Should I go to recording school?

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Should I go to recording school?

Post by surf's up » Thu Nov 23, 2006 2:13 am

I have browsed through the archives trying to find some interesting threads weighing the pros and cons of going to a dedicated recording arts program. Some of the stories frightened me to think that one could spend that much money without any real knowledge or experience and a degree that is so poorly regarded by professionals to show for it. But then there are other stories that seem to work out better. It is my sincere desire to embark on some sort of career in music, especially studio recording, even if the glamor and profit come in limited doses or not at all.

I feel like I have learned a lot already in the few years I have been doing this, just from experimenting and reading books and magazines and message boards. But Im not so arrogant as to think I wouldnt still learn a lot more from the classes at a recording school. I just wonder if bridging that knowledge gap is worth it or if my time and money would be better invested elsewhere.

I suppose I see the main value of attending such a program in getting hands on experience in an actual professional environment where the routines and methodology would be a lot more consistent with how things work in an actual studio whereas i may be developing bad habits as I troubleshoot and trial&error my way to the sounds I want, isolated in my gimp home studio. Plus it would seemingly give me a better shot to get some sort of entry into the working world, whether through an internship or just by networking there - though from some of the tales Ive read on here im not so sure if it would actually enhance my chances much.

So any advice - or cautionary tales - you have would be sincerely appreciated. I realize my chances of success in this field probably come down to me working hard, being humble, and trying to learn as much as i can about as much as i can, whether in or out of a dedicated program. But still, Id like to hear some opinions on which way I should go. One of my bigger concerns with the satus quo is that I will languish here in my home studio where I just dont get frequent enough clients to really hone my skills and focus on getting better.

The one program I am looking at most seriously is the Mediatech Recording Arts degree at Dallas Sound Lab since it is so close. Any specific comments about it are welcomed. If I lived in the Northwest Id just go cut my teeth under the tutelage of the Prof but thats a little far away.

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Post by curtiswyant » Thu Nov 23, 2006 6:31 am

From all the threads I've read on here, your time and money would be better spent if you either started interning somewhere and acquiring your own gear, or got a degree in something else and did studio work part time.

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If it was

Post by mrclean » Thu Nov 23, 2006 6:46 am

If it was But I'm not you....

I'll compare your situation to mine in the graphic art world. I went to art school before computers and then after a full-time musical career for about a dozen years went back to graphic arts (music is still part-time fun now). I had to learn the skills needed on computers that had taken over the graphic arts world. I got my own computer and learned some things on my own and then thought that I'd take classes in various software programs. What I found was that I knew more than I thought I did and those classes bored me to death. After a few classes I decided that for me - learning on my own by doing it myself was the best way for me to gain experience and learn.

It sounds like you might have some experience already and that maybe the best way for you is to intern somewhere or maybe there are some weekend workshops you could take (Joel on this board ran one or two in NYC awhile back that sounded great - wish I could have gone to those).

I know one friend that went to a recording school - it was a 6-8 week program in Ohio. He's been playing music for fun over the years but he didn't go on to work at a studio or anything.
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Post by leftofthedial » Thu Nov 23, 2006 6:52 am

In my 4 years of running my current studio, I've had 3 interns and a couple freelancers with Full Sail degrees. None of them were worth a turd. Now if I get a resume and it says full sail on it, I throw it out immediately.
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Post by cgarges » Thu Nov 23, 2006 8:46 am

There are recording schools other than Full Sail. Many of them are really excellent schools with excellent programs and excellent professors. Why people constantly fall into the Full Sail trap is beyond me. I have met exactly TWO competent Full Sail graduates out of probably thirty or forty that I've been around in a work environment.

I have a degree from a school with an excellent recording program, but I was there as a jazz performance major. I hung out with a lot of very talented guys in the recording program and I don't regret it one bit. The things that I learned in those situations were priceless and instrumental in my ending up with a couple of jobs in this field. Of course, I made that stuff happen for myself, but any school is what you make it.

No school in the world is likely to single-handedly meld the information you need into your brain and hand you an opportunity that they won't give their other students, so you have to remember just how many times you've seen posts like this and think about how competitive this field is. If you can manage to get yourself into a position where you will meet good people, learn from good people, and have the opportunities to figure stuff out on your own, you'll be better off than just figuring out stuff on your own, Not that that's a bad thing, because there are plenty of good engineers out there who've managed to figure stuff out, but you've got to put yourself in a place to do it and make it work once you're there.

Hope this helps.

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Post by the finger genius » Tue Nov 28, 2006 1:51 pm

No. Yes. No. It depends on what you're looking to get out of it. If you're only looking for a career in recording, I say skip it. Spend the time and money on your own gear, working with musicians, and figuring stuff out. Once you're confident (not cocky) in your abilities (and your ears), apply for an intern / assistant position.

I was expecting (incredibly naively) to be able to support myself as an engineer after finishing my B.S. in Sound Recording Technology. No way, no how. On the other hand, I learned a hell of a lot about recording thanks to a few great professors, and also a hell of a lot in general (it was a liberal arts program), and some of the connections I made while in school led to my current job, which has nothing to do with recording. (But it does pay well, and I actually enjoy it!)

Definitely try to contact some former grads of the school you're interested in, and get as much input as possible. The quality of the available programs varies a lot, and it's important to realize what you're getting into before plunking down all that cash.

In any case, good luck!

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Post by audiogeek1 » Wed Nov 29, 2006 8:43 am

I will be the pro for school here. I went to school and learned a lot. I had been recording with a 4 track and later an 8 track since I was 14. I found out my community college offered a recording course. (1st semester it was offered) and I jumped at the chance.

