By Yvonne Gilbert
You weren’t born knowing anything; nobody was. Everything you do that isn’t an automated function such as breathing is something you had to learn to do, even walking. All the sound engineers you know had to learn and be taught things and never stop learning.
Never let someone make you feel bad because they know something that you don’t. There is always a new piece of software to learn and a new bit of kit to navigate your way around. The recent changes in audio technology have exploded and will continue to evolve, you will never learn it all.
My first job was in a 16-track 2-inch recording studio (16 tracks recording onto tape two inches wide, we thought we were very posh.) The sound desk was a Soundcraft. I think it was a 24 into 8 into 2. 24 input channels into 8 groups into a stereo master, analogue of course. When I started, I learned how to edit on ¼ inch tape.
I spent at least one occasion searching the bin for half a second of reverb I had cut off. I had to learn how to store master tapes tail out to cover the effects of print through and what print through was. And I learned the art of live bouncing,
With only 16 channels, we couldn’t afford to have one dedicated to each of the mics on the drum kit. A lot of that tech knowledge is pretty redundant now and has been replaced with more up to date tech knowledge, but at the time it was all part of what I needed to know to do my job.
There is a lot to be said for poking buttons to see what happens as long as your gig isn’t on the same day you’re poking around for the first time. Manuals are boring, but they can fast track you into the bit of knowledge that you need to know, Now. Navigating the Digico multiple scopes or Dante double patching isn’t something you want to do for the first time with an hour to house open, so prep when you can. Always double check the thing you think you just did to make sure it is doing what you think it should. And if there is someone friendly nearby to offer an opinion then don’t be afraid to ask.
So take advantage of them if you can. If you know anyone already using the piece of kit you need to learn ask if they would let you sit in on the next gig. Offer to buy them a beer.
Sound is an ever-changing field of tech and to stay employable you need to keep up with the new stuff. It can be daunting when a new breed of tech sweeps across the industry. That’s why keeping your learning chops up to speed is important. When digital consoles appeared in the musical theatre scene, it was a scary time operators thought they would be pushed out for not knowing how to program the new breed of desks.
Cadac use to be the king in the West End they sounded great, were modular, and so easy to fix. You knew not to turn them off, because if you did they would cool down too much and when you turned them back on again they would expand and not everything would always work. I mixed CATS on a Cadac A type and despite that I needed to know where to lean on it when things cut out I was very fond of it. But they took up a lot of seats and with digital being more compact Cadac was going to go. To remain employable, we had to learn the new digital desks.
Learning new tech is part of the fun for me and I hope to be doing it for a long time.
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