American University Masters student in Audio Technology Jack Anthony presented his graduate research Monday, October 29, and the DC Chapter Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, the premiere professional scientific organization for the study of sound and hearing. Jack won first place (and a $150 prize) in the Best Student Presentation competition for his paper entitled “Timbral dimensions of cross-modal perception.” Jack also won the ATEC program’s research award last spring and was awarded an Audio Engineering Society Foundation scholarship this fall. Congratulations, Jack!
Jolene Carter, recent AU graduate in film and audio technology, shot a short film of her day traveling around Washington, DC. But instead of using a normal microphone, Carter designed a unique rig that connected her camera to a binaural microphone.
Using this setup, it’s possible to hear the full 3D auditory cues around the camera – you can hear buses pass from behind to in front of you, or hear pedestrians spread out near the waterfront. Because this method preserves the exact cues reaching your ears, you will need to listen with headphones to hear the 3D effect.
By James Reber
I’ve been interested in audio since I began playing the guitar as a child. I wanted to know how my favorite artists achieved their signature sounds — and how I could re-create them.
That said, it wasn’t until I discovered the Audio Technology program at American University (AU) that my passion for sound began developing into a career and not just a hobby.
While working toward my bachelor’s degree (2013) in audio production and master’s degree (2015) in audio technology at AU, several opportunities proved integral to my future success in the field, including:
- Working on recording projects with students who were just as passionate about audio as I was
- Having access to the same tools the professionals use
- Practicing proven recording techniques while enjoying the freedom to experiment with my own ideas
Audio technology is just as much about art as it is about science. Like any art form, you have to understand the fundamentals and technical aspects of audio before your creativity can really thrive. It’s one thing to get signal into a mixer or computer, but true artists are able to capture sound with whatever aesthetic they desire to create.
From Student to Audio Production Professional
During my undergrad coursework at AU, an internship with the BBC proved to be a prime pathway to my first job in the audio technology industry. As a broadcast engineer for the BBC, I help look after the technical infrastructure of the news bureau, including audio and video systems as well as IT. I also assist with live and prerecorded news programs, such as our nightly program “World News America.”
The transition from student to sound engineering professional has been a natural outcropping of what I learned at AU — how to innovate creative solutions and improve workflow. One of the best parts of my job is carefully considering every possible solution to a problem and determining which one is best for any given situation.
Discovering a Future in Audio Technology
This fall I’m teaching ATEC 311, Sound Studio Techniques I, an undergraduate level class at AU. It’s my students’ first class in the Kreeger Building studios, so my main goal is to help them become comfortable enough with the equipment to confidently run a recording session. We’re covering topics such as basic signal flow for recording and mixing, headphone sends for monitoring, microphone techniques, and using outboard gear to process audio.
It’s exciting to reflect on my own journey into this field, to encourage the growth and development of current AU students, and to deeply consider how all of us will be affected as technology and culture evolve.
Careers based in technology don’t stand still for long. In audio technology, I believe the increasing popularity of virtual reality will create a need for 360-degree or binaural recordings. You can only be completely immersed in a virtual world if the audio corresponds with the visuals. I think this will create a whole new field for audio professionals who will have to start thinking beyond stereo or 5.1 mixing.
No one knows for sure what the future of audio production and technology will look like, but it’s exciting to think about. Whatever happens, art and science most assuredly will continue to collide.
Do you see yourself having a career as an audio engineer? Learn about how students thrive after completing American University’s MA in Audio Technology program.
The Audio Technology Capstone is an advanced course in our undergraduate program that enables students to embrace their unique skills and particular areas of interest — to explore both the art and science of their future fields of study. It’s an opportunity to engage in discipline-specific projects in subjects such as:
- Electro-acoustic instrument design and construction
- Advanced live sound reinforcement techniques
- Post-production audio for film and video
- Music Production
- Electro-acoustic music composition
We give our students a and equip them with tools. What’s amazing is how they turn that canvas into innovative art that reflects each person’s background and future work. Here are a few examples:
Joey Kaitany — Film, Audio Production and Physics in Unison
In spaces, such as an enclosed stairwell at the Union Arts building in Washington DC, Joey Kaitany created a Capstone experience that merged three of her passions: film, audio production, and physics. In a series of three videos, she captured musicians performing improvised pieces on acoustic instruments in locations with highly reflective surfaces, and therefore long reverberation times.
“I wanted to show the way art and creativity can connect these three disciplines into an emotional and immersive experience,” Joey said.
The goal? Use minimal technology to preserve the depth and experience of a live improvisation. The result? A hauntingly beautiful fusion of art and science.
Jon Whitman — A Historical Anthology of Musical Styles
With the underlying idea that characteristics of music are recycled back and forth into new music — cultivating continued innovation by composers — Jon Whitman created “The Waves Concerto,” an eight-minute composition that cycles through a historical anthology of musical styles:
Using original themes composed over several years, the concerto was crafted with samples of voices, orchestral instruments (brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion), synthesizers, and live guitar, which he arranged and performed.
Logan Bancroft Boucher — Audio Technology Meets Computer Science
Sometimes a well-laid plan doesn’t play out exactly as imagined, but spearheads discovery. While Logan Bancroft Boucher, who came to AU to double major in audio technology and computer science, took a slightly different path than originally expected, he ended up achieving his goal: a working, multi-effects plug-in program that enables users to manipulate an audio track in their digital audio workstation — in real time.
The plug-in’s effects included:
- Stereo Widener Effect — Widens or narrows the stereo field, depending on the parameter set by the engineer.
- Reverberation Effect — Several parameters can be adjusted to change the sounds of the echoes — taking into consideration room size, wetness, dryness, damping, reverb width, and freeze mode.
