Study audio at school or on your own

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The audio world is one of those domains where some of the professionals who practise have a diploma while others do not. Traditionally, knowledge is acquired by going to school. However, with all the information available nowadays on the web (videos,forums, tutorials) some may argue that this is not necessary anymore.

Knowledge: subjects and structure

It is possible to find, on the internet, information or well-done tutorials on a particular subject such as acoustics, sound recording or mixing. A pitfall when studying on one’s own is that you only study the subjects you know about. To follow a curriculum put together by experienced people, which you can find in specialized schools or perhaps by taking private lessons with someone in the business, can alleviate this problem.

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It is illogical to leave it up to a beginner to determine what are the important subjects and to distinguish between the essential and superfluous. In school, students are required to study subjects that they might not have studied on their own, but which are essential. The professional who learned “on the job” has fragmentary knowledge, which makes it more difficult to move from one sector of the audio industry to another.

In a school context, the subjects are structured and approached from the ground up. Therefore knowledge is built in a sequence determined by pedagogical criteria, which is not the case when you learn on your own. It is easy to get lost without getting to the bottom of a subject when browsing forums from link to link.

Contacts network

The social aspect is essential in a competitive field like audio. In a school, having access to a teacher’s network allows the student to start building his/her own network. Those who teach in trade schools are often also active players in their industry. A good student may be recommended by his or her teachers. And let’s not forget classmates. Spending a year or more studying with the same colleagues is ideal for building relationships. There are examples of classmates who became business partners after graduating. Even while they’re at school, some students pass contracts or jobs on to each other. The internships available through schools also allow students to develop contacts directly in the industry.

Theory versus practice

Studying is only part of the equation; in addition to the theory, you need a lot of practice. Just as an apprentice airplane pilot must accumulate flight hours before officially becoming a pilot, a sound engineer must practise in the field before truly becoming independent. Whether you study in a school or online through videos or tutorials, you need to practise what you learn.

To get an internship, you have to find someone (or a company) willing to open their doors and show you how they work. Access to this in-the-field experience, harder to obtain by your own means, is greatly facilitated when you attend a school that offers, in addition to labs and studios, access to unpaid internships or small contracts in the industry. These experiences allow students to build a resumé—and, more importantly, to build confidence in their practice. Mind you, a self-taught student with a minimum of knowledge will also be able to obtain an internship as an assistant in a studio, as was the norm before the advent of specialized schools.

Financial cost

Schools are often costly and living expenses (rent, food, etc.) must be added.  Studying is an investment which often involves financial sacrifices, but which allows you to reap the benefits of your learning by subsequently earning income. It should be noted, however, that provincial government loans and bursaries are available in most schools.

Depending on the type of work you choose to do in the audio world, buying audio equipment will cost you less than a year of studies. If you are a musician and want to gain the ability to do audio recordings, it may be more beneficial to invest in equipment. On the other hand, if you want to earn a living in the audio world, school training is recommended simply because it gives you access to a wider range of professions afterwards.

The right path to follow is different for everyone; the key is to ask yourself the right questions before choosing your path.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en:
Francais (French)


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