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.
Ok Bret be honest we did it because we did not like how the other peops with pocket protectors was doing it. and we liked to see how many ins and outs you could loop together before somthing smoked. like the outdoor concert at collage?
I started with a 2 Track 1/4" reel-to-reel. It had a sound-on-sound feature that let you bounce what you recorded on the left side over to the right side with the new input material and vice-versa. Little did I know that every time you bounced a track it added 3 dB of tape hiss. Let's see, 12 bounces = noise louder than distorted guitar!
I think the only people who could tell better (older) stories than this would be Bruce Swedien or George Martin.
Same here, only I can one-up you.
My Dad bought a standard 1/4" reel to reel, and of course, I started poking around it with. I figured out where the erase head was, and I actually would record a track, then disable the erase head, and by noting the counter numbers, add a track to that by guessing where 1 was. It didn't work, and Dad was pissed when he found out I'd been snipping wires.
Then my brother came home on leave from the Air Force, and left a Sony TC-630 (?) with Sound-On-Sound, a Hofner fiddle bass and his Gibson Starfire guitar... and that's when the 'trouble' started. My friends were impressed when they heard the 6th generation bounces, and wanted to know which steam room I was tracking in.
Well, Doug Sarrett sat me down way back in 1988 and said, " Sit here and dont talk to anyone, your opinion is now valid, NOBODY cares!" That was up in the old Skylab and I started an amzing journey with doug as "White Love Slave #1 (followed by Glenn Spinner WLS #2 And Shane Williams WLS#3, Aaron Swihart was given the role of Honorable WLS #4 even though he was never christened) and thus started my desire for working in the glorious Gospel Genre. I was lucky to come up under some AMAZING engineers that recorded All different styles of Music. Even though I believe that I had something to do with it, I know in the bottom of my heart that timing had everything to do with it.
I came into engineering after playing on sessions for 10 or 15 years; I had an idea for a couple of projects that were too weird to even trade out time with the studios where I was working. So I bought a couple of DA88's and a 1604 and went for it...
17 years later, I haven't finished EITHER of the projects that originally wanted to do....
After playing in several bands for fun but not profit and by being the guy who not only owned the PA but knew how it worked, I decided that engineering was a good path to follow and went to "The Institute of Audio/Video Engineering" (long defunct) which was based at Music Lab Studios in East Hollywood. After 6 months, the school got a call from a producer needing 2 asst. engineers at his personal studio and away I went. The producer was Leon Sylvers (The Sylvers - "Boogie Fever") and he had a 56 input Harrison/2-24trk Studer room up at the top of Coldwater Canyon that Mick Guzauski helped outfit and I got a chance to feel what it's like to be a minority.This was the Fall of 1984. I haven't 'worked' many days since.
The church I grew up in had a service that was on TV. One Sunday the sound guy didn't show and the director asked me if I could fill in and run sound for what went out over the air. (I was twelve years old at the time) My only instruction was to make sure the meters didn't go in the red. I watched the meters like a hawk for the next 45 minutes. They never did go into the red, but during the closing credits I realized that the meters I was looking at were for another Beta deck doing a transfer of a different show. At that exact moment, the director congratulated me on doing a good job and invited me back for the following week. I didn't say a word.
That is really funny. When I first started doing audio for taped for tv teaching we rolled in the sound of a ticking clock. I was under the same instruction make it hot but not red and being from a studio kind of background where u wanted everything as hot as possible I made the meters stand up and it was so loud i sounded like u were in the clock. Needless to say that made for a stop down and I learned about realitve level.
Like this was a live to tape mix so if the voice was at say -3 on a old vu meter u would want the clock to be around -10 or -08 so it would not sound like u were in the clock. It would sound natural like u would hear it in a room.
Mark, lets not forget the "glory days" back at MTSU. Scamming studio time, and recording very bad renditions of very bad songs that we thought were cool at the time. Lets face it, going back and listening to some of those early RIM-440 projects can be painful at times. Makes you really appreciate what Cosette, Dan, John, and the like have to go through trying to grade those ever semester. Geez!