Each of these Capstone projects was unique, echoing the passions and skills of the student. This course presents a challenge, but a good one. It’s an opportunity for students in our program to reach toward their goals — and, many times, adjust and add to those aspirations along the way.
Find a home for your passion at American University. Explore our Audio Technology Program
In the world of music and sound production, artists and audio engineers usually have L.A., New York and Nashville at top of mind. These entertainment hotbeds are legendary breeding grounds for artistic expression through sound—but they’re not the only launching pads for successful careers in the industry.
Culturally diverse cities such as Washington, D.C. often provide the just right situation for development into impressive, fulfilling careers. Here is a list of some truly successful producers, musicians and bands that got their start in DC:
Marvin Gaye, Singer
With several world-famous singles including “Let’s Get It On,” “Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What’s Going On?” Washington D.C.’s Marvin Gaye was one of those artists whose music transcended both generation and genre. As one of the most influential artists of the 1960s and ’70s, Gaye used his platform to commentate on the racial and political turmoil of his time.
Andros Rodriguez, Music Producer
Since graduating from American University, Andros Rodriguez has kept himself busy producing tracks for artists such as:
- Justin Timberlake
- Leona Lewis
- Christina Aguilera
- Ben Folds
- Whitney Houston
Duke Ellington, Composer & Musician
Better known as “The Duke,” D.C. native Edward Ellington brought his big-band jazz music to the masses for decades. A pianist, bandleader and composer, the bulk of The Duke’s music was popular in the early and mid-20th century, although elements of his work continue to influence music to this day. He is one of the most iconic artists in American history.
Tyler Osborne, Video Editor & Filmmaker
Tyler Osborne is putting his film and audio production training from AU to good use. He has edited TV programming for Discovery Channel, A&E, TLC and BET, among others. And, yes, he has helped put together shows for “Shark Week.”
No list of influential music industry leaders from D.C. would be complete without Wale, who calls himself the, “Ambassador of Rap for the Capital.” With a diverse resume of collaborations and an ever-present desire to be unique — he gained attention for giving away his music early in his career — Wale has managed to keep his art firmly in the public spotlight. Earlier this year he earned an impressive designation: the first rapper to open for a State of the Union Address.
Robert Tozzi, Radio Producer
Robert Tozzi, who has a degree in audio technology from AU, continues to provide a great example for how to combine one’s talents and work ethic to accomplish big things in sound production. Today Robert serves as manager of NASCAR programming for Sirius XM Radio, overseeing all weekend programming and operations — including analyst shows and race broadcasts.
Tori Amos, Singer/Songwriter
Always one to do things on her own unique terms, Tori Amos founded Martian Recording Studios years after leaving an indelible mark on the alternative rock scene with songs such as “A Sorta Fairytale” and “God.” She was raised in D.C. before eventually touring the world.
At American University, people who’ve been fascinated with music and sound for years are finding opportunities to transform their passion into meaningful careers.
AU’s master’s in audio technology program helps budding sound engineers, rock stars and up-and-coming producers to achieve their dreams. Students learn in the classroom and in the studio. They do internships across Washington, DC, and in New York City—where the art and science of audio production are flourishing.
Watch the video to learn more about the abundance of educational and cultural opportunities for MA in audio technology students in Washington, DC.
Sound like the program for you? Learn more about the MA in Audio Technology at American University.
Innovative audio production courses with names such as 1960s British Recording Techniques sound like a lot of fun (they really are, too), but they’re much more. Mike Harvey, American University Audio Technology Instructor, uses an era of significant change in music and culture to help illustrate what’s possible with a career in audio and music technology.
As one would expect from a class about 1960s British music production, The Beatles are a major topic of discussion. However, the curriculum’s scope takes students much further and deeper than Paul, John, George, and Ringo. By the end of the semester, Harvey says students are able to:
- Produce and engineer a multi-track recording session in the style of British recordings from the mid-1960s to 1970.
- Apply microphone and hardware techniques for recording acoustic and amplified instruments particular to the era.
- Identify production elements and recording techniques developed and made popular by groups such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who.
- Utilize those production elements in original recordings.
- Use software recreations of hardware from the Abbey Road album to process recorded audio.
Beyond the highly technical sound production tenets of the British Invasion era lies a fascinating layer of context regarding the art and science of audio technology over the past 50 years.
The Beatles were pioneers in music, pushing the boundaries of studio technology and acceptable pop songwriting topics and song structure, Harvey says. They served as a template for other bands to follow: a mostly self-contained and carefully balanced team of performers and songwriters, producer(s), and an engineering crew.
“As an entity their album sales still dominate, but as an influence they are greater still, from the use of the studio as a creative tool to the establishment of their own label and brand, to the simple fact that, for most of their career, they were in control of their products and processes,” Harvey said.
The Beatles accomplished all of this with recording resources considered highly primitive by today’s standards—a fact that surprises many students.
“They started recording on two-track recorders (dual mono), and during Abbey Road, their last recording, they were limited to an 8-track machine,” Harvey said, adding that “The End” from Abbey Road features the only Beatles drum recording tracked in stereo.
The Beatles’ production brilliance, despite using relatively rudimentary tools, opens students’ minds to what is possible when art and science collide. Today, we’re witnessing a different but equally significant example in the modern-day music industry—the blurring of lines between artists and technology professionals.
For instance, electronic music affords artists the opportunity to create music as audio technicians “in the box” (on the computer). The paradigm of artist as technician has become increasingly common since the era of the Beatles, when the roles of audio technician/producer and artist were much more delineated.
Undoubtedly, that’s part of the beauty of pursuing a degree in audio technology, the knowledge and understanding of how—regardless of the era or trend—music production impacts what the world hears.
Interested in taking classes like 1960s British Recording Techniques and getting to know industry experts like Harvey? Check out our MA in Audio Technology program.
