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Old 04-05-2011, 05:44 AM
Jim Mattingly Jim Mattingly is offline
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Default Sound Engineering School Advice ???

My son who is a freshman at Western Michigan University has decided to pursue a career in Sound Engineering. I am hoping to get some advice from anyone out there who has graduated from a Sound Engineering school, knows someone who has or has some experience with formal training. I would really like to send him to a class "A" school for this, one with an outstanding reputation. I will obviously do a ton of research with and for him and I do have some contacts in this industry but would also welcome any suggestions or advice from anyone. I guess my feelings on this is that if he does want to go through the formal schooling, do I continue to let him go through a 4 year college or just forego the college and have him go straight into the sound engineering schooling. I guess a worse case scenario would be to let him go to the schooling and see if he really has it in his heart and the desire to continue on with it, and if he does not he can always go back to college...Thanks for any advice you may have....
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:01 AM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

Are there any sound engineers in your area he can talk to directly? Because oddly enough, working as an audio engineer and learning to be an audio engineer are two completely different things.

I work at the Disneyland Resort as a sound engineer and don't have formal training. My whole education stemmed from the fact that I was interested, and started buying my own gear to do things I wanted to do. Now that I'm where I am, Yamaha gives us classes on how to work their latest consoles, LCS comes out and trains us on their latest systems, all things audio-networking, etc.,...it's almost difficult to learn the cutting edge stuff in school because they're not buying that stuff for students to learn on.

Like being a musician, I think if you bought some gear, learned how to mix bands and deal with frequencies and miking', which you could totally learn on your own, that would help you more than going to school because doing audio is all about solving problems with the gear you have. I suppose having the degree helps, but perhaps you should see what audio engineer's union (IATSE) considers their purview in the entertainment industry. There are alot of other things we do that aren't audio-related that might not be so attractive to someone who wants to begin working in the industry.
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:40 AM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

I do not have any direct experience, I just know many people who have been through Audio engineering programs.

I would say first and foremost is what area of audio engineering he wants to get into.

Here in Los Angeles, there are 3 or 4 audio engineering schools, and quite frankly, I don't know how all those graduates find jobs. The home recording studio market has turned a lot of music jobs upside down. Major music recording studios just don't have the need to hire people like they used to. Not that those jobs aren't there, just it's difficult to come across one.

Many grads think they'll get a computer and some equipment and open their own recording studio business. Which can work, but craigslist is littered with such people all clamoring for clients.

On the other hand, mixing sound and foley work for movies, TV and DVD releases appears to still be lucrative from what I can tell. I have zero idea how one breaks into that market, but the few people I know who have seem to do alright for themselves. While the ones who still cling to only wanting to do music appear to struggle or go into something else, save the few lucky ones.

Last edited by DrumEatDrum; 04-05-2011 at 06:57 AM.
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:43 AM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

.... and on the other end of the spectrum - I am a grad from SAE and do not work for a "commercial" studio, but I do own my own studio.....

The plain truths are:
- going to an audio school will not get you a job in the industry, but it may help...
- working in the industry will not pay you well unless you are one of the elite few....
- be prepared to work anywhere - local live bands / community radio etc - even for free.....
- don't expect it to be a glamorous profession....
- learn customer relations - musicians have delicate egos and perform much better if you tell them that they are good ;-)

imo the best way to learn audio is to purchase a small mixer, some mics and a DAW running industry standard s/w (e.g. ProTools) and practice.

There are some good training DVDs available (e.g. macProVideo.com) that will help a lot. Also, learn to solder cables and repair basic electronic thingys.
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:52 AM
Jim Mattingly Jim Mattingly is offline
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

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Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
Are there any sound engineers in your area he can talk to directly? Because oddly enough, working as an audio engineer and learning to be an audio engineer are two completely different things.

I work at the Disneyland Resort as a sound engineer and don't have formal training. My whole education stemmed from the fact that I was interested, and started buying my own gear to do things I wanted to do. Now that I'm where I am, Yamaha gives us classes on how to work their latest consoles, LCS comes out and trains us on their latest systems, all things audio-networking, etc.,...it's almost difficult to learn the cutting edge stuff in school because they're not buying that stuff for students to learn on.

