By Trent Rentsch
I believe I’ve mentioned here before that my radio career began as an accident of friendship; the fiancé of a friend was the APD of the local station, they were looking for part time help, I was looking for a job… Bam! My radio tenure outlasted their relationship (which, as it turned out, would only mean a handful of months), and despite my God awful lack of skill or talent, I found myself with a job that paid the bills for many years… picking up a bit of ability along the way.
Lord knows I was curious. Before I knew how to thread a reel-to-reel, I was already asking how to make that “weird, swishing effect” (flanging), and I became a Music Director early on, not so much for my skill at picking the up and coming hits as much as the fact that I was the only one in the building who really learned how to use the cart winder and LIKED dubbing new songs (kids… Google it).
I was lucky enough to work with some very talented people and absorbed (if not learned) as much about the business as they would offer. Still, I always seemed to be the serious gearhead in the first stations I worked at, and I found myself learning much through trial and error, as far as production was concerned. To this day, I still feel that I suffer from an incomplete education, and getting the sound “right” requires more tweaking at times than it would, had I begun with a solid background in the basics of sound production. Yes, I’ve picked up a lot, but it was wisdom born of pain… and painful mistakes. Most of the tapes have been destroyed, but the memories continue to haunt…
I imagine this is why I nag about continuing education. It has nothing to do with being the smartest kid in the room, it has nothing to do with “making the grade” in class… we all leave that nonsense when our formal education years come to an end. The reason -- the only reason -- that you should continue to study and learn about audio production and copywriting and voice over is, it just makes being “Real Creative” so much easier! It makes you more efficient and the finished product that much better.
I realize that many people hated every second of school, and would rather take a beating than be “forced to learn again.” It’s a powerful feeling and I get it. I was a horrible student, and while I won’t go so far as to blame my teachers, I will say that the best educators are inspiring and get you excited about learning. My experience was more of a Bataan Death March… stumbling forward from test to test without a compelling reason why it was important, other than achieving the ever elusive “A.” So, yes, I get that “learning is painful,” but…
We’re adults now, we have a job to do… a job we’re passionate about and want to be our best for. And, believe it or not, when you’re learning about your passion, it’s fun, not a curse. One of the most respected magicians of the last 100 years, a man you may have never heard of, Dai Vernon, often chided fellow magicians for not continuously practicing their craft. The “Professor” considered practicing and learning his greatest joy, and couldn’t understand why others who supposedly shared his love for magic didn’t spend hours a day improving their skills as he did. The same goes with Creative Audio… if you have the passion; practice is pleasure, not pain.
There’s even better news… this is YOUR education. You decide what you want to learn, when you want to learn and how you want to learn. To get started, I’d suggest making a list of the skills you are unsure of and begin there. Then, start hunting for your teachers. These days, they’re everywhere; Google it! Let’s say you want to really understand how compression works and how and when to use it… let’s see… I just came up with 33,300,000 results! Let’s narrow that down to vocal compression… we go “way down” to 2,750,000 results… still, hardly “light reading.” And it’s not all reading… the well of video tutorials is bottomless, whether you want to know where French horns land in the frequency spectrum or how to get the “T-Pain effect,” or… anything. We’re talking free continuing education… available anytime.
So how do you know if what you’re learning is “right?” Well, that’s part of the education! You practice what you learn, compare and contrast it to other techniques… you’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, and most importantly, what you want to learn next to continue the learning process.
Over the years I’ve learned that my stumble into Production isn’t rare in the industry, but a lasting, productive career is no accident. It takes passion, hard work, and a desire to keep getting better. Go fill in the blanks! Class is in session… whenever you want it to be!