February 28, 2018
Recording studios get bombarded with resumes for internships towards the end of each school year and sprinkled throughout the year. Most engineers who are working in a recording studio now, interned at one, at one point in their life. And there’s a reason they are working in a studio now. They’ve learned a few tricks along the way. There are many things you can do right that can help a session run more smoothly. And a bunch of things you can do wrong that can make for awkward moments and uncomfortable situations. We’ll focus on a few things that you can do right.
- First impressions. Even before you get an internship, the first impressions matter. And us producers and studio owners take notice. Make sure you are the one reaching out. No studio owner or producer wants to hear from the parent of a prospective intern. Be sure your cover letter is coherent. This isn’t a text to your best friend with emojis and LOLcatz. Be professional. Check out the studio’s website and instagram. Observe the clients they are working with. Mention some of the clients you like. The person reading these cover letters can tell a prospective intern who is familiar with the studio or someone who is simply writing to 20 studios and hoping one responds. Form letters are embarrassing. Don’t even bother. Also make sure you are actually recording something all the time. Engineers always hate hearing the excuse, “I just don’t have enough gear.” – Cry me a river. I’d rather see an engineer recording to their iPhone with the voice memos or to a radio shack tape recorder they picked up at the thrift store than one not recording anything. It shows initiative.
- Show up on-time. On-time means early. However, just 5-10 minutes or so. Usually the engineer or producer is catching up on studio day-to-day (phone calls or emails), general housekeeping or just having zen time before a client arrives. So their time before the session starts is critical. That said, being on-time is late. And showing up late means you should think about a new career.
- Be preemptive. If you are asked to break down a session at the end every day, start breaking down the session just as it ends before even being asked. Be meticulous and observant. If the engineer or producer breaks down a certain way, do it that way. The same order, the same process. Make sure to wrap the cables the same way the studio does and put them back where they belong. If you find a cable with out a cable tie, find one and put it on. Engineers cringe at the sight a of a tie-less cable. It’s like going to school naked.
- Learn the gear. Before you step foot in for your first day, look over their gear list. Learn the gear. Read up mics, preamps and compressors they have that you aren’t familiar with. You never know when you’ll be tasked to do something with them. Learn the DAWs they use. Don’t just know Logic. Learn ProTools, Reaper and Ableton.
- Know when to ask a question. Never ask a question when a client is in the same room. For that matter never correct an engineer or producer while a client is in ear shot. There is a heirarchy and it needs to be observed. Remember the client hired the engineer, not the intern and it’s the producers job to keep the musicians comfortable. An intern speaking out of turn will completely derail a good vibe. There will be a time and a place to talk. Also, be sure to know when the talkback mic is live and be careful what you say when that mic is open! Musicians in the live room with the talkback mic live can hear everything in the control room. EVERYTHING!
- Be an asset. Always be doing something. Clean cables with babywipes. Grab empty water bottles and put them in recycling bins. Take out the trash. Sort the mail. Clean up the various rooms. Set up for the session that night or the day after. Tune snare drums. If you don’t know how, you should learn. There are many tutorials on YouTube. An intern who can tune a guitar or drum is an asset. It’s one less thing the engineer has to do. Make yourself indispensable.
- Turn your phone off. You are interning to learn the ways of a studio. Not to catch up on twitter or snapchat. If you are expecting an important call, let the engineer know ahead of time and excuse yourself quietly when the call comes in.
- Learn to solder. An engineer who can fix gear is an engineer who will be needed. Anyone can learn to set up mics and wrap cables. But an engineer who can fix them, is a real engineer.
The goal at the end of the day is to keep yourself busy enough that you are not tasked to clean the toilets. That’s not to say taking out the trash, doing the dishes and cleaning toilets isn’t good work!