Like being a musician, I think if you bought some gear, learned how to mix bands and deal with frequencies and miking', which you could totally learn on your own, that would help you more than going to school because doing audio is all about solving problems with the gear you have. I suppose having the degree helps, but perhaps you should see what audio engineer's union (IATSE) considers their purview in the entertainment industry. There are alot of other things we do that aren't audio-related that might not be so attractive to someone who wants to begin working in the industry.
Thanks Bo, some great info and even some better points made. I myself never had the privilege or opportunity for any formal schooling, straight in the service out of H.S.. So I wish to help him pursue his dreams in any way that I possibly can. Regrettingly in today's environment, "on the job training" does not hold as much validity as it once used to. I would have to imagine, but could be totally wrong, but I would guess your industry is pretty tough to just walk into without any OJT. He did love sitting with our sound person in an old band during gigs when we could get him in or even during rehearsals. My son and I both have been lucky enough to become friends with Ian Bond, the front of house engineer with Porcupine Tree and actually got to watch their last show in Michigan from the booth with him, I really believe this was a turning point for my son in pursuing this. I will be contacting Ian for any advice he may also have for the beginner wanting to get his foot in the door. Locally I will have to do some searching around and get in touch with some old contacts. This literally just came to light this afternoon and I want to get as much input as I possibly can to digest it and research all the suggestions. Thank you again..If you think of anything else please let me know...
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:03 AM
Jim Mattingly Jim Mattingly is offline
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

During our first talk today I told my son that if he expects this to be all glamour and glitz he is mistaken, it will take alot of hard work, time and effort and even then there are no guarantees of finding the dream job. I was not trying to be negative but realisitic. From his experience with Porcupine Tree and seeing "just" the exciting part of the sound engineers job he really has no clue of the before/after show work, not to mention the constant studying/research involved with keeping up to date on all the latest and greatest technology coming out..Alot of great info everyone, please keep it coming, I will most definitely make sure he reads every reply to this thread when he comes home..
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:29 AM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

Yeah - some of my first gigs as an "audio guy" involved showing up at 2AM to unload two 45-foot semi-trucks and building stages. Then I had the pleasure of running extremely thick cabling through the mud on a rainy night on Tom Sawyer's Island for a special event. I've sorted through bins of cabling to separate out what we rented and what we owned, literally MILES of cabling. I've seen an awful lot of sunrises before they let me get close to an audio console. And then when I did start mixing bands, I'm the lone guy setting up the stage, miking everything, and doing the soundcheck before the band gets there. When they're done, I get to put it all away for the next day. I've been harnessed into a deck 40 feet off the ground running a spotlight in 30-degree winter nights at 3AM for rehearsals.

I look back at all of that (I just sit in an office environment now running everything from a room we call "Audio Central") and think, yeah, you have to be in your 20s to be able to put up with that. But the upside is that I have a steady check, benefits, retirement, a house, a wife I see on a regular basis. I'll even say my group is at the top of the hourly food-chain as far as groups go within this company. But even after the schooling, you have to pay your dues anyway. I never thought it would be glamorous, but I think if your son gets to speak with others about what they did to get where they are, that would be such an eye-opener that the schools do not let on to prospective students.
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:42 AM
Jim Mattingly Jim Mattingly is offline
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
Yeah - some of my first gigs as an "audio guy" involved showing up at 2AM to unload two 45-foot semi-trucks and building stages. Then I had the pleasure of running extremely thick cabling through the mud on a rainy night on Tom Sawyer's Island for a special event. I've sorted through bins of cabling to separate out what we rented and what we owned, literally MILES of cabling. I've seen an awful lot of sunrises before they let me get close to an audio console. And then when I did start mixing bands, I'm the lone guy setting up the stage, miking everything, and doing the soundcheck before the band gets there. When they're done, I get to put it all away for the next day. I've been harnessed into a deck 40 feet off the ground running a spotlight in 30-degree winter nights at 3AM for rehearsals.

