And then I was asked, "What are the top three things that you have learned so far?"...
...In short, I didn't know what to say! Not because of a lack of taking notes, or studying, but simply because I have learned so DARN much every single day and week that it is just overwhelming and hard to nail down! When this person, who happens to be a second audio mentor in my life, Todd Hartmann, head audio engineer for Austin Stone Church here in Austin, Tx., asked me this question, all I could do was tell him three generic topics. Therefore, I will share with you what I shared with him.
First of all, in the last couple weeks, I have learned my way around the design and configuration of an active working studio. What that means is, I have learned not just the equipment, but how it all connects together, and with which specific cables, and in what order to place instruments on the mix deck (aka computer screen). Also, as part of this subject, I began re-wiring and hooking up what is called the studio's "Patch Bay." What I am learning, that is amazing mind you, is that this piece of equipment is like the old telephone system of the early 20th century, where a physical operator would connect a call via a patch board by plugging in and out of terminals on a wall. Same concept in the music studio, a patch bay is used to quickly choose which pre-amp, for example, you want to go to which particular compressor!
Secondly, I told Todd that I was learning how to experiment with microphones and microphone placement. What is fascinating to learn is that there are NO RULES in audio. I repeat, in a world full of rules, there are NO RULES in my world at the studio. SO cool to think about, as there are no right or wrong answers. In other words, no set of guidelines will ever limit my unique sound production! Learning about amplification and the science behind microphones and their placement, help me realize that this is an area where you can stand out SIGNIFICANTLY (good or bad) as an audio professional. By knowing how to best compliment an instrument and a particular recording environment, you can create a unique tone to a song before even a single word is sung! Also, there are so many types of microphones and ways of setting them up, AND ways that the technology is evolving and improving constantly, that the possibilities of aural beauty abound endlessly!
Thirdly, and lastly, I told Todd that the biggest area of learning was in learning logistics. Costs of operation, mixing efficiency, and studio culture. Both with time and the use of financial resources, these three areas are where the rubber meets the road. No matter how lofty our ideals and musical dreams are as artists, lack of discipline and understanding in the areas of logistics can keep those dreams from ever leaving your garage. In understanding the costs of file saving and storage, I learned that working with the end in mind is key, and that every file should be saved in at least three locations, and updated at least every 30 seconds. In understanding finances and equipment costs, you realize that there is a charm in reviving vintage equipment and in giving new life to old cables, etc. Learning the value of security, proper equipment care and maintenance, and being kind to yourself and your body (and mind) throughout a work week are CRUCIAL to long-term success with music.
With that said, if I told you any more in the way of specifics, we would be here all night. Needless to say, I feel that no classroom or university could give me the perspective I am getting through my mentorship. Onward we go!