Become An Audio Engineer: Top Recording Schools

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So you’re passionate about music and you want to go to recording school. Recording school doesn’t teach you to play an instrument, how to be a DJ, or how make beats. Recording school compliments these forms of art, but usually the main purpose for going to recording school is to become an audio engineer – yes, that’s right, a scientist.

What’s an Audio Engineer?

An audio engineer is concerned with the recording, manipulation, mixing and reproduction of sound. Many audio engineers creatively use technologies to produce sound for film, radio, television, music, electronic products and computer games. Alternatively, the term audio engineer can refer to a scientist or engineer who develops new audio technologies working within the field of acoustical engineering. Audio engineering concerns the creative and practical aspects of sounds including speech and music, as well as the development of new audio technologies and advancing scientific understanding of audible sound. –Wikipedia

We’re going to take a look at some of the top domestic and international schools. For the purposes of this article, we refer to “top schools” for having accreditation and a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree upon successful completion.  Check out this list of possible careers with a recording degree –via Berklee’s website

Not all schools are created equal;  so what set’s them apart? 

The Staff: Who’s going to be teaching you? Do they have industry experience? What are some of the projects/clients that they’ve worked on/for? For the most part, schools are pretty good about hiring reputable instructors. A lot of instructors supplement their recording career with teaching, and making a memorable impression could lead to an internship after graduation or reference. Learn as much as possible about your instructors, perhaps even download a song for reference.

Learning Facilities: Having the right tools are essential for a proper recording education. A facility equipped with the latest recording gear ensures a seamless transition from student to the real world. This may include acoustically treated rooms, vintage microphones, analog consoles, digital consoles, sound stages, and more.

School Location: A practical piece of advice for any career: study in the city where you plan to start your profession. It doesn’t make sense to study somewhere without a thriving industry to gain experience from. Real world experience will almost always get selected over  just an education. Some managers even make a strong case for hiring someone with less than a bachelor’s as long as they have experience.

focusrite console

Introducing the Top Recording Schools

berklee college of music logoBerklee School of Music

Berklee Faculty Highlights:

Facility Highlights: Berklee’s recording facilities are equipped to handle any recording and mixing situation. They have various digital and analog mixing desks including two vintage SSL (Solid State Logic) 4032 G Series consoles in studios A and B. Everything is state of the art, from the consoles, outboard gear, microphones, to their acoustically treated rooms. Berklee’s recording facilities rival any modern studio.

AdmissionAdmission to the music production and engineering program is competitive – based on musicianship, prior academic record, and aptitude. Students apply for acceptance to this major after their first or second semester. Also worth mentioning here is Berklee’s undergraduate admissions requirement, which consists of an audition and interview process. Pass these hurdles, and you’re in with some of the brightest music majors in the world.

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full sail university logoFull Sail University

Full Sail Faculty Highlights:

  • Course director, Darren Schneider has 18+ years of experience with several certified gold, platinum and diamond projects by artists such as Britney Spears, Deep Purple, Patti La Belle, Outkast, Aerosmith, and Snow Patrol.
  • Department Chair, Brian Smithers has taught music technology for over 25 years. He also conducted the world-famous Walt Disney World Band for several years, and has had his music technology work featured in magazines such Electronic Musician, Music & Computers, and Keyboard.

Facility Highlights: Full Sail’s recording facilities feature the latest analog and digital studio gear. For example, the audio temple, Full Sail’s flagship studio has a 72-Channel SSL Duality SE console; it’s the largest Duality educational installation in the world. It is comprised of three SSL J Series, 13 SSL ALW900+ and seven SSL Matrix consoles to offer all levels of study. Studios A and B also offer top of the line consoles such as the 144 channel Amek Neve 9098i analog board and an 80-channel SSL 900 J series analog console. There are also numerous mixing suites and project studios through out the campus.

AdmissionAdmission to Full Sail’s Recording Arts program is far less arduous than Berklee’s. You don’t have to audition or go through a series of interviews. What they require is a high school diploma or GED, a filled out application, and your dedication.

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Loyola Marymount University logoLoyola Marymount University

  • Program/Degree: Bachelor’s in Recording Arts
  • 2013 Tuition: $157,376 ($39,344 per academic year)
  • Total Credit Hours: 120 ($1,311.47 per credit hour)
  • Campus Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Notable Alumni:
    • Alex Levy – Music Editor (Star Trek, The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol)
    • Matthew Linesh – Music Engineer and Producer (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) Jason Krane, Sound Editing (True Blood).
    • Warren Hendriks – Sound Editor/Sound Designer (The Grey, Tron: Legacy, Transformers)?