I look back at all of that (I just sit in an office environment now running everything from a room we call "Audio Central") and think, yeah, you have to be in your 20s to be able to put up with that. But the upside is that I have a steady check, benefits, retirement, a house, a wife I see on a regular basis. I'll even say my group is at the top of the hourly food-chain as far as groups go within this company. But even after the schooling, you have to pay your dues anyway. I never thought it would be glamorous, but I think if your son gets to speak with others about what they did to get where they are, that would be such an eye-opener that the schools do not let on to prospective students.
Thank you again, just the type of posting I was looking for, some real life experiences. As his dad, coming from me, or a parent period, because we just don't know what we are talking about, sometimes just does not have the same effect as it does coming from someone else, the coach/parent scenario, which I went through big time with him.
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:02 AM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

Interesting thread. Now I know never to pursue a career as an audio engineer.
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Old 04-05-2011, 11:54 AM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

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Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
learned how to mix bands and deal with frequencies and miking', which you could totally learn on your own
Is there anything on the net you could recommend as a sound engineering 101? I ask because I'm looking at my band doing its first gigs soon and I want to get my head round what's involved on the sound side
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Old 04-05-2011, 01:07 PM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

I have less experience than Bo, but I do have some experience of engineering in a theatre, live bands and recording - both studio and live across different styles.

My advice from a competency point of view is to actually get your son to listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I've met far too many sound engineers whose idea of 'Jazz' and 'Classical' is so far off the mark it's beyond a joke and as a result have no idea how to actually cater to it. Bo's absolutely right about ridiculous hours - his examples are far worse than mine, but you basically have to expect to be on the go all the time and not have any significant support. Technical knowledge is something you have to pick up quickly as well and it helps to keep your finger on the pulse technically and artistically.

The best thing your son can do is to start teaching himself basic principles. It's amazing how much you can learn from simply attending a few local gigs and getting to know a promoter - sometimes you can get chatting to the sound engineer and occasionally (at the local level) they might not mind you giving them a hand with cable runs and other menial things. I would be careful not to step on toes in that instance, but getting to know people can give you a good idea of what is expected of you and in numerous cases you would learn what not to do as well.

If he has any kind of disposable income now, I would suggest that he invest in some basic recording equipment. It can give you a serious headstart if you have an idea of what you're doing before you start a course. I came to University with a three-year headstart on most of the other people and it has served me well. I'm not going into engineering as a profession, but I know enough to be useful and were circumstances better, would specialise in Classical recording.
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:34 PM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

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Originally Posted by Liebe zeit View Post
Is there anything on the net you could recommend as a sound engineering 101? I ask because I'm looking at my band doing its first gigs soon and I want to get my head round what's involved on the sound side
As others will probably say, sound engineering is alot like being a musician or a photographer - you can read about it and I could recommend a couple of books, but you're dealing with soundwaves that you can't see, so you don't really know how to deal with them unless you actually deal with them. Musicians deal with the sound of their instruments (you have to learn how to play, then you have to learn how to make it sound good) and photographers are dealing with manipulating light to compose the perfect image - both activities mean you need the gear in order to learn how to do it. And you must put in the time to do it.

One book that I thought was a good basic primer was that book Mackie put out on how to run their mixers (the little 1202s, 1402s, 1604s, etc.) because it basically taught you what the mixing console really is: a signal router. And I forget the exact name of the book, but Mix Publications put out a book called "Sound Reinforcement for Musicians" which got a little more boringly in-depth. I'm sure there have been other books since then, but the Mackie one is really written for people who may know nothing about audio and I thought it was pretty entertaining to boot.

