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Music Engineering Career Guide

Music Engineering Is A Viable Career

 

Music engineering and broadcast related jobs are projected to grow by roughly 9% by the year 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Overall, the prospect for salary, market growth and job satisfaction are high based on a report by CareerExplorer.

We believe the growth and interest comes from the both the technical and creative skills required for the ever growing music industry. Much like programmers, this field is in high demand especially the desire for young talent.

 

But can music engineering be a viable career for anyone? We wrote this guide to answer this and many other questions. At the end of the article you will find other related topics to help you explore and learn in depth about the career of music engineering.

What Does a Music Engineer Do?

In the simplest form, a music engineer is also known as a recording engineer. It’s the person who is doing the actual recording of a musician. 

 

A Day in the Life of a Music Engineer

music engineer working

A typical recording day for a music engineer might look something like this:

 

A musician would reach out to a music engineer to record them and they would agree on a rate, talk about vision and the song ideas for the project. (If you’re wondering if there is a difference between music engineering and music production, read our article that answers that topic)

 

They then would schedule dates and on this day, the engineer would prepare for the session by setting up the necessary microphones, doing line testing, make sure everything was working properly, getting the software set up and finally getting the session loaded on the software. 

 

The musician will show up and they will discuss the vision. sound, and ideas for the song again and eventually they would begin recording. There are different methods in the recording process for the musician. 

 

After their done recording, the engineer will prepare the session to be sent to a mixing engineer. The mix engineer will take the song the music engineer created and bring the song to life. 

 

Freelance Life

One of the most common ways to pursue this career is also freelancing and networking. 

 

Occasionally jobs pop up in production houses, recording studios, and corporate offices because they will need full-time music engineers on staff for various projects. This just means that you just start doing it and commit to pursuing the opportunities available.

 

You may start with working with singers and songwriters and doing gigs that are free or relatively reduced in pricing, just to get your name out there. 

 

It’s possible to make a home studio and make connections with local musicians. It’s important to be versatile and have a mobile/portable recording rig so that you can go to local venues or churches to record.

 

After college, I became a tech director for churches and was over their live sound. In my free time, I would pursue recording engineering. I had a rig at home that I could record there or take it places with me. 

 

I was primarily a freelance engineer and I had a partnership with a studio and they would call me when they needed someone to engineer sessions. I was also allowed to rent the studio out and find my own clients.

Key Traits of Music Engineers

musicians talking

 

Sensitive Collaborator

As a music engineer, you want to be someone who is easy to work with. 

 

It is important to be someone who understands the relationship between the engineer and the musician. Some musicians don’t understand the recording process and will come to you with a song that is very personal to them. 

 

As the music engineer, it is your job to help them bring that song to life and it requires collaboration, communication, and understanding of the artist and what they are trying to achieve.

 

Multifaceted Understanding of Music

You will have to remove your personal preferences when it comes to music and dig into the bigger picture to help them produce their vision. 

 

A music engineer more often slips into a producer role because singers, songwriters, and bands don’t know how to achieve what they want. The producer will help them mold the song in the studio while being the recording engineer as well.  


As a music engineer being someone who is multifaceted, good with people, and understands music will put you a step ahead in this industry.

Equipment and Tools

music engineering equipment

 

Primary Tools

Typically, the main tools that are going to be used by a music engineer are:

  • Microphones
  • Preamplifiers
  • Compressors
  • Limiters
  • delay, and reverbs. 



There are also a plethora of plugins that are available for the recording and the mixing process.

 

Additional Tools

Additional tools include other output gear and computer interfaces which is what takes the sound and converts it into a digital format. 

 

The sound goes into your computer and then into a DAW which means digital audio workstation or recording software. 


The common recording software used will be Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, Cubase, and PreSonus Studio One.

Career Profile for Music Engineering

music producer degree

 

Typical Hours

The career of a music engineer will not be a typical 9 to 5 job where you’re in a cubicle.

 

Expected hours will all depend on if you’re doing it fulltime or part-time. A lot of music engineers are perfectly fine with doing it part time and even working from their homes. 

 

Many who do it full-time usually live the musician gig lifestyle where it’s 30 to 60 hours a week, which will be determined by the project, the turn around times and also what the band wants or how much they are wanting to work. 

 

Place of Work

Work settings include mobile recording which includes concerts, in their home, or even warehouses. 

 

Another common setting is a recording studio that can be rented out to musicians. You could even be working at a church where you’re recording songs in the sanctuary or recording voice overs for videos and testimonies. 

 

Salary

Average salary could be around $40,000-60,000 fulltime music engineer. This depends on whether you’re doing it freelance, with a studio or with a church.

 

Lifestyle

The lifestyle of a music engineer would be a lot similar to a gig musician. 

 

They will usually operate around the time musicians are available which could include nights and weekends with long hours.

Education and Training

creative music engineer

 

Is a Degree Required?

No, a degree is not required for a career in music production. 

 

Many professional producers and engineers either don’t have a degree at all or have a degree in a different field. However, there has been a shift in the past several years as music engineering degrees have become more common at music engineering schools.

 

Different careers within music production will have different expectations on degrees. Many full-time, salaried positions, such as at churches or AV installation companies, will require a degree or equivalent work experience. 

 

However, if you are working as a freelance producer or engineer, it is unlikely that a client will ever require a degree, though having one can bolster your resume and may result in more work.

 

The value in pursuing a music production degree is the practical experience that you will receive. Getting to work in a controlled environment with professional equipment will set you up for success in the industry. Having a degree will also give you flexibility in pursuing other career opportunities outside of music production.

 

Pros:

  • Demonstrates to employers and clients that you have formal training
  • Demonstrates the ability to complete a collegiate degree
  • Gives you experience necessary to succeed in the industry

 

Cons:

  • Time and money



Types of Degrees

Visible’s Music Production degree is purposely broad, giving students an overview of a lot of the industry and preparing them for many types of jobs. 

 

However, students also have the ability to specialize in recording or live sound.

 

Other common degree paths are more specialized, such as:

  1. – Recording Arts
  2. – Music Technology
  3. – Music Industry Studies
  4. – Electronic Music Production
  5. – Live Sound Production
  6. – Digital Audio Production
  7. – Acoustics and Electroacoustics
  8. – Audio Postproduction


Read about more aspects of a music engineering degree to get a better overview.

Music Engineering Subjects

There are a few broad subjects that you can expect in most music engineering education.

 

Recording Techniques

Covers recording different instruments, including the most common equipment used and different techniques for miking, processing, etc.

 

Digital Audio Workstations 

Covers the software used in music production, such as Avid Pro Tools, Apple Logic Studio, Ableton Live, Steinburg Cubase, etc. Visible teaches Pro Tools and Logic primarily.

 

Live Sound

Covers live sound reinforcement systems and production, including how to design sound systems for different event sizes and how to mix for front-of-house and monitors. 

 

Music Production

Covers the creative side of music production, including arrangement, instrumentation, grooves and beats, and interpersonal skills.

 

If you want to learn more, you can also get an insider look into music engineering classes at the certificate, bachelor’s and masters level.

Read More About Music Engineering on Visible's Blog

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