When students from American University’s chapter of the Audio Engineering Society met up to discuss their audio production heroes, a common theme emerged. It wasn’t as much about a certain technology or a ground-breaking technique. The students expressed appreciation for certain engineers who’ve managed to infuse their unique personalities and talents into every work they’ve helped create.
From the perspective of audio technology students, here are seven sound engineers and industry influencers you should know:
- Bob Katz
When an engineering stalwart like Bob Katz writes a textbook, students pay close attention. That’s not only because he’s won multiple Grammys and worked with many exceptional musicians, but also because he cares enough to pay it forward. In his book Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science, Katz breaks down an extremely complex topic into concepts that can be understood, appreciated, and implemented. As far as our students are concerned, the music industry should be thanking him for decades to come.
- Geoffrey Emerick
For audio technology students, longtime Beatles engineer Geoffrey Emerick is an obvious role model, as he’s done so many things they aspire to do. From boldly trying inventive production techniques and working with ground-breaking artists—Supertramp, Jeff Beck, and Elvis Costello, to name a few—to advancing quickly in the profession at an uncommonly young age, Emerick represents everything that’s possible.
Thanks to sound professionals such as Emerick, today student audio engineers are able to pursue fulfilling careers that focus on the art and science of audio engineering.
- Kendrick Lamar
It’s hard to put one overarching label on Kendrick Lamar. He’s a rapper, producer, activist, and visionary, to name a few. He has proved he can grab the spotlight with highly engineered album such as “To Pimp a Butterfly” or raw efforts such as the recently released Either way, audio technology students are always left anxiously awaiting his next move.
- Leslie Ann Jones
Usually the rock stars reside in front of the mic, but our audio technology students think recording and mixing engineer Leslie Ann Jones rocks pretty hard from behind the glass. Of course, the fact that she works at legendary Skywalker Sound makes here the envy of many. But more than that, students envy her more than 30 years of diverse opportunities to record scores, mix film and video elements, and produce albums. With her experience, talent, and lineage (her father, Spike Jones, is a music icon), Jones is a quintessential bridge from audio engineering’s past to its future.
DJ and record producer Zaytoven is part of a long line of audio professionals who weave a particular style into the fabric of music history as a whole. Fifty years from now, Zaytoven’s contributions to the industry through his award-winning trap music and mixtapes will serve as vital connective tissue in the constantly evolving story of sound production.
- Tony Visconti
If part of the fun of audio production is shaping art across a wide spectrum of genres, then Tony Visconti had an absolute blast. Working with artists such as David Bowie and T. Rex, Visconti built a decades-long career atop creativity and experimentation. The result was some of the most memorable music ever created.
- Nigel Godrich
Best known for his critically acclaimed work with Radiohead, producer Nigel Godrich’s rise to the top of the music industry followed a formula that appeals to many audio technology students:
- Receive hands-on training from experienced professionals in a university setting.
- Begin working at the industry’s entry level, if necessary—working extremely hard.
- Stay true to one’s convictions and passions.
- Discover opportunities to work with talented artists to combine the art and science of audio production.
All of these people give audio technology students examples of what’s possible. Our students look forward to forging their own unique paths in the near future.
Ready to take your first step toward a career as a sound engineer? Check out American University’s Audio Technology Program.
In the world of audio technology, we often use tools such as compressors and limiters to smooth out the peaks of a signal, which raises the overall volume of that signal. However, conventional compression is not the only way to thicken up a sound. A small amount of distortion, often referred to as saturation, can add character and density.
A compressor turns down the overall signal amplitude of a snare drum, for example, when it exceeds a certain level. Similarly, distortion sort of “chops” the wave form. Saturation is merely a more subtle form of Distortion. The differences between various types of distortion and saturation depend on how the signal is clipped. A digital clip, also known as a hard clip, simply removes the top of the wave form (see image below).
An analog clip is a bit more musical sounding than a hard clip, which often sounds objectively bad (a term I rarely get to use in the world of music). When a tube amp, for example, is driven hard enough to distort, it doesn’t simply slice the signal. Instead, it accentuates musically pleasing harmonics, also known as “even and odd order harmonics.”
Naturally, different types of distortion emphasize different harmonics. However, in all cases of musical distortion, the resulting wave form is smoother and more pleasant sounding than digital distortion. The result is fuller, denser sound. It’s a beautiful thing. You have achieved a bit of compression without even using a compressor, plus you have created a more interesting and complex sound.
Saturation sometimes comes with unwanted side effects, though. If you overuse it, your mix will quickly begin to sound messy and lack clarity—especially if the saturation wasn’t necessary in the first place. Also, saturation on instruments but not vocals sometimes leaves the timbre of the singer’s voice sounding a little plain (especially in more stripped down productions).
When considering whether to use saturation, make sure you have a reason and a plan. If you have a chorus with 12 guitars, a full drum kit, backing vocals, strings, horns, and synth pads, perhaps the overall sound of that chorus is complex and interesting enough without saturation. That said, if you have a beat with sparse instrumentation, maybe a bit of saturation of the 808s could make them sound more unique, helping them cut through the mix a little better.
Peter is a recording and mixing engineer, and specializes in music production for artists as well as films. He also sings and plays guitar in the Indie Rock band Calm and Crisis. Peter’s most recent work includes his band’s debut LP In A Real Good Place, a single with the NYC based artist Roarke, and a collaborative Rock/Hip Hop song with DC rapper SpennyAlmost which is set to be placed in the Starz film, Flock of Dudes. Peter is a BA/MA student in the Audio Technology Program at AU.
If you are interested in a career as a mixing or sound engineer, learn more about the audio technology degree programs at American University.