I think the best sound education anyone can do for themselves is to actually invest in a small system and start using it every chance you get. I know it's difficult, we're so busy buying stuff for our drumsets it's hard to justify another semi-large investment when you don't have the money, but getting your hands on the gear is the quickest way to learn how to do it. You could actually buy used stuff and save some money, but you'd be spending money nonetheless. I would recommend a little Mackie 1202, an effects unit, a power amp and a pair of speakers. Throw in 4 cheap microphones and you have yourself a nice little system that will teach you the basics of sound engineering, the Mackie manual even takes you through how signals get routed through the console (I don't endorse Mackie products but I have to admit they've gone more than out-of-their-way to teach folks how to mix and signal route!). Then you can be the person who supplies sound for family parties, church activities, etc.,. But the important part is that you're doing it. Oddly enough, if you get really good at it, you can actually get steady work doing it!
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Old 04-05-2011, 08:12 PM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

Could I be the first to recommend that your son seriously consider going a different route and getting a different job? For real: sound engineering is a non-glamorous job that doesn't pay well, unless you get one of the few "stand out above the crowd" jobs. Maybe he should take a course of study in becoming a studio engineer, so it would still include the same basic topics, but give him a much wider variety of job opportunities.

I am friends with 2 "full-time sound engineers", who I've worked with countless times. They both are passionate about it, but it is tough for them to make ends meet, especially since there are so many "hobbyists" out there doing it as well. One of them said (paraphrased), "If I had to do it all over again, I would have opened a retail/rental shop that offers our services as well. That would be a lot more stable. Plus, I'd probably get a lot more work." Maybe pass these words and this perspective on to your son. I sincerely wish him all the luck with being successful if he chooses to go this route...
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Old 04-05-2011, 08:49 PM
Jim Mattingly Jim Mattingly is offline
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
As others will probably say, sound engineering is alot like being a musician or a photographer - you can read about it and I could recommend a couple of books, but you're dealing with soundwaves that you can't see, so you don't really know how to deal with them unless you actually deal with them. Musicians deal with the sound of their instruments (you have to learn how to play, then you have to learn how to make it sound good) and photographers are dealing with manipulating light to compose the perfect image - both activities mean you need the gear in order to learn how to do it. And you must put in the time to do it.

One book that I thought was a good basic primer was that book Mackie put out on how to run their mixers (the little 1202s, 1402s, 1604s, etc.) because it basically taught you what the mixing console really is: a signal router. And I forget the exact name of the book, but Mix Publications put out a book called "Sound Reinforcement for Musicians" which got a little more boringly in-depth. I'm sure there have been other books since then, but the Mackie one is really written for people who may know nothing about audio and I thought it was pretty entertaining to boot.

I think the best sound education anyone can do for themselves is to actually invest in a small system and start using it every chance you get. I know it's difficult, we're so busy buying stuff for our drumsets it's hard to justify another semi-large investment when you don't have the money, but getting your hands on the gear is the quickest way to learn how to do it. You could actually buy used stuff and save some money, but you'd be spending money nonetheless. I would recommend a little Mackie 1202, an effects unit, a power amp and a pair of speakers. Throw in 4 cheap microphones and you have yourself a nice little system that will teach you the basics of sound engineering, the Mackie manual even takes you through how signals get routed through the console (I don't endorse Mackie products but I have to admit they've gone more than out-of-their-way to teach folks how to mix and signal route!). Then you can be the person who supplies sound for family parties, church activities, etc.,. But the important part is that you're doing it. Oddly enough, if you get really good at it, you can actually get steady work doing it!
Thanks again, more good advice. I do own a very nice Allen & Heath board plus an older smaller PA that to be honest I just use for my own monitor, maybe I will give it to him and invest in a Fostex or similar 8-16 track digital recorder, I used to have one. I would let him mess around with the A&H but to be honest I don't want him messing around with the presets for our rehearsals/gigs. I will look into the books you mentioned and actually talked to him about getting some type of literature related to what he is looking at. I hope he really researches this before making any decisions.
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:04 PM
Jim Mattingly Jim Mattingly is offline
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

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Originally Posted by caddywumpus View Post
Could I be the first to recommend that your son seriously consider going a different route and getting a different job? For real: sound engineering is a non-glamorous job that doesn't pay well, unless you get one of the few "stand out above the crowd" jobs. Maybe he should take a course of study in becoming a studio engineer, so it would still include the same basic topics, but give him a much wider variety of job opportunities.

