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What Does an Assistant Sound Engineer Do?

December 18, 2013 IADT General, Audio Production 0 Comments

What Does an Assistant Sound Engineer Do?Many people are familiar with what a sound engineer does, but most audiophiles who become sound engineers hone their technical skills by starting out as an assistant sound engineer. 

The job requires proficiency in recording, mixing and broadcasting sound. Assistants work either solely in music recording or recording sound for television, video or film. In some industries, assistants play a peripheral role on projects, but in audio production, assistants are an integral part of the process.  An assistant sets up the studio, makes sure equipment works properly and records, mixes and masters audio. In some cases, an assistant also manages a studio's calendar. 

Equipment Set-up

Many professional studios employ both a lead and assistant.  While the lead engineer focuses on setting the sound levels and overall quality of the sound, the assistant engineer is responsible for the manual work of placing mics, mic stands, running cables and making sure these are patched to the correct inputs.  This person is also responsible for "loading in" the band's equipment and carefully placing the equipment and instruments in the studio.

An assistant sound engineer has a general knowledge of common studio equipment, such as mics, stands, amps, types of cables and how to correctly place mics for different instruments. Most also have knowledge of different kinds of instruments, such as drum kits or guitars.

Equipment Upkeep

It's important to make sure a studio is ready for a recording session, and the assistant sound engineer ensures all equipment functions properly prior to a session. After a recording session, the assistant breaks down the equipment and also takes care to properly store it.

Recording

An assistant engineer is familiar with both analog and digital recording practices and assists the main engineer on the sound board in recording tracks.  The lead engineer directs the assistant in recording takes and playing back what's been recorded. The assistant notes and organizes these takes and must be very detail-oriented.

Most assistants have prior experience using popular digital recording equipment and professional multi-track mixing boards.  

Post Production: Mixing and Mastering

Post-production includes both mixing the tracks recorded and mastering these tracks, or creating the final, finished product.  If you're thinking about becoming an assistant sound engineer, it's beneficial to have a good grasp on at least one kind of digital recording equipment and be familiar with keyboard shortcuts, too.

Assistant Engineering Requires Both Administrative and Technical Skills

It's not uncommon for a studio to hire an assistant in a twofold capacity. For smaller studios, assistant engineers may be responsible for both the technical side and for scheduling and managing the studio calendar.  You should know that an assistant engineer is not responsible for directing the music or any creative or "above-the-line" side of the production.

Assistant sound engineering requires specialized training, and many gain experience either through graduating from an audio production program, recording bands or working on their own. Many also have a background in playing at least one musical instrument.  Unlike some other entry-level or assistant positions, this role requires a high level of technical skill and knowledge to start.

Is This Work for You?

Working as an assistant sound engineer requires dedication and long hours in a studio. Many assistants have busy schedules, sometimes working weekends and nights. Is this kind of work right for you?  If you are passionate about every aspect of audio, from setting up equipment to mixing and mastering sound and learning about the latest in audio technology, it can be exciting and rewarding work.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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