Monday, 30 May 2011

How to become a Sound Designer?

I guess if you are looking at this blog then you are interested in Sound Design and might be considering it as a career path.  So how do you become a sound designer?  Well in my experience most end up in this field almost by accident.  Until recently there was no way to study sound design academically.  This meant people either ended up sound designers from other associated fields or worked they way up through the industry.  For my own part, by accident, I have been able to turn my hobby into my primary career.  I never meant to end-up here it just sort of happened to me.  Having said that I'm very happy about my new career and very grateful to the happy coincidence that led me to my present location.

So what advice would I give someone that wants to get into sound design?  Well I think the step-by-step advice given by Andrew Diey (http://www.bbc.co.uk/newtalent/drama/advice_diey.shtml) says a lot of what I'd want to say.  In addition to this, if you are just starting out I think I'd offer the following advice.  First, study the science of sound, normally called acoustics.  You really need to understand how sound "works" if you are going to be able to replicate different audio effects and synthesis required sounds.  Second, in the early part of your career do not restrict yourself to one form of sound design.  As I have said before, sound design is a varied and multifaceted discipline and although you may have a greater interest in one area than another, you need to develop a wide range of skills to be viable.  Finally, train you ears - learn to dissect every sound.  What frequencies does the sound contain?  How does it change with time?  Does it have multiple layers?  What are the layers? Does it sound the same to both ears?  How do you perceiving the sound?  What sound components match the sound you are hearing?  This takes practice as it is not something most people don't do it instinctively?  There are tools (level metres, scopes, spectrum analysers, goniometers, etc.) you can use to help you with these questions, but there is not substitute for a good pair of ears.

Another thing to bear in mind, in this day and age you need to be technologically competent and this likely to be computer based.  It is not about learning one particular tool (DAW) over another, but rather about learning the underlying principles.  Then if you need to use a tool you're not familiar with you should be able to make the switch.  With this in mind, I would recommend that you learn one of the major DAWs (Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools).

What does all this add up to?  In short, all this adds up to learning your trade....

10 comments:

  1. That you portray a developed ear for critical audio dissemination as an important factor is encouraging to me, someone now seeking to go professional. It's a talent and point-of-view I take some pride in having developed.

    But there's also something that worries me: How approachable will the profession be for someone who's actively seeking entrance? It's quite niche, after all. Hopefully I'll find more ways in than through networking... Failing that, lets hope I eventually meet the right people.

    I look forward to more posts regarding the biz. But everything else, too; I loves me some sound design. ;)

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  2. Getting "a foot in the door" is never easy in this area, but there are a couple of thing you can do to improve the odds. First, as I said in my blog, it is now possible to take courses in sound design or associated disciplines such as music tech. (Certainly in the UK anyway.) You can find courses from beginner to advanced level. It was not like this when I set out. Second and more importantly, start developing a portfolio of work. This will give you practical experience and something to show-off your talents. I have a friend that wanted to become a Sound Designer for the games industry. (He first studied a sound design course and then audio programming.) He took trailers for major games that had just been released and produced his own soundtrack. This portfolio of work got him a job as a junior sound designer for a major game house. Professionals will take you seriously if you can show them your potential (even if you don't have the academic background). Good luck.

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  3. is it wrong that I'm studying Software engeeniring ig I want to become a Sound Designer?

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    1. I would not say it is wrong, but do make sure that when you have an opportunity, for example projects or dissertation, that you choose sound related tasks. I originally studied Electronic Engineering so it is possible.

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  4. Would it be smart then to major in Audio Engineering to have that foundation down?

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    1. Because that is my major now but ultimately Sound Designer is what I want as a career.

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    2. Sorry for the delay in replying. Audio Engineering would be a good choice, although remember on such a course you'll be studying a lot of HOW and you will also have to balance that with some understanding of the WHY. You can make sure you look at the aesthetic side in projects or dissertations.

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  5. Nice post. Sound design for films and video games is my ultimate goal, but my background and passion has been recording bands and my own music. Lately i'm looking at bulding my own unique sound library and portfolio. Would a Sound Engineering and Production degree be a good place to start academically, as i am considering going to Uni for exactly that?

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  6. Sorry for the delay in replying. Do remember that the primary reason for going to Uni is to obtain an academic qualification and not necessarily to provide you with training for a career. Having said that you can pickup a lot of practical skills on such courses that will help in your intended career choice. I would personally try to go for a technical course as I think they provide a good technical foundation that is required to be effective in this area. You can then make sure in projects or dissertation, that you choose sound design related activities.

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  7. My primary interest in sound design lies in film and NOT games. Should I focus on both to cover more terriotory and make myself more employable despite my interest in film sound design? Thank you.

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