Classrooms and homework assignments are just a couple aspects of a comprehensive education experience. For those of us who study and/or teach in American University’s Audio Technology Program, immersing ourselves in the rich culture of Washington, DC, adds color and shape to our professional development.
This past December, the AU Audio Technology Program partnered with the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra to capture their “Winter Soundscapes” performance at Strathmore. As an adjunct professor and a master’s student in the Audio Technology Program at AU, I was lucky enough to enjoy and learn from the experience.
The Music Center at Strathmore is a 1,976-seat concert hall located just north of DC in Bethesda, Maryland. The venue presents more than 150 performances a year and is home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic, and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras.
The “Winter Soundscapes” event and experience were a great success. We captured the symphony, chamber ensemble, and philharmonic orchestras without a hiccup. As an audio professional, it was a pleasure to work at a world-class facility such as the Strathmore. The acoustics of the concert hall are perfectly tuned, so even the quietest passages of the performance could be heard throughout the audience.
My studies and work in the graduate program at American University prepared me for this opportunity in many ways. For instance, having access to an endless gear selection allowed me to test many different microphones and microphone techniques on a variety of instruments.
Critical listening–a huge component of our graduate curriculum at AU–proved extremely valuable during my time at Strathmore. My knowledge of how simply moving microphones can affect the balance of a recording was important in preparation for the event.
The most enjoyable part of the experience, though, was the actual performance. I’d never attended an orchestral performance—neither as an engineer or patron. Once the main prep work was complete and the music began, I could actually relax for a moment. I could focus and reflect on what both the process and the product mean to audio enthusiasts like me.
Seeing the byproduct of incredible musicians mixed with expert audio engineering was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s why you study audio technology in the first place. It was quite a sight—and sound.
Matt Twiford is a graduate student and adjunct professor living in Washington, DC. He will graduate with a master’s degree in audio technology from American University in May and he has a bachelor’s degree in music production from Full Sail University. Matt plays guitar, writes music, and freelance engineers in his free time.
Washington DC provides countless opportunities for American University students. Learn about achieving a master’s degree in audio technology from AU.
BY: GASTON REBOREDO, AUDIO TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM ALUMNUS
The science behind electronics and acoustics is, without question, essential for a career in audio technology. However, for me, it’s the vast potential of artistic expression that breathes life into my work.
I first became interested in audio technology about five years ago, when I was in a metal band that recorded a demo in the lead guitarist’s house. I helped set up the microphones and oversaw the recording process. Seeing riffs and melodies we wrote in my bedroom come to life as a song—an actual song that people can listen to—was the coolest thing.
I didn’t mix those songs myself, but being involved in the process sparked a passion that continues to grow. Audio technicians like me have opportunities to take great sound and make it even better. We have sprawling canvases of sound where we can explore and express previously untapped reserves of creativity. We create sonic landscapes that take listeners on a ride.
The possibilities are endless.
I’m a broadcast technician in Washington, DC, at WAMU 88.5 FM radio, a National Public Radio affiliate. Basically, I run the board (an Axia Element mixing console) during All Things Considered, one of NPR’s most popular programs.
During All Things Considered, NPR streams segments that follow a very precise schedule. About six times each hour, our team at WAMU is given a block of time for local programming, in which our host briefly discusses news, the weather, or upcoming shows.
The best part of working at WAMU is knowing that thousands of people are listening to what I do. It’s a lot of responsibility, which also is a lot of fun. The fact that my performance affects people’s listening experiences inspires me to do the best job I can.
Audio engineers are in the background, behind the spotlight—and that’s OK. From hit songs and music videos to radio shows and live events, we take pride in the significant role we play in bringing high-quality sound to anxiously awaiting ears.
For many of us, this pride grew during our higher education studies. My confidence crescendoed as I learned about the many aspects of audio technology. I learned that the little things matter—factors such as the microphone(s) being used to record a song. The placement of the microphone(s). Where the musician is standing. The pre-amps used to boost the signal. Processing and effects that alter the sound.
It is in the details—the “little things”—that an audio engineer’s creativity can really shine. It’s where a mix becomes a work of art.
My bachelor’s degree in audio production from American University represents all the effort and knowledge that makes my job such a blast. The audio production and audio technology programs at AU also open up unique opportunities to learn in a real-world setting. I was able to intern at WAMU 88.5 and other places prior to graduating, giving me firmer footing as I transitioned into a career.
I’ve also been a member of AU’s chapter of the Audio Engineering Society for about two years. AES has presented me with excellent networking opportunities and served as a window into what’s possible with a degree in audio technology. I have attended master classes and workshops and have listened to professionals speak about the industry. Now, as an alumnus of the Audio Technology Program at AU, I plan on continuing my involvement with AES. It’s an opportunity to support aspiring audio engineers for years to come.
The Audio Technology Program prepared Gaston for his career at NPR. If you are interested in a career as an audio engineer, learn more about the Audio Technology Program at American University.
Whether you love it or hate it, the pervasive presence of music streaming is completely changing the music industry.
Besides giving audio technology professionals something juicy to discuss at the water cooler, online music streaming is the latest industry-shifting phenomenon—not unlike payola in the 1960s, MTV in the 1980s, and Napster at the turn of the 21st century.
Streaming music increased 93 percent in 2015, with 317 billion total streams, according to Variety. The streaming debate, which won’t likely dissipate anytime soon, has several layers:
The Benefits of Music Streaming
To many in the general listening public, music streaming seems like a wonderful no-brainer. “A la cart music, on the go? Whenever I want it? What’s the downside?”
Music streaming—both free and fee-based streaming—gives our constantly on-the-go society opportunities to listen to the music they want in a highly portable, richly customized fashion.
