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Why every recording engineer needs an assistant

If you are recording alone, you're struggling and you probably don't realize. With an assistant, not only can you work faster, your recordings will be better too.

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Once upon a time every recording engineer started their career as an assistant. Tape-ops, they used to call them.

It was like an apprenticeship, you learned by observing the master, or mistress, at work.

Clearly things have changed now and the vast majority of people making recordings do so unaided.

So there is no work for assistants, and fewer opportunities to learn.

But I can tell you one thing about having an assistant that should convince you why you should have one. I could tell you lots of things, but just one for now...

Let's imagine you are working in a 'proper' recording studio. A proper studio is one where the recording area and control room are separate.

You have a musician playing in the recording area - doesn't matter what instrument - and you need to set a mic.

So you go though the door (sometimes an effort in itself, acoustic doors can be so heavy) and set the mic, positioning it according to your knowledge and experience.

You go back and listen to the sound. Hmm, good but not quite optimum. So you go back and adjust the mic. Yes... that'll do.

Now just think how much easier this would be if you had an assistant. He or she could be in the recording room with the mic, wearing headphones so you can communicate.

You can see where the mic is through the studio window, and you can give instructions based on what you hear.

In less than a minute, you will have tried every possibility of placement and you will have found exactly the right position. Without the assistant, you compromised.

Having an assistant need not be expensive. Just have an intern program. You'll have to pay to insure them, but they'll work for free to learn from you.

So you're making better recordings, it's costing you next to nothing, and you're training the recording engineers of the future!

Win, win, win.

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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