Remember that scene from Braveheart?

King Edward Longshanks says, “The problem with Scotland…is that it is full of Scots.”

No offense to my Scottish subscribers (honestly, you have the coolest accent on the planet…for reals), but this phrase is kinda funny. A co-worker of mine from years ago used to randomly scream that from his cubicle…hilarious.

ANYWAY…the quote is just silly. Of course Scotland is full of Scots. That’s why they call it Scotland.

But what’s in a name?

I mean, seriously. Audio folks tend to refer to themselves “audio engineers,” but that name is just silly, isn’t it?

Do we call a guitar player a “guitar engineer”? Or a singer a “vocal engineer”?

Then why do we call ourselves audio engineers? The word engineer makes me think of a highly-technical individual, someone who’s really into the specifics of how gear works. It makes me think that calling yourself an audio “engineer” might be a self-fulfilling process, leading you to become more and more obsessed with technical stuff and less and less focused on music and creativity.

A little back story…historically, on a major-label project, the band would work with both an engineer AND a producer.

The engineer really is just a tech guy. He has little creative input. He just sets things up, makes sure they work, and does what the producer tells him to do.

It seems to me that the “splitting up” of roles is becoming a thing of the past. Most producers realize that they need to be decent engineers. Engineers are brushing up on their creative/producing skills.

And I feel like this is especially true in home studios. If you’re recording music in your home studio, you’re wearing all the hats. Yes, you need to have at least a basic understanding of how to technically set up and use the equipment, but it doesn’t end there. Heck, that’s only the beginning.

From there you’ve got to where the hats of a producer, arranger, songwriter, composer, psychologist, babysitter, mediator, peacemaker, coffeemaker, water-fetcher…and on and on.

“Engineer” is just such a small part of what we do in home studios.

So, is there a better term than engineer? I don’t know. Producer is kinda cool, but it tends to drum up the idea of someone who sits around “making beats” all day…and that’s not what I do either.

I don’t have an answer for you. I tend to think of myself as a musician. I help people make music. If that means I’m doing recording and mixing, then that’s what I’m doing. I see myself as a part of the band, even if I don’t sing a note or pick up an instrument. It’s all about creativity, bringing good music to life, creating something out of nothing. It’s SO much more than playing with gear and “geeking out” over some new fancy preamp.

The only thing that excites me about a new piece of gear is imagining all the songs it will help me create.

That’s it.

Final question — Do you think of mixing as a creative process or a technical process?

To me, it’s one of the most creative parts of the whole thing. I don’t feel very much like an “engineer” when I mix.

See what I mean here:

www.DuelingMixes.com

 

  • Nothing wrong with the term Engineer….’specially if you knows the signal path well & can do really creative things with it. 🙂

  • PhilA

    That’s difficult to answer. The music is the creative ‘thing’ but then again mixing can add so much more. It depends on whether the final product is meant to be an accurate representation of the musicians’ performance (say, a live recording), in which case mixing becomes more of a technical challenge. The role of mixing has become blurred and includes the addition of creative elements. In some case it is impossible to perform the end result ‘live’, by musicians, as the mixing has provided so much of the creative process.

    • Agreed.

    • Great point. You need to know what the artist wants, and if they’re okay with some pretty creative changes.

  • Saso Alauf

    I wouldn’t say it’s the most creative part, but creativity definitely doesn’t end before the mixing ends…