Everyone benefits from training, no exceptions. Even the most experienced professionals keep learning throughout their careers, even though often they are the people giving the training, they still learn every time they do it. As someone who has taught audio technology for many years I’ve frequently been delivering a lecture or workshop and thought to myself that of all the people in the room it is me who is learning the most.
What Kind Of Training?
In an industry as varied as ours, there isn’t a formal training pathway as there are for other professions. In addition, audio is about experience and that shouldn’t exclude experience gained through training. In an industry where increasingly people work in isolation, opportunities to benefit from the free exchange of ideas are fewer and fewer. So if you need some new ideas or help navigating a very front-loaded subject, when it can feel like you need to know everything before you can know anything, where should you go?
That very much depends on the resources you have available, both money and time. Let’s look at the options:
When I started getting interested in audio it was the mid eighties and information was at a premium. There was very little out there and to a spotty, adolescent, fact-grabber like myself. When I did come across good information I pored over it in infinite detail. Today the opposite seems to be true and while we have a wealth of information, our engagement with it can often be shallow. The quality (and sometimes accuracy) of resources available for free online varies greatly as there isn’t any mandatory quality control in place.
That being said, there is excellent material available online. I of course have to mention Production Expert, which you’ll know offers quality free content. YouTube turns up gems and turds in equal measure but is so big that it can’t be ignored. Just exercise some judgement as I’ve found many cases of categorically incorrect information being published and more worryingly, republished on YouTube.
Free is good but if you’re serious you owe it to yourself to consider paid options. After all, would you buy a cheap parachute?
Paid Online Training
Returning to Production Expert, while we provide the vast majority of our material for free, we do offer premium content so if you want some more in depth tutorial content then check it out. There are a few reasons I’d suggest spending money on online training. The first is that free training materials aren’t usually “long form”. By that I mean that while there might well be thousands of hours of material available free, it’s unlikely than much of that will be more than single topic posts and very little of it will be in the form of a coherent course or in-depth case study. YouTube is great for finding out how to do a particular thing with a particular tool but it’s unlikely to take you through a whole workflow or project in a planned way.
The other reason is subtler and it is to do with commitment and the value we ascribe to the resources we have available to us. If something is free and is available 24/7 then we are under no pressure to actually use that resource. If I pay for an online course or a subscription then I make absolutely sure I watch the videos because not to do so would be a waste.
Subject or product specific training courses are very popular and if you want to learn how to operate a particular tool then sites like Groove 3 will definitely meet those kinds of needs. Sometimes what you need isn’t so specific though. Rather than wanting answers as specific as “How do I do X?”. More often than not I want inspiration and external stimulus. I want to feel excited by new possibilities which hadn’t occurred to me. My first stop for quality, in-depth tutorials is PureMix. While they offer a lot of technique and workflow-specific tutorials, what I go there for is for inspiration. We all fall into ruts of doing things the same way because that’s the way we did it last time and it worked. The joy of working face to face with colleagues is seeing how they do things, how what they do differs from your techniques and while you can just copy them in their entirety, more often I get inspired by something and apply an element of it to a different problem and come up with a slightly different solution. While the conversation is one way when watching a tutorial with Andrew Scheps, you’re still watching Andrew Scheps work. On the subject of watching Andrew Scheps work, Andrew is doing a multi-day masterclass with Greg Wells in Sweden starting on the August 5th 2019. While that is very short notice for a place at the workshop, there is an option to buy a live-stream seat, an interesting option halfway between attending a live event in person and watching video tutorials.
For some the formal education route is appropriate, if you’re serious about something you should commit to it and do it as properly as if you were training for a “proper job” - shouldn’t you? For some, this is the right decision. As someone who used to deliver such training I can say that the criticism such courses receive is often unfair. Academia can be rather isolated from the industry. There are some worthy accreditation schemes, which try to ensure some level of connection between what happens in Universities and in the industry. In the UK, JAMES (Joint Audio Media Education Support) is one such organisation, a not-for-profit organisation of industry professionals which provides accreditation for UK universities.
Outside of what we might describe as “mainstream” education - Universities and colleges, which offer audio production courses as part of a broad offering of other subjects, there are the specialist audio colleges. In the US there are private colleges like Full Sail, which started life as a studio in Ohio but has become much better known as a college offering media and tech degrees. Big name studios offer training courses, the Blackbird Academy in one such college, which was home to our much missed colleague, the late Kevin Becka, another is London’s own Abbey Road Institute which has a training arm in London and overseas in Melbourne, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Berlin and soon Johannesburg.
It does however remain a fact that full time formal education is expensive and is a full year or multi-year commitment right for you anyway?
These fall into two camps: Structured courses, which present and assess specific skills and courses that are about the “how”. If you are a Pro Tools user then Avid’s official training programme is extremely good. It is definitely not easy but is very worth considering if you are serious about getting your Pro Tools chops up to speed. Similar courses exist for Logic Pro. The other type of short courses are the type of courses that offer the pro experience. These are usually at a top studio and often with recognised industry figures who wouldn’t be available (or in many cases affordable) for a university course. I see the value of these courses as inspiration experiences for although to many it might seem a lot to spend on a course lasting a handful of days I’ll refer you to our own James Ivey who four years ago attended one such course with the legendary Al Schmitt and he hasn’t stopped being “inspired” (read: banging on about it at every opportunity) yet;
“On our Podcast we have a running joke about the number of times I mention my time at Mix With The Masters down in the South of France with Al Schmitt and Steve Genewick. I mention it that much. But I truly believe that during the week I spent there totally immersed in all things music, audio and recording, I learned more about the craft I am now lucky enough to call my job than I did on my 3 year degree course at London Guildhall University studying Music & Instrument Technology and I think there is a very good reason for that.
Courses like these are a very intense few days, of studio tracking sessions, mixing, session planning, demonstrations and master and peer review of your best work. You are not just learning for the "Master" or in my case masters, you are learning from the other students (a term I use very very lightly) in the group. It's an amazing experience and one I will continue to be inspired by and boasting about for many years to come”.
What kind of training is right for you very much depends on your level of experience and your available resources, Do you have lots of time but no money or is it the other way around? If it’s neither then that’s more difficult but there’s still plenty out there for you. An interesting event which recently came to our attention is a 3 day course running at the Motor Museum Studio in Liverpool. 3 days in the studio with resident engineer/producer Al Groves This event is being run in collaboration with SoundRadix and all attendees qualify for a 33% discount on Sound Radix plug-ins and three free copies of their amazing Drum Leveler are up for grabs to attendees. The whole three days comes in at £240 so if you’re in the UK then you could get a big dose of inspiration for not much more than a couple of decent plug-ins.
My attitude is that you can learn detail any time but inspiration will carry over into everything you do. If you’re looking for some real inspiration, if you can afford it then check out the Song Production Masterclass Abbey Road Institute are running in Studio 3 Abbey Road James and Dan visited recently and if you don’t get inspired spending time in the studio where Pink Floyd recorded Dark Side of the Moon then I don’t think we can help you! 4 days at Abbey Road tracking, mixing and mastering a track from Indie rock band the Kings Parade from start to finish with multi award winning producer Haydn Bendall, a tour of the Abbey Road mic locker with house tech Lester Smith and attend the mastering session with Christian Wright. It’s an amazing course, places are still available at £2750. That’s MacBook Pro money but a MacBook Pro is just another computer. Maybe you get inspired by a new computer? One thing is for certain, that new computers quickly become old computers. Inspiration lasts.