Faculty Highlights: Unlike the rest of the schools mentioned, Loyola’s Bachelor’s in Recording Arts program gives major emphasis to film and television. The program is under the School of Film and Television umbrella along with animation, screenwriting, and production for film and television. The instructors here are experienced professionals in this realm of sound. Faculty highlights:

  • Chair member and professor, Mladen Millicevic holds a Bachelor’s, two Master’s, and a Doctorate in Music Composition and has composed for theater, films, radio and television.
  • Professor Rodger Pardee has numerous sound for film and television credits that include To Live and Die in L.A., Waterworld, Men in Black, The X-Files: Fight the Future and Geronimo: An American Legend.

Facility Highlights: The recording facilities at Loyola include numerous ProTools studios for music and film post-production with an array of plug-ins for recording and editing. The main music studio is equipped with a vintage Trident 80B console, a treasure chest of microphones and analog outboard gear. There is also a live PA with a DIGICO digital console and DYNACORD speaker system for live engineering and recording.

AdmissionLoyola University is also different from the rest of the schools mentioned here in that their admission requirements are in line with traditional universities. Besides looking at academic records and SAT or ACT scores, they also take into consideration writing ability, artistic accomplishments, work or service-related endeavors, recommendations, and university relationship.

recording-3

expression college logoEx’pression College

  • Program/Degree: Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Sound Arts
  • 2013 Tuition: $94,400.00
  • Total Credit Hours: 120 ($786.67 per credit hour)
  • Campus Locations: Emeryville and San Jose, CA
  • Notable Alumni: Ean Golden
  • Initial Industry Employment: 70%

Ex’prssion College Faculty Highlights:

  • Sounds Arts program director, John Scanlon has worked with many artists such as Jack Johnson, Dave Grohl, Tori Amos, Jimmy Eat World, the Silver Sun Pickups, and Foster the People.
  • Course director, Dave Bell has two first round Grammy nominations and has recorded with James Taylor, Alex Taylor, Steve Miller, Ritchie Havens, Gregg Allman, The Kennedys, and more.

Facility Highlights: The sound facilities at Ex’pression College were design by renowned studio architect John Storyk to include 5.1 surround sound and advanced audio mixing and recording systems. The are two SSL large format recording suites, the SSL 9000J suite is used for music recording and mixing while the SSL 6000 suite is used for stereo and 5.1 mix down. Meyer Sound Performance Hall is used for live sound FOH and monitor mixing. There are numerous digital recording studios used for Pro Tools and Logic certification, game audio, audio postproduction, and mastering.

AdmissionThe program requires a completed program application, a high school diploma or GED, complete placement exams in math or English, and a personal essay.

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sae institue logoSAE Institute

  • Program/Degree: Bachelor of Art/Science (Hons.), Audio Production
  • 2012 Tuition for Australia:
    • AUD $39,800 (Domestic) roughly $37,200 in U.S. currency
    • AUD $43,200 (International) roughly $40,400 in U.S. currency
    • Total Credit Hours: 120 (AUD $310 per credit hour – Domestic, AUD $337 – International)
    • Campus Locations: Sydney Australia and 49 other locations world-wide
    • Curriculum: Page 11 of the school catalog
    • Notable Alumni: David Guetta, Groove Armada, Moby

SAE Institute Australia Faculty Highlights:

  • Lecturer, Dean Belcastro has worked with Australian artists from BMG, Warner Music, Warner Chappel, Albert Music, Rob Hirst and more.
  • Lecturer, Adam Grace has worked on projects such as The Great Gatsby, Happy Feet, Walking with Dinosaurs, and Romeo + Juliet DVD, SSO. He is also a certified Logic and and Ableton trainer.

Recording facilities: Detailed list of studios and gear not provided.

AdmissionsAdmission to SAE Institute requires a simple application form.

music-theory

A WORD TO THE WISE

It is said that the cost of education and student loans is the next financial crises after the home mortgage collapse. With that being said, have a deep conversation with yourself about your passion for music. Is your passion strong enough to help you see your way through school and onto a successful career? Education in the U.S. is not cheap, but the payoff could be substantial. For those planning to attend recording school location cannot be stressed enough, so remember – location, location, location.

NO PATH IS THE SAME

Full Sail was a great experience. It gave me a solid foundation to go ahead and start working and learning in a practical sense, with real clients in a real studio. I’d recommend the program to anyone interested in perusing a career in recording, though it’s not the only option. One thing I’ve learned in this business is everyone has their own unique path, and they don’t all necessarily start with traditional education. Having said that, I wouldn’t change the path I took at all. It was the right choice for me, and was part of the reason why I am where I am today. – DJ Swivel (Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, and more)

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  • Grace

    A nice guidelines given for the students who are seeking to choose sound engineering as their career. this post contains nice explanation about what is an audio engineering.

    http://www.soundtechmedia.com/faculty.html

  • dhh

    The University of Michigan has some excellent programs as well:
    http://music.umich.edu/departments/pat/programs.htm
    I recently visited their campus with my son, who is considering one of these programs. The facilities are top-notch – we came away very impressed.