Perhaps most importantly, online music streaming is free in many cases, with the only “catch” being brief ads that listeners must listen to every so often. Some streaming platforms charge a small fee for the ability to bypass those ads.
Does Streaming Devalue Art?
For many artists, audio engineers, and other music professionals, the streaming debate centers on the economics of the music industry.
When megastar Taylor Swift began publicly pointing out the potential drawbacks of music streaming—especially in a July 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal—one of her biggest concerns was that streaming services would devalue the art of music.
“It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is,” Swift wrote. “I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”
Swift actually pulled her music off the popular streaming site Spotify and later refused to allow her album 1989 on Apple Music because of a 3-month free trial for consumers, during which Apple was not going to pay artists royalties. The company eventually relented and agreed to pay.
Streaming is a complex issue, though. Some music industry professionals, such as DJ and producer Armin Van Buuren, trumpet the benefits of streaming—especially for enabling people to listen to the music they love wherever and whenever.
Van Buuren, who has more than 1.4 million followers on Spotify, points out that free streaming doesn’t mean artists don’t get paid. It’s just that their pay comes from advertising rather than more traditional sources.
Others see the streaming model as a worrisome breeding ground for deeper inequity between big names and lesser-known acts.
Streaming Companies Move Toward Paid Subscriptions
As is the case with virtually anything valuable that starts out free, music streaming appears headed toward services available only with paid premiums, such as Apple Music.
Even platforms such as Spotify, which is well-known for its free tier, are developing ways to make more money—and to pacify artists. Spotify reportedly may allow artists to temporarily keep new releases off its free tier.
As music streaming companies evolve and expand, they undoubtedly will experience more victories like the one they struck in December, when the Beatles allowed their catalog—13 albums and 4 compilations—to be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon Prime Music, Tidal, Deezer, Microsoft Groove, Napster/Rhapsody, and Slacker Radio.
Effects of Streaming on the Listening Experience
Streaming presents other hot-button debates for audio technology professionals, who are always considering the quality of what’s entering consumers’ ears. Highly compressed, lossy files that take up less space—great for streaming—take away from the original composition.
Listeners who understand the problem can maximize the quality of their streaming experience by researching the specs of the available streaming services and changing player preferences. Unfortunately, only a fraction of streamers will put in this work or even recognize that they can. Additionally, there’s the challenge of cellular data costs.
Companies already are making progress toward improving the quality of streamed music. For now, sound gurus will go back and forth about what’s more important, music availability, or sound purity.
Options in the Music Industry
When Adele’s latest offering—a wildly emotive collection of rangy love-related songs—was released November 20, people wondered what she was thinking. Her decision to keep the new album off streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and more was a slap in the face to conventional Internet-era wisdom.
Everyone from music industry tycoons to audio technology MA students wondered whether forcing consumers to buy a hard-copy album instead of streaming would work. It did. While critics of all ages and backgrounds complained about the streaming void, 25 destroyed the all-time first-week sales record, and sales have continued to thrive.
To help boost the album, Adele and her label used other digital-age techniques to boost awareness. The music video version of Adele’s fantastically popular song Hello is approaching 1 billion views in YouTube. Also, Adele’s live version of Hello from late-night TV has been viewed by nearly 27 million people on YouTube.
The Future of Music Streaming
No one knows how streaming-related questions about the pay model, sound quality, and more will be answered in the years to come, but that’s part of the fun of the music industry. Constant changes to how, where, and when people listen to the gorgeous music that artists create and audio technology professionals produce are exciting, scary, and everything in between.
For the professors and master’s students in the Audio Technology Program at American University, the art and science of sound represents our careers and our joy—whether it’s heard via free streaming, CDs, or any other medium.
Those interested in advancing a career in the music industry can click to learn how to achieve a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.
Audio technology students put their passion for music and sound to work. They’re in our cutting-edge campus studio recording and engineering new tracks. They’re out in the District community interning for companies like NPR, BBC and SiriusXM.
Ready to advance your sound engineering and production skills? Take the next step by earning your master’s degree in audio technology from American University.
The priority deadline for fall 2016 enrollment is just around the corner. Get started on your application today.
In the audio technology industry, degrees, internships, and key connections are valuable tools. However, one key factor makes it all matter: passion.
With real passion for sound—and a work ethic to match—talented individuals from any background can find success in the world of audio technology.
American University adjunct professor Maurizio Sera, a multi-platinum award-winning audio engineer, is living, breathing, headphone-wearing proof that when passion, work ethic, and opportunity collide, great things can happen.
Maurizio, known as IRKO in the music industry, has helped shape the music of high-profile artists Jay-Z, Kanye West, Diddy, Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, and many more. However, like most audio engineers, his journey wasn’t as glamorous as the list of people he’s worked with. It was dotted with hard work, networking, and a love of music.
“I get paid for my sessions, and that’s fine, but part of my payment is twisting an instrument, knowing that what I heard first in my head will be heard by millions of people,” he said. That passion simmered and grew through a long but rewarding process.
Maurizio was born and raised in Venice, Italy, where he entered college to study computer science. It didn’t take long for him to discover his calling was elsewhere. He dropped out to instead enter a three-year audio engineering program—which he completed in nine months.
Obviously, Maurizio had found his niche.
During his tenure in higher education, he interned with one of his instructors before building a studio in his father’s garage, just outside Venice. He honed his craft in that studio for five years.
Maurizio’s business blossomed and eventually led to a successful partnership with one of his former teachers. And the two of them spent a couple of years creating and equipping the largest studio in northeast Italy.
When he later set off for New York to garner insight on how to take his business to the next level, Maurizio reconnected with an old acquaintance to do some work—including production of a Jay-Z record that ended up going double platinum.
Maurizio’s globe-crossing career took off after that, and eventually so did his desire to help aspiring audio engineers from various backgrounds blaze their own professional trails.
