bought a historic home to renovate in downtown east Nashville. Three years after starting the restoration, I made an effort to start a home studio (since everyone else had one...). I purchased 2 yamaha O2R desks to link together, DaKing Mic pres, and chose Nuendo as my platform. But after only a year, I decided to keep only my Nuendo system for myself, as a guitarist/composer of instrumental music projects. Nowadays, I occasionally help out some old friends with their recordings while I continue my own. But %99 of the time, I spend working my own material... and I LOVE my DynAudio monitors!
Occasionally, I get asked to get back into things, but I prefer to work in a commercial studio with a real console and tuned rooms - opposed to someone's home. Now, I get my pre-production done in my bedroom, and then hit a real studio to track with drums and bass. I bought an Mbox just to learn Pro tools software. I've updated it to vers 8.0 . I've found that I could really do everything I need (pre-production), in just the Mbox. I then take my "guide" tracks, loops, and arrangements to a studio to track with great musicians. I work best with as little as possible, and I've owned MCI, Amek, Neve pres, Neve comps, delays, mics, Marshall, Boogies, Fenders, etc... I always end up selling everything I buy after a while, and use what ever is around me at the time. Renting is also a great way to go. One of the coolest things I recently purchased was an original Palmer PDI-03 speaker Simulator - for recording my Boogie straight out of the amp output - no speaker. Sounds awesome. Good luck - That's it!
Hi Terry! I use DynAudio BM15a's. They don't trash my ears like others used to after long hours, and they are pleasing to listen to. I used to own a pair of the older Tannoy 12 inch Gold monitors (brown wood cab) and tried using them for tracking, but they were too heavy and not any where as nice sounding as these. Maybe a better crossover would have helped. I also had the Blue Sky System One. They were nice for about 2 years... and then I decided to go after the monitors I've wanted for the last 10 years... the DynAudio BM15a's. So... I had to have them. I found a really good pair, only a week old, in Texas. Thanks for asking, Terry. Andy