Associate Sound Designer

  • Associate Sound Designer

The associate sound designer is an assistant and apprentice to the sound designer on theatrical productions and live events. This person aids in the development of all audio elements, as well as collaborating with the stage manager and crew of audio technicians.


Work begins in meetings with the director and other design staff to set forth the style of the production and understand the director’s vision. Based on the script breakdown and audio needs of the show, the associate sound designer will help to determine the technical requirements for the sound amplification and control systems and collect vendor proposals for rental gear. This person will also participate in drawing up design schematics for installing equipment and coordinate with the audio supervisor and technicians for load-in. Based on the script, he or she will be instructed by the designer to gather sound effect tracks from available audio libraries and catalogs, and may participate in recording original audio tracks. In preparation for rehearsals, the associate will be responsible for programming the front of house console as well as the onstage monitor console; this will include loading the designer’s preferences, assigning inputs, and loading tracks into the outboard playback system.

During technical rehearsals, the associate sound designer works closely with the senior designer to establish and save presets for the audio mix of each scene, and takes copious notes on cue fade, balance, and timing. He or she will troubleshoot the audio patch and identify any technical glitches in the sound amplification system as the need arises. When the sound profile and all cues have been locked, the associate will take responsibility for training the front of house engineer in the proper execution of all cues, and set forth the proper operating procedure for performances as approved by the stage manager. Upon opening night, the associate sound designer’s work is complete, as he or she is typically not a member of the show’s regular production crew.

Skills & Education

A thorough understanding of both the technical and artistic concepts of sound design is necessary for this role, so a college degree in theatrical design or live show production is recommended. Formal training should include audio theory and mastery of multiple sound consoles. The associate must be familiar with numerous sound amplification systems, microphones, and outboard systems, as well as having a firm grasp of the principles of electricity. The ability to troubleshoot electronic systems to the component level and perform complex repairs is required. The associate sound designer should have a good ear for producing clean, clear sound and understand the concepts of acoustics.

What to Expect

Employment as an associate sound designer is available on a freelance basis; full-time gigs are available at audio production companies that cater to the theatrical and live event industries. Most often, the associate is a close colleague of the sound designer, with whom he or she has worked on several projects. Therefore, networking and developing professional relationships within your field is the best course of action toward gaining employment. This is a midlevel role, requiring at least five years of professional experience in live show sound. Previous work as an audio supervisor or front of house engineer is excellent preparation for this position, and will allow you to work closely with sound designers who might offer you an associate position. Sound designers and associates are eligible for membership in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union that represents technicians and artists in film, television, and theater. Through this organization, formal training programs or apprenticeships may be available in your local area.


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