The first thing I have to do here is come clean, I have a bias in this field.
Firstly, I am fortunate enough to be one of the relatively few people with a
paper qualification in the subject – B.Mus (Tonmeister) from the University
of Surrey – and I am actively involved in the education of would-be sound engineers
and spend two highly enjoyable days each week at the City of Westminster College
working with students on their sound courses. These two factors mean that I
am almost bound to advise you to sign on for a course of one type or another,
and that ideally you should make the City of Westminster College your first
But hang on a minute, why should I be so obvious? Let me state one vitally
important fact about working in recording or sound engineering: Even if you
achieve paper qualifications as long as a roll of Andrex toilet paper, you will
never be able to call yourself a sound engineer until you have practical experience
in the real world of work. That means doing a job and getting paid for it, or
not getting paid for it if you screw up. I achieved my paper qualification just
over ten years ago but it didn’t mean a thing until I put in into practice
with four years at the Royal Opera House where I learned the meaning of hard
work and high standards.
There has traditionally been a battle in this industry between those who say
education is important and those, usually without any college based training,
who will say that education is a complete waste of time. I would say that the
whole point of education (or training, which is a slightly different thing)
is to provide a person with a springboard from which to leap into an uncertain
future, to impart a range of knowledge and skills which can be adapted to changing
circumstances as necessary. And one thing is absolutely for sure, if we don’t
train people in this country to be competent and creative sound engineers, other
countries will, and they will reap the rewards.
Oh, about my other bias, towards the City of Westminster College. Just to
make sure that I’m fair to all the other colleges I am going to mention,
let me advise you not to apply there. The work is terribly difficult, the lecturers
are mean and nasty (one of them particularly so!) and we expect three hundred
applicants for next year’s course to be enough anyway. So there.
What do you want?
Before I explain what a course of education or training can do for you, you
have to ask yourself what you want to achieve. What are your ambitions in engineering
or music? I would expect that most readers of this article would be interested
in learning about recording engineering. In fact, recording engineering is so
popular that demand for training far outstrips the demand for training in other
industry segments, such as public address, theatre, broadcasting and film/video
sound. Everyone wants to be a recording engineer. It’s only a pity that
recording engineering is the most difficult type of course for any establishment
to run. To clarify some of the different types of motivation and possible routes
to success that exist I have imagined a number of scenarios. Some are not as
encouraging as others!