  • Johnny

    Belmont University should be on here, its tied with Berkeley and easily better than Full Sail for AET.

  • Tom Ignatius

    You forgotten LIPA…. Mike Crossey, Robin Schmidt…. Even Miloco guys said that LIPA guys move up the ladder so fast that they need to replace them with more assistants.

  • Phil

    Full Sail and SAE are garbage lol why did they include those?

    They should have included the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. It’s only $19k and it’s an 8 month course and theres an internship program that you need to do to complete.

    I know this because I just graduated and am interning at a Post Production studio and doing a part time job at an Artist Management Company.

    • id find it hard to believe that you have attended all 3 schools to call the first two garbage. Care to share why you think this way? what was wrong with the schools

    • Posting from the studio

      I graduated from Full Sail and I work in a very comfortable position at a post production studio. It’s really not about where you go, but about how much time and effort you are really willing to put into it. Just like any other job out there. You are an intern after taking a hilariously laughable 8 month course. Why do you think that makes you qualified to tell others about how awful real colleges, with real college programs, that you most likely have never actually done any research on, are?

      • DAV

        Nicely said. I too graduated from Full Sail and I worked a facility sound engineer but I will say if you are not good at networking you will fail with the college education. Yes you can learn all the same things on the internet and renting gear as you can do with all things not just audio. Some will look at you and say O your went to that college but that’s not the college that’s the people before you from the same college that think that the degree is a free pass into a job not the first step of learning and if you don’t know my meaning then you haven’t learned it yet. Do not go spend the money if you have not learned how to network that comes first.
        PS. I was not directing this to posting from the studio you get it.

  • Today most of people wants to grow his career in recording engineer.This article very helpful for them.I really like your 5.1 surround sound Facility.

  • Geert Rombouts

    I know it’s not compareable but damn my whole semester costs as much as one credit hour for these school. granted I’ll just be a lowly social worker and not an audio engineer but still, kindaI feel bad for moping about tuiton now. I would not want that amount of debt on me coming out of school.

  • As the equipment price keeps going down nowadays for a DJ hobbyist. Maybe it’s a good idea to learn at home / group and save money for events/shows.

  • killmedj

    Passion+enthusiasm+Dedication=Job.
    Tell a “real studio” you went to SAE or Audio college and watch their eyes roll.

    • and what? You think they will think more of you if you tell them you learned at the University of Your bedroom with cracked software? Making music for a bunch of non essential clients you met online? Or are they going to lean in to hear more of your experiance when you tell them how you did start as an intern at a local radio station, moved into their production studio and held the account for all the major retailers in the area for YOUR voice work to lay into their beds, and how they would call you in the middle of the night to come back to the studio for mastering on a $40,000 a month project which is handled by only the studio where you work? ….and…. you were doing all this as an internship.

      • killmedj

        I see your point, although I do think you are being a tad harsh.
        I’ve worked in studios for over 20 years either as a session musician or as an engineer. I’ve had 4 assistants during that time 2 of which started out as bedroom producers, probably using cracked software =). the other 2 just pestered the studio till they were allowed to make coffee and coil cables, all but one of them went on to work professionally as producers or engineers. what I loved about these guys was their passion and willingness to learn and develop their craft, yes at times they were basically earning nothing, but they all had an idea of where they wanted to be.
        Now maybe I was a bit harsh in my judgement of SAE or graduated music engineering students, but in my experience these courses all seem to have a sausage machine mentality about getting as many students through as possible, and I think they sometimes sell the promise that there will be work the second they graduate. And this is where I have the issue. it’s no fault of the students but each time a kid who’d done a course would come in and ask for work they never had the drive I was looking for, it was like they had a sense of entitlement. and on a few occasions where I did take a chance they already had a set of standardised work flows that weren’t cohesive to our system. obviously they came armed with a great wealth of knowledge and practical know how, but nothing that you couldn’t learn through hands on experience. and many times we’d have the “real deal” cats come in and mix for major label jobs and these kids would get a front row seat watching the best dudes do their thing.

        Maybe my approach is old school and perhaps now graduates “are” the best guys to hire, but paying 100K to get a degree for music engineering really doesn’t sit well with me and I feel they are selling an empty dream to wide eyed kids.

