Adventures In Audio
Does a sound engineer need to understand music theory?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Thursday June 30, 2005
FREE EBOOK DOWNLOAD ►

A question received from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

hey david

ive been talking to people and they have asked me this question but im not sure ... if i wanted to get into audio engineering/sound production in the music industry do i have to know what the chords or notes are suppose to sound like or even how to read music...?

thanx kc

The answer to this is simple - you do not need to know anything about music theory to become a sound engineer. Indeed many sound engineers don't work with music, so why should they?

A sound engineer who does work with music needs a knowledge and appreciation of music, but music theory is an optional extra.

There are certain elements of music theory that are worth knowing about. Song structure is important, for example when the producer asks to, "Go to the bridge". It would be nice to know what the bridge is.

And timing too, knowing about bars, beats, whole notes, half notes and quarter notes etc. will help you navigate your way around a song.

A knowledge of notes isn't generally necessary for recording, although if you work with a sampler, as many non-musician sound engineers do, then you would need to know how to allocate samples to keys on a keyboard.

Curiously, it is perfectly possible for a sound engineer with no musical training to be able to follow a musical score - even a complex score. The brain is very good at pattern recognition, and written or printed musical symbols are designed to be easy for the eye to pick up on.

So the answer, once again, is simple. But it doesn't hurt to gain at least an outline knowledge of music theory.

Actually, it isn't that difficult.

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

Come on the Audio Masterclass Pro Home Studio MiniCourse - 60 great hints and tips to get your home recording studio MOVING

It's FREE!

Get It Now >>

How to choose the best key for your song

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue

Clipping and compressing a drum recording to achieve an exciting sound texture

What can we learn about room acoustics from this image?

Can you hear the subtle effect of the knee control of the compressor? (With audio and video demonstrations)

What is the best studio microphone?

What is the Neve sound? (Using the Slate Digital FG-73)

What is the difference between recording, mixing and mastering?