“I was thinking, ‘I have a unique experience that has led me here. Maybe I should start to share it with others,’” Maurizio said.
After being invited to a small community college to teach and share his story, Maurizio has made a point to schedule workshops and classes all over the world. Eventually he plans to expand his workshop series and begin promoting it online.
At American University, Maurizio has been working with the Audio Technology Program to drop real-world knowledge on students. His first class, called “Speakeasy,” was focused on hip-hop mixing. His second class was an inventive model: For three weekends, 10 students worked with a guest producer to take a beat with a sample in it and replace that sample with a different style of music.
Overall, Maurizio wants to help prospective engineers better understand everything from mixing to how royalties work. For students, his central advice is simple yet potent: Take full advantage of the opportunities provided by a program such as the master’s in audio technology at American University. You have the chances to “mess up” and experiment before entering the industry.
“If you don’t know your keyboard well, practice here so you are more efficient when you get out in the real world,” he said. “Then you won’t be going through that phase of ‘practice’ once you leave, because you already messed up all you could in safe environment.”
If you are interested in a career as an audio engineer, click to learn how to achieve a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.
Those who embrace and seek a master’s degree in audio technology at American University join an elite group of sound professionals who don’t just thrive in their industry. They enjoy it.
Anyone willing to invest the time and effort it takes to earn a graduate degree focused on sound design, music production, or computer music undoubtedly finds the coursework fascinating—something everyone in the program has in common from day one. Of course, that’s if you can even really refer to shoulder-to-shoulder learning with nationally recognized audio engineers and faculty—in state-of-the-art facilities—as “coursework.” Somehow that word doesn’t do this justice.
For our students, it’s not simply about working toward future paychecks and accolades. They are passionate about the art and science of high-quality, impactful sound. Thus, they find the intricacies of the history and future of music technology fascinating.
Here are three topics our audio technology MA students are currently discussing:
Compressors and Modern Music
The history of—and science behind—compressors is an integral part of the modern-day music we listen to on a daily basis. Audio technology wouldn’t exist without the important nuances of compression, peak reduction, threshold, input gain, and more.
As most music industry professionals would attest, the difference between a tight, modern album and a forgettable track often rests squarely on the shoulders of the audio technology expert behind the glass.
The precise, subtle sound differences that live within the complex world of compression likely seem mundane to the layperson, but they are the lifeblood of clear, impactful live or recorded music.
Sampling is Here to Stay
There are two unshakeable truths about sampling in modern-day music:
- Music sampling is here to stay.
- Music sampling presents unique challenges.
Some of the most popular, innovative performances of the past 20 years have been rooted in innovative music sampling. It’s partly because it becomes more and more difficult to create a brand-new sound that’s fresh and exciting. It’s also because artists and producers are forever shaped by the sounds they grew up listening to.
We see it in hip hop constantly: from Sean Combs using The Police to memorialize The Notorious B.I.G., to Jay Z forever changing the way we listen to “Hard Knock Life,” to Pit Bull making “Take On Me” sound new again.
While sampling undoubtedly opens up a huge world of artistic possibilities, it’s also a tricky, challenging practice. Lawsuits by artists are common. Many have no interest in seeing their classic songs reinvented or “stolen from.” On the flip side, powerhouse producers such as Mark Ronson have become advocates for responsible, forward-thinking sampling.
It’s a delicate topic in the music industry—one that won’t go away anytime soon.
Foundations of Sound Will Never Change Acoustics
Some aspects of music and sound production have yet to change—and never will. Factors such as acoustics, ambience, and reverberation are affected as new technologies and applications come and go, but the foundational truths about them are unwavering.
It’s the fundamentals of sound that provide common ground between modern-day students with sound boards and high-end headphones and early humans cupping their hands and listening to reverberations through a towering canyon.
A millennium from now, people may be navigating flying cars in roadways 10,000 feet up in the air. Even then, variables such as acoustics and ambience will remain the linchpins of audio production.
To that end, there will always be a need for audio technology professionals who are excited about and well-trained on the nuances of sound.
Is your goal to become a practitioner of the sound engineering that you’re so passionate about? Learn about a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.
Written by Michael Harvey, Instructor in the Department of Performing Arts
The 139th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention was hosted last week in New York City. I had the opportunity to attend with a few of our graduate students. It was a pretty cool experience.
When talking to students about the AES Convention, I often hear the question: What’s it like?
Well, there’s enough gear there to excite or cure your G.A.S., (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). There’s also plenty of timely, obscure, and/or fascinating information to feed your head in all-access pass presentations, and enough after parties to make you feel like a rock star.
For me, AES is all about connection. I had the chance to meet and interact with people from all walks of the professional audio industry. There were vets there to hawk their latest memoir and newbies dreaming of making their magic connection. There were hot producers and engineers at the height of their game, surfing the buzz, and equipment providers out to show why you need to own their latest must-have box, microphone, or plug-in.
Here are a few of the highlights:
- Talking with Peter Reardon, the nattily dressed head of Shadow Hills, whose gear defines G.A.S., but whose story is even more compelling.
- Listening to a presentation on early British Recording studios chaired by Howard Massey, who besides being a model for audio-guy-turned-journalist is a super nice guy.
- Meeting one of my recording hero producer/engineers Tony Visconti, who was sitting on Howard’s panel, and besides having a career that stretches from early Bowie to right now, is actively doing live gigs as a player!
- Having dinner after a long day of conventioneering with graduate students and listening to their takes on the day.
- Taking a subway ride to the Village with some of my undergraduate seniors and listening to and talking about music late into the night, I heard so much new and compelling music!
- Talking to reps from SSL, Waves, Eventide, Slate, Telefunken, and Soundtoys, and getting a glimpse of each company’s differing cultures.
