How to Get Started in Sound Production

Fancy a career in sound engineering? Unsure about how to get started? Laura, 22 from Irvine shares her story.  

So how did you get started?

I got a tape recorder for my fifth birthday, and I would record my own “radio shows”. I had a catchphrase and everything! I come from a very musical family and I’ve been playing musical instruments for as long as I remember (to various degrees of proficiency), so music’s always been the only road I ever wanted to go down. 

What made you give it a bash?

I started a band with my brother at 15 and we didn't really have the resources to go to a proper studio and record our songs. Our Dad had a computer and a microphone, so we had a go ourselves. When we’d recorded our first song, I just couldn't stop listening to it and thinking of the ways I could improve the sound. I wasn't too long before I was helping out friends and family recording their music too.

I saved for an iMac and started building my own recording set-up, which I have gradually expanded. I am now just about as capable as most small recording studios!

What equipment did you use?

It’s better to start small.  Initially, I used a four-track tape recorder. This got me going with multi-track recording and overdubbing, as well as some 'sonic experimentation'. I also familiarised myself with my Dad’s Digital Audio Workstation.  Eventually when I got a bit better I saved for an iMac and started building my own recording set-up, which I have gradually expanded. I am now just about as capable as most small recording studios!

What training/education did you receive?

I learned a great deal from Mark Lough at the Tolbooth arts centre, in Stirling. As well as recording us, he gave me some pointers on basic concepts like compression and equalization. Aside from this, I was mainly self-taught and tried to build my skills by taking on lots of projects for practice.

After high-school, I went to Stow College in Glasgow to study an HND in Sound Production, the idea being to gain some specialist knowledge before going to university to study a more general music course. I'm currently at Edinburgh Napier, studying BA (Hons) Popular Music, though it’s become more of a hobby, as my freelance work has taken over a bit!

Who do you admire and who has influenced you?

I have 'hero' engineers that I admire and they are all unique in their approach. Steve Albini’s recordings (Nirvana, Pixies, Shellac, Joanna Newsom) are great because what you hear is what you get. If it doesn't sound right, he will change the amp/instrument/microphone rather than using computer trickery later on to fix it. Having said that I also like Rich Costley (Fiona, Apple, Muse, Foo Fighters) who opts for a 'more is more' approach. I like to think I’m somewhere between the two.

These guys are mega-famous and successful, so I guess they should really influence me professionally too!

What has been your biggest gig so far?

The best live gig so far would have to be in my brother’s flat last year.  We set up a small PA in the living room and organised 6 bands to play.  I must admit we got given an ASBO warning, but it was a great experience.

Any tips for someone starting out?

I would tell someone who is starting out to keep at it. I've always been of the opinion that practise is the best way of learning. I don’t say no to a project because I love to learn gain experience of new situations.  If I am unsure of a task I will try and figure out how to do it, so the next time am ahead of the game.

If you, like Laura, fancy a career in Sound Production or Sound Engineering then check out the Young Scot’s Time to Shine fund.

If you’re 14-20 you or you and a group of friends could receive a small grant to help unlock your creative potential.

If you would like some more information on careers, employment rights and opportunities, please visit our W.O.R.K. campaign page.