A music recording engineer is responsible for operating the equipment that records musicians and also for shaping the overall sound of the recording. The job is a blend of artistic understanding, technical knowledge and interpersonal communication skills. In many cases, the engineer is as responsible for the sound of a musician or band as the artists themselves.
The first major responsibility of a music recording engineer is to understand all of the technology available to a music studio. A recording studio utilizes a variety of microphones, each with specific characteristics, and special effects that range from echo and distortion to reverb and more. The heart of every recording studio is its soundboard, which can have dozens of channels and hundreds of knobs and buttons, each giving a different flavor to a recording. A music recording engineer also must be proficient in the traditional analog recording gear and state-of-the-art digital equipment available.
Knowing how to operate the equipment is only a fraction of the engineer's job. A bigger component is knowing how to manipulate the thousands of combinations of microphones, microphone placement, mixing board settings, special effects, tape and more into a unique sound. Many years of trial and error and education, either as an apprentice or in broadcasting school, helps know what combination achieves each goal. It is also important for a music recording engineer to be familiar with musical instruments, amplifiers and the physics of singing.
Interpersonal communication and creativity are another piece of a successful engineer. Musicians and music groups might not want input from the engineer, but a confident recorder will know how to improve a performance. An engineer's creativity and musical tastes also can shape a recording. Communicating these needs and desires in a productive way is essential to making the best sounding recording possible.
An engineer also should know the equipment well enough to make simple repairs. Calling in repairmen can be costly and take a lot of time. This could erase the energy and rhythm that a recording session has. Understanding basic repairs can help save money and time and ultimately keep a recording session on track.
A music recording engineer does a variety of jobs to keep a recording on track. The job requires much more than simply sitting behind a desk and twirling some knobs. By mastering the technical, creative and communication aspects of this job, an engineer can record songs and entire albums for listeners to enjoy.