- Connecting with American University alum, Rob Christiansen (audio technology ’93), who is currently working in Public Radio in New York and starting a conversation about a potential student internship path in NYC!
If you take the time to ask, each individual’s path to the AES Convention is an interesting story of his or her dreams, detours, failures, and successes. As an educator whose students are knocking on the doors of the industry, this is an eye opener for me: sometimes what looks like genius from afar is a combination of hard work and strong mentorship.
Walking back from the Village to my hotel south of Broadway, I passed revelers in Halloween costumes, fans in Mets jerseys, and cops on street corners. Breathing in the cool air of a late October evening in Manhattan, I thought back on my own journey in the audio and music world from gigging musician to audio educator.
At 2 a.m. when I should have been dead tired, I was exhilarated—ready to make new connections, explore new software, read a few more books. And stop at that awesome diner on the corner before turning in.
Interested in connecting with mentors and networking at events like the AES Convention? Learn more about the master’s degree in audio technology at American.
About the Author
Mike Harvey is a highly respected music recorder, mixer, and producer with over 25 years of music industry experience. He has taught in the Audio Technology Program at AU since the fall of 2007.
“When I was your age …” is something people have been hearing from their parents since the beginning of time. It’s an especially popular phrase in conversations about music. Just about everyone thinks the singers, groups, and listening devices from their childhood were the best there ever was.
For as long as music fills our speakers, debates will rage. The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones. Turntables vs. MP3 players. The ‘60s vs. the ‘90s. Epic live concerts vs. streaming from anywhere, anytime. Early rock ‘n’ roll vs. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and their “grunge” colleagues.
In reality, it’s the mixture of major differences and foundational similarities between eras that make it such a fun topic for debate. Diversity of music and technology still plays an important role in American culture. Think about TV singing competitions such as The Voice and American Idol, or even the variety of niche satellite channels out there. From electronica and hip hop to country and soul, young people keep pushing forward a wide variety of music genres that speak to their souls.
For those seeking a career in the music or sound industry, it’s particularly interesting. The more that aspiring engineers and producers can do to understand the subtleties within each genre and subgenre, as well between audio technologies throughout the decades, the better they will be able to communicate with artists and end users for years to come.
Sound experts also must navigate the plethora of ways that people now listen to music. It is more complex than ever before—and it can be incredibly frustrating.
Today most people access their favorite music on their phones, via bluetooth through car speakers, through Wi-Fi connectivity, and more. Streaming options include SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora—the list goes on and on.
In 2015, it’s fairly standard to drop $200 on a pair of headphones that are supposed to let you hear “all the music.” But that’s only one part of the equation. If consumers don’t learn about and focus on the medium where their music is stored and reproduced, those expensive headphones won’t live up to their potential.
Audio technology professionals hope users will make a conscious effort to think carefully about how they are consuming the media that artists work so hard to create. For instance, one of our students recently was expressing frustration with modern-day music trends such as highly compressed, lossy files that take up less space—a key factor on mobile devices—but that discard valuable data, quality, and dynamic range from the original composition.
The general public can enhance their listening experience by simply researching the bit rate and file format of each music streaming service they might use. With this information in hand, users can change the player preferences accordingly and listen to the music closer to how it was engineered to be heard.
Then there’s bluetooth technology, which involves a vast list of variables, all of which drastically affect the sound quality coming through those speakers and headphones.
One of our students summed it up very well:
“Simply asking the user to make a conscious effort to recognize how they are consuming their media is a huge step forward.”
Our audio technology graduate students at American University are passionate about music. They’re experts, but they’re also major music enthusiasts, just like everyone else. From the recording studio and the live stage to cell phones and home entertainment systems, they strive to maximize the benefits of their art for all open ears.
Interested in becoming a thought leader and innovator in sound engineering? Learn how a master’s degree in audio technology from American University can help you get there.
When choosing a grad program, people like options. Diversity is expected and flexibility is coveted.
That’s because a degree isn’t just a piece of paper or box checked on a job application. When done properly, a master’s program is a multi-faceted opportunity to explore the areas that interest you most—whatever those might be.
“Whatever those might be” is a major part of the process. No two students seeking a master’s in audio technology at American University have quite the same experience—and that’s good. The MA in audio technology program affords the freedom to customize your degree based on your unique combination of interests, experiences, talents, and passion.
Music Recording and Production
Matt, one of our MA students concentrating in music recording and production, first became interested in audio technology during his teenage years, while “playing in a band and constantly discovering new music,” he said.
Matt has built upon that foundation of passion during college, embracing certain work that he has found particularly helpful—including technical ear training, the fundamentals of digital audio, and advanced recording techniques. His favorite project was a weekend mixing class focusing on hip-hop and electronic music production.
His journey through the MA in audio technology program at American has helped Matt realize what he really wants to do after graduation: to teach undergrad students who are looking for the best way to use put their talents to good use. He’ll also continue working as a freelance engineer.
Mixing and Programming
Martin is another one of our students who found his future within the confines of his band. While recording an album, he was drawn to “the world of possibilities you have when you start mixing a record.”
He earned a marketing degree and studied audio technology in his homeland of Argentina before coming to the US for graduate studies in Washington, DC. He teaches courses at AU while working through his own student course load.
The work means something different to each person. For Martin, learning how to program in C and mix for movies was important. Now he’s working to develop a series of plugins programmed in C++.
After earning his MA degree, Martin looks forward to programming and eventually selling his own apps.
Each Student’s Average Day is Different
There’s no such thing as an “average day in the life” of an audio technology graduate student. That’s because every student has a unique background, personality, set of circumstances, and future.
