Digital Audio Amplified What is an Audio Production Degree? By Jennifer Martin | May 6, 2020 Interested in learning more about audio production? An audio production degree is a tremendous asset to aspiring audio producers. In addition to general education requirements, usually formulated with the aim of creating well-informed and well-rounded students with a liberal arts foundation, sound production degrees provide both lecture-based and hands-on training in several fields, including technological resources, business, and music performance. Different degree programs may have different specifics and rigors of training and academic study, but most have common foundations. Here’s what to expect from an audio production degree. Audio Technologies The study of sound technology is a degree in and of itself, but audio production degree candidates will still receive a fairly in-depth foundation of audio technologies and how their employed. Academically, students will learn about the history of audio technology, from the study of acoustics to the invention of the condenser microphone. They will also learn other fields of study linked to audio tech development, including the mathematics of acoustics and bounce, the scientific study of different materials used in studio tech, and about emerging and cutting-edge developments made in the field. Hands-on training will include learning to utilize a broad array of different technologies in the studio, from the most basic of microphones to computer technologies commonly used to create and perfect sound. It is here that audio production degree candidates will learn one of the largest and most important areas of their craft, laying a foundation of usable technologies to put to work in the studio. Recording From the phonograph to the ribbon mic, audio recording has been a source of endless fascination for both casual users and dedicated audio professionals alike. As with the other fields of study in an audio production degree, candidates will learn the history of modern recording and the material and technological development that led to its inception and ongoing perfection in the twenty-first century. Applied training in audio recording will include a great deal of time spent in the audio lab and recording studio. During this time audio production degree candidates will learn the use of different microphones and digital audio workstations, adapt spaces and physical resources appropriately to create the best possible sound, use different microphones to record specific voices or instruments, and ensure that recordings are of the highest possible quality the studio space is capable of. A good recording is critical to a finished audio project, and subsequently, achieving a quality recording is one of the single most important tasks of the audio producer. Audio Industry Business Every degree candidate can benefit from knowing something about business. The business of audio production is highly specific and can be fairly intense, and subsequently, most audio production degree programs include several classes about the music and audio industry business. Although not all audio producers will necessarily own their own company or label, during the course of their careers, they will work with a great deal of recording artists, record company executives, and promoters. These relationships not only require working knowledge of business practices but may also require occasional discussion and negotiation between recording studios and record companies, especially for audio producers who reach a senior level at their studio. Knowledge of music production and the music business can also help audio producers to negotiate appropriate salaries and benefits, to make suggestions for contract modifications between recording studios and record companies, and to assist independent recording artists in career development. Studio Management Studio management is a broad field of practice that requires a number of different skills including accounting, staffing, technical expertise, and an astute knowledge of business. An audio production degree may include general management courses including classes in managerial ethics, accounting, organizational psychology, marketing, and human resources. It may also include courses and modules specific to audio production, including technical troubleshooting of equipment and computer programs, studio staffing, and other areas of interest. Degree candidates may choose to specialize in studio management or a specific branch of it. Mixing The fine art of mixing, following the intense process of creating a quality recording, is a sound producer’s bread and butter. Degree candidates will absorb a huge quantity of information about mixing, both theoretical and practical. Mastery of mixing boards, both digital and physical, is critical. Equalization, compression, vocal and instrumental effects, and many more topics will be covered in classes and workshops dealing with mixing. Mixing live music is its own area of mastery as well. Audio production degree programs will often require courses specifically dealing with live music and live mixing. Mastering Mastering is the end step of the entire recording process and can be a very painstaking process. The aim of mastering is to ensure that a recording sounds good across a number of different formats, such as mp3, CD, vinyl, and even cassette. Mastering is not done as frequently in contemporary music, as the vast majority of music is released and consumed digitally, resulting in less work for a final product. However, some musicians still release music across a number of formats, including vinyl, which is experiencing a resurgence in popularity in the twenty-first century. While few dedicated mastering studios still exist, and audio producers don’t often do audio mastering on a full-time basis, it is still an important skill to learn, and audio production degree candidates should expect to learn at least the basics, if not the rigors, of mastering throughout their degree study in their hands-on training. Acoustics Acoustics is a fascinating area of study stemming from the convergence of space, physical materials, physics, and active listening. Students will learn about the acoustic capabilities of a wide variety of different spaces, from living rooms and bedrooms to churches and large music halls. Knowledge of acoustics is imperative to achieving a good recording and its subsequent mixing and mastering. From the start of a recording project, audio producers and recording artists will work together to decide what kind of overall sound they are looking to achieve, and then will collaborate to create the acoustic space that will best achieve and enhance that sound. A large choir may want a majestic reverberating sound that may be heard in a church or cathedral. While a small jazz ensemble may want a quiet, soothed-down sound that might be found in a living room or den. Music Performance Some audio production degrees require students to take a concentration in music performance. It is extremely common for audio producers to know how to play one or more instruments, and experience with both solo and organizational performance can greatly enhance the capability of the audio producer at work. When choosing an instrumental or vocal concentration, audio production degree candidates may wish to think about what kinds of music they might want to specialize in recording, such as rock, classical, or jazz. Learning more than one instrument can assist audio producers in learning about the acoustic capabilities, and limitations, of each instrument, particularly in a group performance setting. Music performance concentration requirements often involve individual lessons on the instrument or voice part of choice, solo recitals, and ensemble performances ranging from choral and orchestral to chamber and jazz. Student Support and Resources In any audio production degree, students should receive a variety of supports to experiment with and perfect their craft as well as excel in their studies. Academic support services specific to audio production, include audio labs that are open hours so students can work on class projects to apply what they’ve learned. A variety of equipment should be available, from microphones and in-house instruments to computer labs and audio software. At some larger schools, resources may be much more in demand, so students will want to cultivate careful time management skills and make as effective use of available time slots for equipment usage and project work. Some degree programs also have audio libraries containing everything from tech manuals to recording examples for active listening practice. These libraries may be physical but are often digital for ease of access and increased availability of borrowable materials. Often, libraries will be organized by specialization areas, such as technology, mixing, effects, and the like. Every audio production degree has its own unique set of requirements and teaching approaches. However, these common foundations are part and parcel to a quality audio production degree and will prepare students for continuing professional development in audio production. Did learning about what an audio production degree is interest you? Cogswell College empowers aspiring audiophiles to master their craft. Our Audio and Music Technology Program students are exposed to new ideas and industry-grade equipment and are presented with challenges designed to unlock their creativity. Cogswell College is uniquely poised to offer a meaningful and valuable education for 21st century students. We believe in an education that directly correlates with the work you’ll be doing after you graduate. Interested in learning more? Contact Us today.