I did not learn much about how to make things sound amazing because what sounds amazing is so subjective. And years to develop ears etc.. But I did learn signal flow, trouble shooting, and how to not be intimidated by working in different rooms with different consoles etc...

For me on a daily basis we have students from BYU SRT program and the Theatre and Media arts program here at the studio I work at. 95% of them are great PT editors but have no clue about anything else. The other 5% get it. the 5% that get it put a lot of time in the studio learning hands on, asking questions, asking more questions, become a fly on the wall, and work really hard.

As for school you will get out of it what you put into it. Do not go there expecting to be an amazing engineer/producer, but do go there to learn the art of engineering.

From what I learned at school and then learned on my own I get phone calls almost on a daily basis from 3 different people with problems and needing help trouble shooting. 2 of them went to school, one did not. We have all been doing this about the same amount of time but seems like I am the only one that got it.

Good luck in your decision.


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Post by kayagum » Wed Nov 29, 2006 8:55 am

I dunno. Given how much good information is here on this board, I'd say skip the tuition and read every thread here.

Use the tuition money to buy a good preamp or 10.

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Post by Boogdish » Wed Nov 29, 2006 9:17 am

kayagum wrote:I dunno. Given how much good information is here on this board, I'd say skip the tuition and read every thread here.
I did a year in a recording program at a community college and I was learning more from reading this board than from my proffesor. I was on a scholarship though. But I don't think the program I was in was very good, it was too big. There were 15 people in my lab, in the year that I was there I touched a fader a grand total of 3 times.

Anyways though, having a degree will in general help you find better work, my brother had a degree in "Audio Technology" (the same recording program I was in) and he works at a pro audio rental place doing minor tech stuff and running sound for people who rent PAs from them. It's not what he originally wanted out of his degree, but he was able to get the job very easily and it lets him make a lot of contact with musicians and affords him money for equipment so that if he decided to get back into recording he'd have slight leg up.

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Post by Telepip » Wed Nov 29, 2006 9:23 am

Thanks for posting this! I've struggled with with that for a long time. I'm currently an electrical engineering major at a University but it's been a dream of mine to go into recording for a career.

I looked at Full Sail over the summer, did the tour and everything. I've had two brothers go there. One of them is still in there for Film, and the other graduated about 10 years ago with an associated degree in recording. My recording brother is now making some big bucks as a Post-Production guy at cartoon network and it made me really want to go.

Anyway, (this sounds ridiculous) my mother has a friend who used to be the day-to-day manager of a local Christian recording studio in Mobile, my hometown. I talked with her about getting an internship over Christmas and the Summer, and she totally hooked me up! I'm still a major recording newbie and know extremely little (I've only recorded two other people besides myself!).

So I know I'm not the most experienced person to be giving advice but from my own situation I think that recording school (depending on the program) will teach you a lot about recording but in few cases will it 'Seal the Deal' on a resume. Definately more of an option that a pre-requesite. I think it will ultimately come down to your skills, who you know, and always being the one who will go the extra mile.

btw- Funny story I think everyone will appriciate- When I was moving my older brother into FS for his film degree the guy who was installing the cable said "Full Sail huh? Yea, I graduated there about 4 years ago myself!"

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Post by NoClass » Wed Nov 29, 2006 9:51 am

Man, Telepip! I'd stick with electrical engineering if I were in your position. I'd think it would teach you a lot more about common sense things like signal routing which seems to go a long way in any audio field. Being able to service your own gear would be a big plus too.

My own experience with recording school has been that I learned quite a bit, but I'm not certain that it was worth the cost and perhaps I would have been better off spending that money on gear. Considering I'm going to university now and am still paying off that previous student loan, it's a double bitch. Anyway, the course I took was called "Audio in Media" and was a six month full-time course. Afterwards I ended up getting a job as an A/V tech doing corporate sound and such, but I don't think the course really helped me get that job. In my interview after mentioning going to recording school, the manager basically said "Whatever. Did you go to high school?" He spent most of the interview talking about computer games though, so maybe that's not the best example.

I really do want to stress that I learned a ton in that program, but the industry consensus seems to be that recording school is irrelevant. Plus, if you're going to a private school it's damn expensive.

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Post by ledogboy » Wed Nov 29, 2006 10:52 am

It has always seemed to me that the cost of recording programs is inversely proportionate to the amount of money you are likely to make as a recording engineer. Never have so many paid so much for so little potential future. That said, if you have the money to burn, you might get a lot out of a recording program. I have a friend who went to Expressions Center in nearby Emeryville and had a blast. She also ended up getting out of the audio world completely. So, for an insane price (I can't remember, but I think it was like $20,000/year), she had a great learning experience. It seems like one hell of a bad investment. Best of luck, whatever you choose. Cheers,

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Post by TheStevens » Wed Nov 29, 2006 11:54 am

i say if you're going to learn how to record, don't waste your money. don't get me wrong, the school i went to did a good job of it, but i've learned a lot more reading this message board.
if you're going to get a degree, get a degree in something else. I'm 1 and 1/2 years out of school with a BA and I'm working at radioshack. Whenever I look for job postings I always see graphic design, electrical engineering, even various communications jobs that I wish I had studied for in school.
I don't regret going to school because it was a regular 4 year university and I learned a lot about music history, science, and I'm glad I got an education and the general college experience. Just didn't do any good getting me a job so far.
I suppose going to school helped me to get an internship at a recording studio in the area that I could have possibly pursued as a part time job if I wanted to stay in the area, but I didn't. And its not like you need a degree to be a studio intern, the school just had the connection.

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Post by NoClass » Wed Nov 29, 2006 8:00 pm

I should also add that my recording school had a copy of the Tapeop book, which is how I found out about this message board. I've learned a ton from this board, so indirectly I learned a lot from school as a result. ;-)

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