Tips from an Audio Production College Student Turned Problem Solving Entrepreneur

When you think of a music production or audio engineering college, you may think of students creating sound effects, like the ones behind the light sabers in Star Wars or chase scenes in The Fast and The Furious. Sure, we do that here at USV— the sound effects in movies and TV shows are an important (and fun!) part of the digital audio industry. But, there’s also many other exciting careers in digital audio. Take the path of USV senior (and now graduate) Caleb Madsen for example.

While at USV, Caleb built his own digital audio business creating apps and professional tools. Looking for a way to solve acoustic room mode problems with a mobile device, Caleb created Acoustic Room Modes Calculator™. In 2015, he entered it in Google’s Build an App Contest, and placed top three in the Utility category.

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USV Excellence Awards

Caleb then founded Acoustic Masterminds® to bring his product to market. In April 2016, Acoustic Room Modes Calculator won the Software Engineering: Best Program or App category in the USV Excellence Awards.

In the wake of his entrepreneurial success, we sat down with Caleb to get his college student tips for how to get the most out of your experience at a music production and audio engineering college program like USV’s.

What brought you to USV’s music production and audio engineering college program, Digital Audio Technology?

In the spring of my high school senior year, as I was in the process of choosing between the colleges I was accepted to, my mom happened to meet a parent of a USV student. That parent talked about the Digital Audio Technology program at USV and referred us to the website.  On the weekend, my family and I toured USV and were impressed by the many USV alumni signatures on the movie posters — like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, and Frozen — displayed on the walls. Two weeks later, I turned in my portfolio with the application. Tim Duncan’s positive comments convinced me that USV was a good fit for me.

Were there any professors or classes that were memorable in your experience in USV’s music production and audio engineering college program?

Robert Rich was my Audio Mastering [DAT420] instructor.

Robert did an amazing job of giving practical assignments, explaining advanced studio mastering techniques, showing the different stages of the process, answering almost endless questions happily and thoroughly, demoing the techniques, and training our ears to hear the differences. He trained my ears to hear what was happening with subtle parameter changes that I never could hear previously, in one semester!

It was also a unique class in that we met at his mastering studio each week rather than on-campus.  Because of this, we could listen to his high-quality mastering speakers in his mastering room.  He had a very personable style of teaching that I really appreciated and had a small class size of 8 students, providing ample opportunity to ask questions and get personalized feedback. It was one of the best classes I took with an instructor that was not only enjoyable but also cared about making sure the students were learning and understanding the material!

Chris Cooper was my Live Sound [DAT208TA] instructor.

I have been doing live sound since 8th grade and have always been excited to learn more. Chris did an amazing job of giving hands-on experience, including equipment maintenance and soldering. He explained advanced live sound techniques, showed differences between studio and live sound techniques, and trained my ears to hear subtle phase problems. His live sound training has served me well and I have continually used what I learned. It was another one of the best classes I took!

What is your favorite USV memory?

Hard to just choose one. Some of my favorite USV memories include:

  • Recording debris being thrown off USV’s roof for Project X sound design!  We used these sound assets as layers of the troll’s house crumbling in Trouble Brewing which is currently competing in film festivals. 
  • Learning advanced solutions to live sound situations that I applied immediately.

With college graduation now behind you, what college tips would you give to incoming freshmen planning to enroll in music production or audio engineering college programs like USV’s?

A popular misconception is that in order for a college student to be successful, especially in upper division classes, that student has to pull really long hours without much sleep.

I would advise incoming freshmen not to believe this lie. It is vital to take care of your health by having regularly scheduled meals and sleep. The quality of your hard work will decline if you’re running on fumes.

Another vital aspect is to keep up with class work. It is important not to let assignments slip and to make sure you get everything turned in on-time or early. This will help you learn by using new information given in class right away while you remember the instructions and get up-to-date feedback from the instructor letting you know if you’re understanding everything correctly.

Additionally, I recommend getting a tutor if you’re unsure about what you’re learning or having trouble keeping up. USV provides tutors that are included in your tuition. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take advantage of the resources available.

What are you most looking forward to upon graduating from a music production and audio engineering college program?

I am passionate about creating premium audio experiences and have founded Acoustic Masterminds with the mission to make it convenient to diagnose acoustic issues in every environment, bringing excellent, enjoyable acoustic experiences to the world. Whether I’m at a conference, concert, or restaurant, I am aware of the acoustic issues that cause increased stress and listening fatigue.

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I am excited to pursue this adventure as my full-time job post-graduation. I have launched an Indiegogo campaign for my flagship professional tool, Acoustic Room Modes Calculator (Room Calc™) which can be found here:

Room Calc will make it quick and easy for acoustic service providers to diagnosis and offer solutions for all types of venues. Currently, the acoustic diagnosis process is only cost-effective for larger venues. My goal is to make this process more accessible for small to medium venues, while still supporting large venues.

With the goal to launch in late 2017, Room Calc is a professional tool that provides an easy way to solve acoustic problems with a mobile device. Room Calc takes a venue’s dimensions, constructs a model of the venue, and calculates room modes and other problematic acoustic issues for analysis and treatment solutions. Using advanced technology coming to mobile devices, Room Calc rapidly models, analyzes, and diagnoses complex acoustic issues, displaying the results using augmented reality.

This past November (2016), Acoustic Masterminds launched AcoustiTools® which also served as a proof-of-concept for the 3D technology that Room Calc incorporates.

If you liked this post, you may also like our Q&A with audio engineering student Gabriel Lamorie, who is lined up to work at Apple as an Audio Triage Engineer after he graduates from USV in May.

And, if you’re interested in learning more about USV, you can request more information here.

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