“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Ah yes, the age old question we’ve all been asked countless times throughout our lives! We all know that one kid who knew they wanted to be a speech pathologist since they were 10, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but most of us had the very typical dream jobs: astronauts, rock stars, actors, doctors, firefighters, and etcetera. I always fell into the musician category; I wanted to be a singer in a band, and a star in musicals, and a recording artist. A dream job I’ve added to my list more recently however, is something that I never considered or even really thought about until the past few years of my life. Of course it still falls into the music category, and while it doesn’t receive as much attention as the performers, it’s arguably just as important of a job and that job is audio engineering.
Audio engineering is, at its core, the recording, manipulation, mixing, and reproduction of sound (thanks Wikipedia). This extends into a lot of different areas such as making soundtracks for movies, sound effects for video games, background music for television shows, but the career best known in the field of audio engineering is Music Production. This is a title you could give to Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Ryan Lewis, and Jay-Z. These men are producers not because they sing or rap in successful songs, but because they produce the songs. They are the ones (most likely with the help of others) creating beats and recording tracks and mixing the songs. If this seems overwhelming for one person to learn, fear not! PSU Abington has a class for that!
INART 258A is formally known as “Fundamentals of Digital Audio” or as I like to call it, audio recording class. Made up of only 5 students, we meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 50 minutes in a small studio in Woodland for hands-on lessons in Pro Tools 11. The studio has 3 Mac computers, MIDI keyboards all over the place, and all the microphones and mic cables you’ll need to record. While the working space is small, the possibilities for music production are endless because of all the brand new resources available.
If you were a student at Abington just two years ago, none of this would have been available to you. It was decided that since there was an interest in this field, an old supply closet in the music hall in Woodland would be converted into what is now the studio in which we work. John Pachence, the professor who teaches the course, wanted students to be working on industry standard equipment which is why the recording gear is all new and high quality. Each Mac runs Pro Tools 11 which is the same program being used in studios in Nashville, LA, and New York City. The goal of the course is to learn how to use Pro Tools efficiently and to develop a critical ear for music.
In the first class, John was quick to explain what is meant by a “critical ear” for music; it is being able to distinguish subtle (or not so subtle) imperfections in music. Over the duration of the course, we’ve been developing our critical listening and ability to correct the imperfections in our recordings through Pro Tools. We work on individual projects based on whatever concepts we’ve learned and are learning, in addition to class projects where we bring in a student that has a song to record, and we record them and make them sound great. The class provides a lot of info and teaches a lot of skills but there is never a lesson taught without John asking, “Does that make sense?” or “Am I explaining myself clearly?”
While INART 258A alone won’t make my dream job a reality, it’s an awesome place to start and the fact that I’m getting college credits to do it is unbelievable. Of course I’m going to take the 400-level course that continues the lessons taught in INART 258A and that will further my abilities and knowledge even more making my dream a little more attainable. If you’re really interested in taking the course, I recommend waiting by your computer as soon as course selection is available and trying to get in before the small number of spots fills up. For anybody with a love of music and sound, this is the course to take.
All in all, just do what would make 10-year-old-you proud, I know I am.