The Problem With Recording Schools


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I remember about 5 years ago. I bitten by the recording studio bug. Before I knew it, I had maxed out a few credit cards and taken out a large loan to pay for enough recording gear to record a full band. I was excited about recording bands. I knew nothing, but I certainly wanted to learn. I saw a few ads in beginner recording magazines for these immaculate looking studios combined with classrooms. I thought these guys would transform me into a recording genius.

I quickly enrolled into one of the best recording schools in the country. I was excited. They even turned me on to Tape Op magazine, which I am very thankful for. I thought I was going to go into the recording school as an idiot and walk out recording Aerosmith. Somewhere in there I got to thinking. How many recording engineers are there? Since the school has hundreds and hundreds of graduates every year and there are other recording schools all over the country, how could all of these engineers be recording Aerosmith. More than likely, there are only one or two engineers working with Aerosmith. There are probably two more working for Metallica and two more working for Van Halen and that pretty much wraps up the mega big boys. That's right. There are six mega big boys. There are more all stars in professional baseball than there are top recording engineers.

So what are these schools really selling you? They may be teaching you how to work a console and they may teach you a few engineering tips too, but where are the jobs? Many of the big studios are hurting. This means there are less and less big time recording jobs available. So where are the thousands of 20 year old kids who owe $15,000 in student loans going to find jobs in the audio industry? Most of them will not be working in recording studios. The sad part is most of them are going to have trouble finding a decent paying job at all. Graduating from “tech school” doesn't usually look the best on a resume. You may be able to run a Neve console, but the only job that needs that is an audio engineer and those jobs are getting harder and harder to find.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't go to recording school. Honestly, I'd love to attend a recording school. That would be great. Unfortunately, there is reality and recording schools don't make much sense in mine. Maybe you will be next guy to go to recording school and then end up with a few grammy awards sitting on the mantle.

If a person is really serious about learning how to record, there is no better time than 2 minutes ago. You are late. Get on it. All it takes is a computer from 3 years ago, a recording soundcard, and a few microphones. (Okay, there are some other things needed, but I'm trying to make this look easy). The hard part comes not from buying the gear or even figuring out how to work it. The hard part comes from figuring out how to make a killer record that actually sounds good. That one is still a mystery to me. The experience you could gain by jumping face first into recording bands could be just as good as learning the old school way. I'm guessing that both have their flaws.

In the end, some of us were just meant to be in audio. We'll find a way. If recording school is the way for you, by all means, go for it. I have to say that I'm glad that I pumped my tuition money into fancy microphones and preamps. My studio stays busy and I'm learning as I go. Life could be worse.

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