A Recording / Mixing Engineer is a person who uses microphones, consoles, effects, tape machines and other recording studio devices to record and mix music according to the specifications of a client.  The client may be an Artist, Producer, Record Company or even the Engineer himself. 

A good engineer must be familiar with the sounds associated with any musical style he wishes to work in.  He must have good people skills, as he will often be asked to create a sound that cannot clearly be described (I was once asked to give a bass sound more “wood”…and another client once told me there was too much “green” in the bass). 

A good recording engineer must be able to create an atmosphere conducive to productive musical creativity, and then CAPTURE any sound in the most accurate way.  He must make the musicians comfortable so they can perform well.  He must be able to imagine how the instrument he is recording will fit into the final mix and select appropriate microphones.

A good mixing engineer must create a believable illusion, regardless of if that illusion is of a live band on a stage or an artificial sound-scape.

Before consumer level Digital, to become an Audio Engineer was difficult.  First you had to find a studio that would take you in.  You started by cleaning toilets and making coffee as a free “intern” for 3 - 12 months.  Then you became a “second assistant engineer”, which meant that you were allowed IN the studios, but ran errands for the session more than you touched any gear.  You helped to setup and breakdown sessions and sometimes you did more work during the session, but mostly you made “runs”.

After at least a year of being a “second assistant”, you had observed and participated in enough different sessions with different engineers and producers that you were TRUSTED.  You were trusted to setup the microphones, console and tape machines.  You were trusted to help any engineer work comfortably in the studio even if they had never been there before.  You may even be trusted to operate the tape machine during the session.

After 3 - 12 years as an assistant, you may have built a reputation with certain producers or artists that will give you a chance at engineering.  Or, the studio you have been working at will give you the chance.  In any event, there will be one day when YOU are the one who is responsible for everything sounding good and going smoothly. 

These days, all you need to become an Audio Engineer is a home computer and inexpensive software.  Are you as well trained and prepared to be an Engineer?  Does being able to copy and paste text in “Word” make one a good writer?

Tom Dowd was the first modern Recording Engineer / Producer.