Sound Engineer / Sound Technician

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects
Openings 5 years to 2016-17: 5 000 < 10 000
Median weekly earnings: > $1401
DEEWR Australian Jobs 2012:
Each time you play your favourite CD or watch the evening news you'll be experiencing the auditory creation of the sound engineer (also known as recording engineer or sound technician).

There are approximately 240 sound engineers working in South Australia. Employment is mostly full-time with the majority working in the Arts and Recreation Services industry. Majority of persons in this occupation are males and most are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a younger age profile with less than a quarter of sound engineers/technicians aged 45 years or older

TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Sound Engineer / Sound Technician

Accredited (Award)

  • Take a ghetto-blaster into the bathroom and turn the tone knob down and the volume up. The resulting mishmash of sound is what you'd get in a studio without the sound engineer. They are in effect sound balancers. Sound engineers use an array of electronic equipment to amplify, edit, record, mix and modify sound for different types of performance. They use equipment such as recording consoles or computers, outboard equipment (processing equipment), microphones and tape machines to direct and manipulate the sound signal. Sound can be recorded on multi-track tape recorders (digital or analog) or on hard disc.

    Artistic and Creative

  • There are no formal educational requirements to become a sound engineer, although completing a certificate or diploma will be advantageous in gaining employment.

    TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Advanced Diploma of Sound Production. Pathways include the Certificate III in Technical Production, Certificate IV and Diploma of Sound Production.

  • Entry to this occupation is highly competitive. This occupation is small in size, with few opportunities, especially in the studio recording avenue. Employment growth is expected to be slight and job turnover is already below average. Many recording studios are owner/operator and as such don't hire sound engineers. The most significant change has been the advancement in digital recording.

  • Sound engineers can work in recording studios, in sound re-enforcement companies (concert venues), radio, film and television, post production studios and theatre. They usually work with a team of creative professionals, including performers, producers, directors and programmers.

    Studio sound engineers have the luxury of working in an acoustically stable environment. Here they can simulate different effects with digital processing, creating sound effects like singing in a hall, canyon or cathedral, without actually being in one. Most professional studios use 24 or more, multi-track recording systems (tracks are the separate sound layers). A common way to record a band would be put down a rhythm track and then layer other instruments via the console onto tape. After everything is recorded to tape, the 'mix-down' occurs, where all the effects and processing is brought into play. ''In the old days the whole band had to play and get it right. Now with overdubbing, the drummer and the bass player can come in at different times to play their parts. Computer editing means you don't have to play and get it right in one hit,'' says Tony, an assistant sound engineer. Sound engineers can also create midi (musical instrument digital interface) programs, whereby instead of recording a sound, they can record 'an event', for example, by pressing a key on a keyboard. These are pre programmed commands for different instruments.

  • Talk to anyone in the industry and you'll be told you must have an ear for music. Knowledge of musical composition is certainly desirable. However, it is just as important to have an affinity for sound, to be a good listener and an excellent communicator.

  • Being a sound engineer involves an amalgam of technical skill and artistry to enhance any given performance. At Channel Nine, Audio Supervisor, Joe Branco, is part of the creative team working on shows such as 'Postcards'. After capturing the sound in the field, the audio is added after the video editing. During this process, sound effects and music are mixed to accompany the visuals and contribute to the story as a whole. ''I like the fact you can manipulate sound, mix in effects and add music to change the story for creativity. Different music can make something moody or happy, but you still have to work with the team's vision in mind,'' says Joe. Out on location many things can go wrong and it's vital to be able to respond quickly to unforeseen events. ''In the field you're at the mercy of nature, for example, dogs barking or lawn-mowers going. If you're doing a take and there's a plane going overhead you have to make a decision whether to continue taping. It's not just about putting a mike out there,'' advises Joe.

    Concert sound recordists may work in similar challenging situations. They are responsible for setting up the equipment, checking processing gear (are reverb, echoes or delays working?) and mixing or integrating the elements to balance the performance. Things don't always go to plan! Equipment can fail, there might be a problem with a lead or microphone, or singers might go to a microphone unexpectedly.