We’ve got music fanatics. Film buffs. Single students. Those with children. People obsessed with software. Students who want to use their talents to improve the communities around them. Eager entrepreneurs. Budding teachers.
Some of our students are looking to bring their refined audio technology skills back to their home countries. Others view LA or New York as their professional destination.
The people involved widely vary, but the program at their fingerprints is steady and easy to understand. American University’s MA in audio technology program has nationally recognized faculty with lots of experience in the industry. The setting is a big city where the music scene is robust and internship and job opportunities—spots such as NPR, BBC, Discovery Communications and SiriusXM—abound. Further, the on-campus recording studios are state-of-the-art.
We’d tell you the average “day in the life” of an American University MA in audio technology student is fantastic, but we can’t. You see, there is no such thing as an average “day in the life” of an AU student.
Life is diverse—and so are the careers that lie ahead.
Discover Diverse Talents and Goals at American University
If you are interested in determining the best audio technology career for you, learn more about the audio technology program at American University.
The master’s program in audio technology at American University is about art, science, and everyday life. Even the slightest nuances can be the difference between crying and laughing during a movie or between dancing and meditating when a song comes across the radio.
Audio technology isn’t just about art and science, though. The master’s program in audio technology enables talented multidisciplinary thinkers to parlay all of those highly refined skills into dream jobs out in the “real world.”
Talented audio technology professionals are the people who make sound “pop.” The general public might not understand why a movie, theatre production, hit single, or music video is so captivating, but if the sound weren’t spot on, they’d definitely realize something wasn’t quite right. That’s the continual burden that the audio technology industry gladly bears.
A Day in the Life
At American University, the 30-credit master’s in audio technology equips in a way that suits each student’s prospective career. Our students decide whether to concentrate on music recording and production, sound design and post-production, or computer music and music technology.
A specialized master’s in audio technology represents a significant first step toward the career you’ve been fantasizing about for years. We’re talking about those positions that make you wonder how you could ever accept payment for doing something so awesome.
Outcomes for All Types of Artists
Audio technology jobs are wide ranging, to say the least. The music industry calls for sound engineers who record, produce and mix music, but also who can ensure hair-raising live tours and concerts. Sound designers are important for TV, radio, movies and video games. And acousticians apply the principles and finer details of sound across virtually every industry and discipline.
That’s merely the tip of the iceberg. Audio experts build software. They configure equipment such as electronics and microphones. They are consulted when studios and performance venues are constructed.
Audio technologists are vital in executive positions, too. Think about how much better music industry decision-makers can do their jobs if they understand the intricate and subtle nuances of what they’re listening to.
Not unlike Liam Neeson in Taken, audio technology professionals have a unique set of skills. They are honed through courses in critical listening, sound synthesis, music production and mixing, digital instrument design, post-production, and film scoring. These classes are taught by people who don’t just “know” about sound. Our audio technology faculty members have immersed themselves in the industry for years.
Prepare for the Career You’ve Always Wanted
A master’s degree in audio technology provides a deeper level of knowledge that helps professionals stay nimble as technologies and industries evolve. The principles of sound are foundational, even as the world around us changes over and over again.
If you’re interested in the science of audio technology, you can count on like-minded American University faculty to understand. They too are enamored with sound—and they will help you find the best way to pour that passion into real-world purpose.
Click to learn more about how a master’s degree in audio technology from American University impacts various industries.
Written by Paul Oehlers, Audio technology professor
Behind Every Celebrity Lies Technicians and Technology
Beyond Miley and Taylor, the Video Music Awards will provide a new batch of case studies to dissect and analyze. More opportunities to delve into the art and science of audio technology.
I’ll watch the MTV Video Music Awards on August 30—but I’ll be watching a different show than most people. It’s just part of being an audio technician.
I’ve been this way since I was a little kid. My memories of Disneyworld are much different than my sister’s. While she enjoyed the magic of the rides, I was looking under the seat, trying to find the air hose, and leaning over the edge to find the mirror that created the illusion.
I was a magician’s worst nightmare. To me, there is no such thing as magic, just technology I haven’t figured out. I’m not afraid of Oz. I see the man behind the curtain.
When the VMAs appear on television this week, I expect it will be more of the same for me. Most people are content to enjoy the illusion that the music industry creates. They will watch the VMAs and be interested in the “who” and “what” of the evening:
- What did Miley Cyrus say?
- Who performed better “live,” Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez?
- Who looked more like a hipster, Bruno Mars, or Mark Ronson?
- Did Kanye West rush the stage and rage on a fellow musician?
For those of us who are interested in the “How did they do that?” it will be a much different evening. The VMAs will provide a new batch of case studies to dissect and analyze. More opportunities to delve into the art and science of audio technology.
At events like the VMAs, the technology evolves and expands while the talent seems pretty similar from year to year. Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and Selena Gomez aren’t much different than Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Ashlee Simpson a decade ago. This generation’s One Direction is simply New Kids on the Block.
The technology has improved to make the illusion seem more real, but reality remains the same: the songwriters, musicians, and audio and video technicians behind the camera play a huge role in making those celebrities look great in front of the camera. Between these well-trained professionals and rapidly emerging industry tools, many of the “stars” that the media promotes are rather interchangeable. It’s the “machine” that keeps churning out one platinum hit after another.
I’m not saying that there won’t be enjoyable moments during the VMAs. After all, people eat hamburgers because they taste good, not because they are good for them. I’ll just be watching a different show than most people. My satisfaction comes from knowing “how,” not “who.” I appreciate the techniques these audio and video engineers use to create a spectacle worth watching.
Will there be twerking? Probably. But I won’t care. I’ll be too busy figuring out how they used the video screens to turn a virtual Donald Trump into Batman.
Interested in the “how” of the entertainment industry? Click to learn more about the MA in audio technology program at American University.