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What Qualifications Are Needed To Be A Sound Designer?

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Requirements for being a good sound designer:


  • You need to be good at designing sound
  • Er...
  • ... that's it.



I know that sounds like I'm taking the Michael a bit, but believe me I'm not. You can have all the qualifications on the Earth and still be a rubbish designer (sound, lighting, set, costume etc.) because you can run the figures through the system, come up with the right answers technically and then put out a system that's totally wrong for the show.


Doing courses is an extremely good idea if you want to be a sound designer but the bit of paper you get at the end of it won't help anything like as much as the training itself will. Do the training, design as much as you can and then get yourself a name as someone who knows what they're doing. Don't expect that putting a qualification on your cv will, in itself, get you work.


Hope that helps.

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This is so right!


People constantly get confused with labels - The 'Designer' bit is the key here. All the qualifications in the world don't help if you don't have the aptitude. There's a real feeling nowadays that natural ability and flair don't matter - and to a large extent, it's now possible to get qualifications without having these innate abilities.


I was brilliant at technical drawing, and totally rubbish at art. No point at all me trying to paint a picture of a house or a tree, but I can produce nice plans of a house or buildings. An artists impression would just about be possible, but it'd be drawn with straight lines, and coloured in.


Same thing with our industry - I can design. I know what it will look like, I can visualise it in my head, and I can select the right tools to do it. Sound is the same, I can produce what clients want. I don't, if I can avoid it, operate that much any more.


I was at a uni a few years ago, and students were given two lanterns to create a design with. One a profile, one a Fresnel. It was amazing what they had done with just two light sources. The sound designers were creating soundscapes - low level scene setting backgrounds for specific purposes. Using a computer workstation and internal software only.


The people with good ears and creative skills do best. It's quite possible for somebody with no qualifications at all to be an excellent designer. Plenty of people who started years ago had to be - there were no relevant qualifications available?


Nowadays, a good portfolio and reputation by word of mouth is best - of course, if you're under 25, a degree will be attached to you. If you don't have a degree, people wonder why not - which is daft, but if you are 40, nobody cares!

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I agree with JSB and Paul and what they say is true not just in sound but in most areas of theatre.


The only thing I would add is on this one point.

If you don't have a degree, people wonder why not - which is daft, but if you are 40, nobody cares!

If I am looking at CVs for an entry level position then the applicants are not likely to have worked for companies or people that I know. If I see that they have committed years of their life to studying, and because I know the courses in my area I know what they will have covered, they are more likely to get an interview.


True that 2 or 3 years in no one will care anymore what or where you studied but hopefully the qualifications will have given you a grounding to start your career.

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Spot on!

Just get out and do it. My advice would be to get work with as many diverse audio companies as possible on as much diverse kit as possible in as many different genres as possible. A qualification proves that the holder can study for a set length of time and can satisfy an examiner that he/she has learned how to pass. Doing the job is the only way to prove that you can actually do it, and be under no illusions that it IS a job.

Get as much hands-on experience as possible, sign up with local-crew companies and PA companies for ANY kind of work. Do voluntary work with your local bands, theatre companies, dance groups, installation companies etc. etc. Don't give up on qualifications, they do show your interest and possibly enthusiasm but if you want to be the best then work with as many of the best as you can. Keep learning, watching how results are achieved and particularly the overall work process, having brilliant concepts is useless if they are physically unachievable, a big problem with some degree holders! Don't be too arrogant to take knowledge from any source, one of the best sound designers I ever came across was actually a welder by trade but had 30 years PA experience with contemporary dancers and rock bands.

B.B. King was once asked why he had agreed to appear at a guitar legends event when he was so obviously the elder statesman of the axemen there. His response? "I came to steal their licks!", showing that even the best never stop learning.

Good luck.

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