  • Kevin Reynolds

    Dang, no Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences in Arizona. I had a great experience there in 98/99. Great program, unfortunately its not a Bachelors but I felt I learned more than when I A/B Full Sail graduates experiences over the years. The emphasis on understanding equipment and problems in your head before approaching the problem / machine transcends the whole “I spent 80 hours a week on an SSL”. That way of thinking translates well from everything that I’ve had to deal with in the industry, including people. The classes were small, great staff, and every person I graduated is still working in the industry. I have had a career in music since I graduated in 1999 and moved to Detroit for my first internship. Just giving the Conservatory some love.

    • JxP

      great to hear! i live right in between the two campuses here in AZ and have been thinking of going… so they really do push for you to get an internship @ w an employer you pick?

  • Glen

    I’m surprised Carnegie Mellon University isn’t on this list, and full sail is. Full sail is a for-profit college. CMU has a fantastic Music and Tech program

  • Niles

    I’m studying @ the SAE Institute in Amsterdam. I must say it is a great experience. You’ll learn very much the basics, but your network expands like crazy. Doing an internship at a studio will be the best learning process though. 🙂 Being a teaboy 😛

  • Nels P. Highberg

    How is the Clive Davis Institute at NYU not on this list?

  • Jarel Hill

    If you want to be a music producer Icon Production School is where it’s at. There’s a lot to being able to make a career out of music. Besides the obvious technical skills you need to learn the musicality behind it, know how to market yourself and be able to adapt a mind set that will facilitate creativity along with other aspects. Icon teaches it all and connects you with fellow peers and staff members that are passionate and successful in the industry! Check it out for yourselves http://www.learn2produce.com.

  • LordPyro

    I used to think the same way, that you don’t need school..but I’m in a year long certification program and its great! There are lots of people who didn’t go to school so I know its not for everybody, but I think people write off school so quickly and they make assumptions about everybody else’s situation. I think people say that because at the end of the day if you make a hit record nobody gives a shit about your education. That being said, IMHO…

    “You don’t need school” is only true IF

    a) you have access to high quality, industry standard equipment (SSL or Neve boards, awesome monitors, stand alone compressors, etc) on a regular basis to learn your craft. Youtube videos are cool to learn and you can learn a lot from them, but unless you are disciplined enough to look at ALL of them SYSTEMATICALLY, you are leaving yourself with massive holes in your education, which may be okay depending on what you want to do.

    b) you can get an internship that will take the time to answer most of your questions as well as give you time to use their equipment/recording room…good luck with that. Most of the time the studios with great rooms are thoroughly booked – but if you are super motivated you can probably get some time between 2am – 5am to practice – of course you have to be back there at 10am or 11am to get the coffee. in school, you can ask as many questions as you need to but in the internship you can’t ask that many questions without people thinking you don’t know what you are doing.

    c) you have a well connected network, have some awesome friends/connections that will put you on with very little experience.

    d) if you want to produce tracks only in your field. Then all you need is a genius level talent, great network, and lots of luck! Skrillex supposedly made his first demo with a laptop and some beats headphones – but then again he’s a brilliant sound designer.

    e)you have the time to dedicate to your craft. School gives you a reason to devote to your craft. Otherwise its easy to get distracted with work, bills, a social life, and all of a sudden you aint making any music anymore!

    f) you have the cash to buy all of the equipment – and I mean awesome equipment as well as rent studio time to record other people. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are going to have a world class career learning to mix on shitty or mediocre equipment. Of course you can still make pretty good or even better than good music, get some popularity, etc and IF YOU ARE BRILLIANT you can do it on anything, but if you aren’t it will take longer.

    Obviously there are people who have made a super successful career without school, but if you read their story, they seem to have access to some of the things I said above, were incredibly lucky or have had such supreme talents that it would’ve been inevitable. Also the main thing is that it speeds up the time you learn things. I have an incredible amount of studio time to finish projects – I’ve mixed on an SSL board and can hear my music through Genelecs, NS10’s etc, so I’ve advanced much faster than imagining what it would sound like through a youtube video.

    It also depends on what you want to do like I said earlier..if you want to mainly produce beats, or make tracks, you may not need to have a thorough education along those lines.

    Im not getting paid for this, nor is my school even on this list. i write this because I’ve heard this popular train of thought and I think it holds people back. You can make it happen if you are ridiculously super-motivated ( I mean on a Jedi level – staying up late, renting studio time on your dime, giving up parties, etc) but it would take longer.

    • desiraewalsh@yahoo.com

      Thank you for sharing. where did you go to school? My son is interested in audio engineering but still trying to find the right program.

  • recordingapprentice.com

    recordingapprentice.com should be added. The only school that trains their students in real recording studios all over the country, Canada, the UK and Australia. recordingapprentice.com

  • chris

    so many buttons and knobs

    and all of that just to put a musical string into a loop to look good.

  • Meticulous T

    Truly a great controller, highly useful for the iPad not
    to mention Traktor FX etc. pick one up today.