The 21st Century Home Recording Engineer is You

I'm going to say a word and I want you to remember the first picture that pops in to your mind. Ready? OK, here goes: "Recording Engineer." What image did your brain conjure for you? I'm guessing there was a large mixing board and a really smart-looking guy with both arms stretched out tweaking and pushing scary-looking controls. Was I close?

The guy in that image I just described is probably someone who did extremely well in computer science, electrical engineering, and probably some sort of shop class in school. Their vocabulary is peppered with words like "impedance" and "discrete class-A." I hate to throw around such controversial terms as "geek" or "boring," but they may cross your mind. This guy became an audio recording engineer because he loved it! He couldn't get enough of the sheer splendor of signal-flow, amplification, ohms, power conditioning, instantiation, phase-reversal, co-incident pairing, comb-filtering, wave mechanics, dither, least-significant bits, and other recording terms as well.

That guy is one type of recording engineer. His knowledge of all things audio is massive, and most of that knowledge was needed if you wanted to record yourself before, say, the year 2000. But don't let him scare you. Let's forget we ever saw him for a moment.  He still has an important place in the world, but most of you will not need him.

21st Century Recording Engineer Number 1

Let me introduce you to 21st century recording engineer number 1. She is a musician and songwriter. She plays guitar and has a computer that is less than 3 years old. She was never interested in soldering or electronic wizardry and gadgetry. She was an average student who sang in the choir, some talent shows, and went into debt a few years back so she could finally record an album (why bother calling the "CDs" any more?) of her own. It cost her almost $10,000 but she got a really good product out of it. Never mind the fact that 950 of them are still in sealed boxes in here closet.

She wants to make another CD, since she has several new songs now. But she absolutely cannot afford to drop another ten grand to do it. If she can record the songs herself, at her house, and they sound good, she could save between 5 and 8 thousand compared to the first go. Also, since she intends to use the internet as her primary method of selling music, she doesn't need to go to a huge manufacturer to have 1,000 discs printed, packaged, and shipped. That's another couple grand less. She really likes this idea. All she needs to do is learn home recording.

21st Century Recording Engineer Number 2

The second example of a modern recording engineer is not a musician, but a voice over actor. He has been told all his adult life that his voice is awesome. He is out of "regular" work at the moment and decides to give this voice over thing a try. He's told he needs recorded demos right away, so he can start marketing his voice on the web. So he goes to the local recording studio and spends between 300 and 500 clams to get 5 demos produced. He gets his website up, joins some on-line voice marketplaces, and realizes he has to submit auditions for jobs on a daily basis. How the heck is he going to do that? He's heard that it takes hundreds of auditions sometimes before you get your first job. He can't afford the time and money to go back and forth to that recording studio every day of the world! If only he had a recording studio at home and knew how to use it to get comparable quality to his demos.

Both of the last two example people are on their way to being 21st Century Recording Engineers. They are letting the need drive the learning. In my opinion, that is the best reason for learning audio recording. It's a much more efficient pathway and they can start right away.

They will also be pleased to find that for their particular needs, neither one of them may ever have to know what "discrete class-A" means. Heck, I've been recording and producing for a few decades now, and I couldn't define the term for you without looking it up. The point is that with the right materials and teachers, it is easy and very inexpensive to learn to be your own recording engineer. And you only need to learn the things applicable directly to you! The first guy I described above, the 20th century engineer, had to know it all because he worked in a studio and he never knew who or what he would be called on to record. But if you just need to record voice overs, you can learn all you need to with a few tutorials on the web and probably won't need to spend more than 50-100 to get everything you'll ever need.

"Where could I find such tutorials?" I hear you cry. Well as it happens (:)), Home Brew Audio is dedicated to teaching audio recording using easy-to-understand terminology so anyone can learn it and get started immediately, as long as they have a computer.  There are lots of articles here on the site to get you started.  Then when you're ready, you can get started with The Newbies Guide To Audio Recording Awesomeness video tutorial course, which is for folks with no experience or knowledge of home recording and also a very small budget!  If you are just looking for some guidance on what equipment you need to start recording pro quality audio, check out our video and ebook combo How To Build a Home Recording Studio, which isn't about "building" so much as it is about giving you a virtual shopping list for turning your computer into a pro home recording studio.

So go to it and have fun!



  1. Great article here Ken, there have to be lots of people out there who could make a decent living just doing voice overs but don’t realize they can probably get started with the equipment they already have and just a little knowledge from your course.


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