I am friends with 2 "full-time sound engineers", who I've worked with countless times. They both are passionate about it, but it is tough for them to make ends meet, especially since there are so many "hobbyists" out there doing it as well. One of them said (paraphrased), "If I had to do it all over again, I would have opened a retail/rental shop that offers our services as well. That would be a lot more stable. Plus, I'd probably get a lot more work." Maybe pass these words and this perspective on to your son. I sincerely wish him all the luck with being successful if he chooses to go this route...
Once again some great advice which is why I posted this thread to begin with, to get some REAL feedback from people who are either in the industry or work closely with others who are in the industry. I did mention to him that sound engineering (maybe I am not even using the correct term) covers a very wide spectrum and to not "just" focus on the musical end of it. Being just a musician I consider myself very much out of touch with the actual sound production side of things (regrettingly) and do feel I am not even remotely qualified to give him advice on this subject. Thanks again and please feel free to offer up any advice pertaining to this thread...
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:26 PM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

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Is there anything on the net you could recommend as a sound engineering 101? I ask because I'm looking at my band doing its first gigs soon and I want to get my head round what's involved on the sound side
Not on the net, but in paper book form i once read this book called "the musicians guide to home recording" which i think is a good place to start if you're a beginner.

OP: the 2 issues you've got to make sure your son knows (sorry if this has been said) is that no1 you're unlikely to earn a lot of money as a sound engineer. Of course for some job satisfaction is a lot more important than money but he's got to make sure that he is ok with not being rich before he persues this career. The other thing i think is the fact that as a recording engineer, in order to get songs perfect, you've got to go over the song with a fine-toothed comb, listen and re listen to a song many many times with minor alterations. This is great if you like the song, but there is every chance you might hate the song that you're engineering and are forced to listen to it. My 2 pence anyway.
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:41 PM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

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Not on the net, but in paper book form i once read this book called "the musicians guide to home recording" which i think is a good place to start if you're a beginner.
That's a good book to start out with. Not a dull read, if you're into it (unlike Modern Recording Techniques, which is very informative, but a very dry, textbook-like read...). But, really, hands-on experience is the best thing. Would it be possible to have your son mix for a couple of your "less important" shows? (I mean, not like a huge corporate or a wedding gig, but something smaller like a bar gig or outside party gig).

Here's the course of "study" I did to learn how to run sound:
1. Learn how the equipment works.
2. Read up a bit on it
3. Mix a gig
4. Read some more, maybe pull out the equipment and experiment with what you learned at the first gig
5. Do another gig
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 ad infinitum. Also, talk with other people in the biz to see what equipment works (or not) for them. Continually educate yourself, evaluate what you're doing and what gets the results you want, and why those same exact strategies DIDN'T work for the following gig (what did you have to change to accomodate the instruments/venue?).

Something like this is what MOST people do. You usually don't see sound engineers with degrees working the po-dunk dive bars, just like you don't see the veteran "professional" musicians playing there. It's called "paying dues", and you've got to trudge through the trenches in order to get to the other side...
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Old 04-06-2011, 11:09 AM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

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That's a good book to start out with. Not a dull read, if you're into it (unlike Modern Recording Techniques, which is very informative, but a very dry, textbook-like read...). But, really, hands-on experience is the best thing. Would it be possible to have your son mix for a couple of your "less important" shows? (I mean, not like a huge corporate or a wedding gig, but something smaller like a bar gig or outside party gig).
haha it wasn't the OP who asked the question i was replying to.
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Old 04-06-2011, 06:55 PM
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haha it wasn't the OP who asked the question i was replying to.
haha I didn't keep track. It's a good book recommendation for the OP's son, anyways...
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Old 04-06-2011, 06:58 PM
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Default Re: Sound Engineering School Advice ???

I have 'Modern Recording Techniques' on my bookshelf. It's well-thumbed and has labels everywhere, but it is a seriously dry read. I've had it for years and it is really useful, but not one to approach to start with unless you have a high boredom threshold!
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