What is a Recording Engineer?

Carol Francois

A recording engineer is someone who is responsible for creating, modifying and producing music and audio files. The equipment a recording engineer requires includes mixing boards, digital recorders and listening equipment. Many modern sound studios include a sophisticated computer program and software, which is used to combine multiple audio files.

An internship may be available at a recording studio.
An internship may be available at a recording studio.

There is no standard training program required to become a recording engineer. Most recording engineers have received formal training in music and have completed courses in music theory and music composition. The completion of post-secondary education may not be directly related to a career as a recording engineer, but it will show potential employers dedication to learning, ability to follow through and long-term planning.

Many of the skills a recording engineer must have are computer based.
Many of the skills a recording engineer must have are computer based.

The technical skills required for this job are computer based. Many professional quality sound production software products can be purchased directly and installed on your home computer. Practice using these tools to develop your skills in modifying audio files, saving different versions and playback. In addition to mixing programs, there are other software tools designed to create sound effects, modify existing audio tracks, slow down or speed up the dialog and adjust background noise levels. All these skills are useful when applying for a job as a recording engineer.

A music recording engineer must have a good amount of technical knowledge.
A music recording engineer must have a good amount of technical knowledge.

The salary range for a recording engineer is between $18,000 to $85,000 US Dollars (USD) per year. At the beginning of your career, it may be necessary to work for very little money or even volunteer in a recording studio to gain valuable experience. Due to the lack of formal training programs, experience and references are very important when applying for work.

A recording engineer decides where to position microphones in a recording studio.
A recording engineer decides where to position microphones in a recording studio.

As a recording engineer, there are certain character traits that will enhance your career. Patience, listening, dedication and attention to detail are critical in this field. In this role, you may be asked to work with a wide range of musical types and personalities. A professional is expected to give all projects the same care and attention that you would, regardless of your personal music preferences.

The long-term career options for a recording engineer include positions as a music producer, movie sound editor, musical composer or song arranger. These opportunities can become possible through a combination of professional reputation, skill and interest. Potential employers include concert production companies, television and radio stations, and recording studios. Investigate the number of entertainment related companies in your area. A large city with an active movie or music production industry will offer numerous job opportunities and allow you to establish your reputation in a central location.

Recording engineers can create a polished song for a recording artist.
Recording engineers can create a polished song for a recording artist.

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Discussion Comments


Computers can be wonderful tools in the studio, but would someone please save us from Auto Tune? You hear so many bands using it today, and it drives me crazy. Everyone ends up sounding like a robot with a severe sinus problem.

I have no problems with adding effects or cleaning up a track in the studio. Everyone does that. But if you can't sing in the first place, and you need a computer to try to bring your voice into tune, maybe you should seek another line of work.


Some studio jobs really use no computers at all. Others are very computer oriented.

A lot of acts still record the old way, through a mixing board onto a tape. You can do all kinds of effects on a big board without running the sound through a computer. This would be more common on rock and roll recordings, for example.

For hip hop or electronic music, there can be all kinds of computerized effects and tricks you can apply to the recording. Some bands do pretty much all of their recording this way. You can set up a home studio with nothing more than a computer, some software, and some good mikes.


@Ivan83 - You're right about that. A lot of studios are small time and pretty much record CDs for bands that are never going to make it. Even if you do end up working with some bigger names, there's no guarantee they aren't going to be jerks.

The upside is that if you do have an act make it or you work your way up to one of the big studios, the money can be great and you can get to be part of some of the best music being made. You may never get famous, but you can experience some things that most people never will.


@jonrss - I went through the same thing with a band I manage. We couldn't really afford a producer, and the band members listed themselves as producers, but in reality the studio engineer did the great majority of the work that a producer would have done. He was instrumental in the way the sound of the recording came out.

A producer is really just a well-known engineer who has his or her own "sound", or at least the ability to visualize how a particular band or singer should be arranged. It all starts with engineering ability.


I have been a recording studio engineer for a number of years and I would like to dispel some of the myths around this kind of work.

People think that you only work with great bands and that you get to party with them and that your career is just one big creative and social peak.

The reality is that the work, like any job, can be really boring and monotonous, you can run into a lot of jerks, you can record tons of terrible bands in genres you have never liked and you can work for some pretty lousy money.

I am going to stick with this job because I know it and I have it and at times its great. But not all the times. Don't become a recording engineer expecting to have the time of your life.


My band just got done recording our first full length album. We listed ourselves as the producer, but in reality we owe a lot of the credit to our recording engineer.

He was this guy named Neil that none of us had ever met before we started. He just worked for the studio that we booked and he got assigned to work with our band.

He was such a cool guy and so easy to get along with. We are all pretty new to this but he made us feel at home in the studio.

Where he really shined though was in helping us to get the record to sound the way that we wanted it to. We knew the kind of sound we wanted but we had no idea how to twist the knobs and buttons to make it sound that way on record. We could tell Neil the way we wanted something to sound and then he could produce the necessary effects. It was a huge help and the record sounds way better for it. No band is great without a great recording engineer.

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