Studio Setup Worker
For the aspiring recording engineer, this is where the journey begins. Setting up a recording studio isn’t an especially difficult gig, but it does require someone who is thorough and cares about doing the job right the first time.
When a client books time in a recording studio, the setup worker is handed his or her marching orders for prepping the room; this includes documentation that details necessary amps, microphones, outboard devices, and other equipment to install. Studio time is expensive, so this person works well in advance of the session to pull the gear from inventory and get the room running before eating away at the client’s time. A plot or diagram will illustrate how the studio should be laid out, with positions marked for instruments, microphones, and cabinets. Setups for individual vocalists or musicians are usually simple, requiring only two or three outputs, but recording a five-member band on one stage necessitates a substantial install with a dozen or more signals. Before the client arrives, the studio setup worker must line-check each piece of gear with the assistant recording engineer to ensure continuity and replace any faulty equipment. Simple repairs can be performed on the spot, but complex troubleshooting should be left to the studio technician. While sessions are in progress, the setup worker is either prepping the next room or out of sight tending to other responsibilities; he or she does not hang around the studio to get face time with the musician or producer. However, if called upon to make an adjustment or change out a cable, this person must do so quickly, quietly, and as unobtrusively as possible. When the session is over, the setup worker breaks down the gear and returns everything to inventory storage, cleaned and ready for the next client.
Skills & Education
A college degree in recording arts or music production is highly recommended, though not required. Before you apply for the gig, you must be able to recognize gear and understand its use; this means differentiating an amp from a monitor (which is not a computer screen) and knowing the difference between a capacitor and dynamic microphone and which to place on a high-hat versus a kick drum. Though the studio setup worker will not be involved in preparing the mixing console or Pro Tools machines, it is beneficial to have a working knowledge of these systems. In addition, you should understand signal flow and basic acoustic theory. Some experience troubleshooting electrical devices is helpful, as is the ability to solder and replace instrument components.
What to Expect
This is the standard entry-level position for future work as an assistant recording engineer or studio technician. You are not expected to know everything, but rather to have an immense curiosity and eagerness to learn and observe. Too many rookies get their first job in a studio and grow egos disproportionate to their position on the totem pole; leave the attitude at home and simply concentrate on working hard and forming strong professional relationships. A setup worker who is proactive, punctual, and reliable will earn his or her promotions up the chain. The best way to get noticed is to do your job well. On recording days, you should always be the first one to arrive and last to leave. Assume it is your responsibility to start the coffee brewing in the morning and take out the trash before you clock out.
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