"Have you learned a lot?" was the question my mother asked me this week when i told her that my final lesson was coming up. i said "oh yeah, I've learned a ton," and as that sentence came out i started churning info in my brain: electronics, digital and analog audio, patch bays, binary information, CD standard bit depth and sample rate, plot maps and input lists, pre production, waveforms, microphones, voltage, hertz, decibels, pro tools inserts and sends, prepping for a tracking session, fundamentals of mixing, engaging with clients... you get the picture. My brain is so full. Over these past six months i have completely submerged myself into this program and have took every opportunity given to me to come to the studio and learn.
I came into this program with two key goals in mind: 1. Learn what it takes to become an audio engineer and 2. Have a foundation to work from after the program so i can progress to the point where i can do audio full time. I think i have accomplished those goals. I have first hand experience in what it takes to be a successful recording engineer and the skills needed to be great at it. I've learned that it takes a special kind of person to be in this profession: creativity, technically inclined, professionalism, and consistency are just some key traits that come to mind. Secondly, i have formed a networking foundation that i can build off of to find work and continue to learn and grow thanks to my mentor Pierre, every time I'm at the studio i meet new people and 90% of the people I've met are about their business; that is great for me because when two or more focused individuals come together that is when great things happen. I can see potential jobs within the industry coming my way in the future because of the relationships that I've formed. I've also learned that if you do great work consistently a valuable reputation will form and people will start to seek you for your services. Audio and business go hand in hand.
This week was the last lesson before the final test. Mastering, I've come to understand is a skill that takes a lifetime to master and understand fully. It's a craft totally dependent on the ear, hearing subtle changes in sonic characteristics to make a song sound bigger and fuller while at the same time creating balance between every song to form a cohesive body of work. Sounds easy, but the tutorial i got proved me wrong! Pierre showed me how he goes about mastering a record starting with setting up a signal chain that he uses when he masters. He then uploaded all of the finished mixes into ProTools. The next step he explained was to find the audio curve, a sweet spot for the song you're working with (as i understood it) and working from that curve. It was so tedious, and he spent a good 45 minutes just trying to find the curve for the first song! Making moves that were so subtle, adding or removing 1dB-3dB of compression at a time and watching the meters to see if the desired volume level was met. That is when i saw how important proper ear training is when mastering, a trained ear will comprehend subtle changes in the audio and hear sonic nuances that may or may not be pleasing. Incredible. Amazing. Good stuff. This is part of the reason why i chose this career, it's very much so a technical craft but creativity is everything. It's all about being committed to capturing and balancing cohesive and sonically pleasing audio, it all starts with great songs and great musicianship!
I also sat in on a vocal tracking session with a hip hop group, hip hop sessions tend to flow differently than say a rock or jazz session so the experience is always something i welcome. Rappers tend to want to do a good amount of vocal stacking, overdubs, and ad-libs/emphasis so during this time i was focused on Pierre and what he was doing in ProTools. He is really fast so he can playlist takes and set up new audio tracks really easily and quickly. I see what he does and i can emulate it if need be on a session that I'm working on which is a good learning exercise. It was a really fun dynamic in the studio and those are my favorite sessions, when everyone is having a great time and awesome music is being made in the process!
The final test is up and I'm ready, lets do this!