May 21, 2011
Audio Engineering: The science behind great sound.
Nitin Chandy, reputed Sound Engineer & Co-Founder, The True School of Music on why Live sound engineering is the future
The profession of audio engineering dates back to around the same time the first recordings were made on phonograph machines in the late 1800’s. Just as music and technology has been evolving over the years, so has the craft of audio engineering. One would say that audio engineering is perhaps one of those few professions that exercise both the left and the right side of your brain. The field draws on many artistic and vocational areas, including electronics, acoustics, psychoacoustics, and music. This makes audio engineering a very specialized profession to be in.
As a result of recent technological advancements and the metamorphosis of the music industry, independent musicians have now started recording in their homes and garages. A lot of such musicians have stopped collaborating with professional studio engineers and music producers, and have started engineering albums on their own. This has, to a certain extent, brought down the quality of music that is out there nowadays. But, one can change the fate of all that, with basic education and knowledge in the field of audio or sound engineering.
A good audio engineer essentially adds the finer touches on a musician’s canvas to make it a glorious painting. A seasoned audio engineer can sometimes be the difference between an average music recording and a great one. One of audio engineering’s greats, Bruce Swedien, once said, a great song sells a thousand copies, but a great sounding song sells a million copies. [He was referring to the success of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album that had sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, in the early1980’s].
It would be prudent for anyone to think they can do away with audio engineers or audio engineering. However, without them, music would just sound ‘mediocre.’
In today’s day and age, thousands of solo musicians and bands worldwide, are on the road a lot more, performing live for their fans. This has opened up – in a big way – opportunities in Live sound engineering the world over. Typically, a Live sound engineer is attached to one or more bands and travels along with them, all over the world. A lot of traditional studio engineers have made the switch to live sound engineering internationally because they see the growth opportunities and the rich experiences they can take back from being in this line.
In India too, the trend in the music sector has been somewhat similar. An increasing number of musicians and singers are now performing live to stay connected to their audiences. The spurt in the live music scene has increased the demand for live sound engineers in the country. However, this demand has not been met adequately because of the lack of skilled and experienced professionals in the country.
Most traditional studio engineers have tried their hand at live sound engineering with sometimes, disastrous results. Besides the skills and exposure, they lack the finesse and sonic maturity one associates with foreign engineers who engineer live gigs, both here and abroad. Their in-depth knowledge and understanding of the subject, resulting from years of experience is unparalleled in this country. Our live engineers have a long way to go before they can start sounding good.
Institutions like the Blue Frog, NH7 and Submerge have given rise to a lot of independent music, DJs and musicians. The number of independent jazz, rock and pop bands that have been cropping up in the last five years are indicative of a growing sector. Opportunities for young, skilled, live engineers who want to embark on a satisfying musical and professional career are aplenty and up for grabs.