A studio recording engineer, also called an audio engineer or a sound engineer, typically works with technical sound equipment to create audio recordings for a variety of purposes. These engineers often set up, maintain, and operate the equipment in a recording studio, and are usually well-versed in the different types of recording equipment available to them. They most often work in the music, film, television, or radio industries.
For the most part, a studio recording engineer works in a professional recording studio. These are typically designed to house two main rooms, one sound-proofed room where the recording takes place, and another where the engineer captures and manipulates the recorded sounds. These rooms are often separated by sound-proof glass so that the people involved in the recording may see one another.
The recording room is typically equipped with microphones and other sound capturing devices, such as audio jacks that attach to instruments. The studio recording engineer is usually responsible for setting up such gear. He or she often tries to capture the sound from each instrument, speaker, or singer on a different audio input. Having each instrument and vocal input separated in this way allows the audio engineer to mix the sounds as necessary to achieve the desired outcome.
Generally, the most important piece of audio equipment is the audio console. The room where a studio recording engineer works is usually outfitted with this console, which allows the engineer to control the recording and alter or mix it later. This piece of equipment typically has multiple audio input jacks that allow the engineer to control aspects of a particular audio track. For example, he or she can use it to alter the bass or treble settings on a guitar track.
With advances in sound production technology, many sound recording engineers use computers to capture, control, and mix audio tracks. The creation of a multiple track recording is often accomplished through a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) system. Many recording software programs use MIDI or other digitized sound files. A professional studio recording engineer may choose to use a combination of audio consoles and computers in his or her work.
Audio consoles or computers are usually used to mix tracks together to create the complete sound recording. Sound mixing for music typically involves layering instruments and vocals in such a way as to harmonize around a melody. Another example of sound mixing may be combining dialogue, sound effects, and music to create a soundtrack that will be synchronized to a movie’s visual recording.