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The Assistant Engineer
Old 23rd February 2007
  #1
Gear nut
 

Thread Starter
The Assistant Engineer

Regarding the role of Assistant Engineer, you mentioned in a previous thread;

"A good one is invaluable, a bad one a royal pain."

What qualities/technical abilities/foresights do you feel make an assistant worth
their salt?

In other words, being an AE at a busy studio myself, I would appreciate any
wisdom you would care to impart on how to keep on top of things and do my
part to the most professional standard!

Thanks so much!
Old 27th February 2007
  #2
Gear interested
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by VivaLaVinyl View Post
Regarding the role of Assistant Engineer, you mentioned in a previous thread;

"A good one is invaluable, a bad one a royal pain."

What qualities/technical abilities/foresights do you feel make an assistant worth
their salt?
Hi Viva,

I'd love to put my 2cents in on this thread topic. I had the great pleasure of assisting Kevin on many sessions during the late '80s and early '90s. Those records were certainly highlights of my assisting career.

I don't wish to speak for Kevin, but I can tell you how I approached my work. It's important to be proactive...contact the 1st engineer prior to the session (don't wait for him to call the studio to ask who his/her assistant is), find out the details of the session...tracking, overdubs, mixing, etc.

Then prior to the engineer's arrival, set the ENTIRE session up. Machine alignments (showing my age), all patches and track assignments, setup and roughly position all microphones, headsets, do rough headphone mixes if possible, and label everything. About that time the engineer should walk in the door. All he or she should need to do is push up the fader. (if you're really worth your salt you can even get the mic pre gain pretty close!!)

A good assistant does his best to make the engineer look good to the producer and artist. Remember, in many cases the engineer is not all that familiar with your room so he will be at your mercy to make stuff work. You're job is NOT to verbally critique the work of ANYONE on the session. A good assistant keeps his mouth shut unless specifically asked for their opinion. (e.g., where do drums sound best in the studio?)

A good assistant admits when he's made a mistake and then works to fix it. Oh, and don't look or act like the world is coming to an end when something does go wrong...it doesn't instill confidence in the producer, engineer, or artist. Work to solve the problem quickly and with a minimum of antics.

The assistant's job is to function as a liaison between the studio and clients...to help the client get the best out of the studio and its equipment. I felt it was important to not come off as a know-it-all. I had two measures of success as an assistant...1) if the session was so well setup the engineer turned to me and said, "Why am I here?" and 2) if the band came in from recording a song and said, "Dude, it sounds better in the headphones than in the control room!" (although this was next to impossible with Kevin engineering!!!)

I confess to getting lazy at times with Kevin because he is such a hands-on engineer (ping pong anyone???) During mixing especially, Kevin is so self-contained that the job became more about fixing small problems than anything else...there really wasn't much to do.

I was also spoiled working with Kevin because I had so much fun. The Commitments soundtrack and film mix is still my personal benchmark for how much fun a person can have while on the job!

I have many, many other thoughts on the subject, but I'll save those for another time!

Eric Rudd
Assistant Engineer, Ocean Way Recording 1987-1994
Old 28th February 2007
  #3
engineer / producer / mixer
 
Kevin Killen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by VivaLaVinyl View Post
Regarding the role of Assistant Engineer, you mentioned in a previous thread;

"A good one is invaluable, a bad one a royal pain."

What qualities/technical abilities/foresights do you feel make an assistant worth
their salt?

In other words, being an AE at a busy studio myself, I would appreciate any
wisdom you would care to impart on how to keep on top of things and do my
part to the most professional standard!

Thanks so much!
VivaLa Vinyl,

To me an an assistant should exhibit the following qualities.

Be curious, be respectful, be early. Ask questions of your clients, take notes, don't act like you know it all already. Anticipate the needs of the session early and often. Be on top of everything. Make us engineers look good. Ask questions at the appropriate time. Don't blow up the engineers gear. Know how to cater to the clients needs. Don't be annoying. Be yourself.

Thats a lot but hopefully some of it makes sense.

Kevin
Old 1st March 2007
  #4
Gear nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Killen View Post
... Don't blow up the engineers gear...
I love this one! Sounds like you've had some experiences similar to mine lately!!!

Old 1st March 2007
  #5
Gear nut
 

Thread Starter
Thanks so much!
Old 4th March 2007
  #6
engineer / producer / mixer
 
Kevin Killen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericrudd View Post
Hi Viva,

I'd love to put my 2cents in on this thread topic. I had the great pleasure of assisting Kevin on many sessions during the late '80s and early '90s. Those records were certainly highlights of my assisting career.

I don't wish to speak for Kevin, but I can tell you how I approached my work. It's important to be proactive...contact the 1st engineer prior to the session (don't wait for him to call the studio to ask who his/her assistant is), find out the details of the session...tracking, overdubs, mixing, etc.

Then prior to the engineer's arrival, set the ENTIRE session up. Machine alignments (showing my age), all patches and track assignments, setup and roughly position all microphones, headsets, do rough headphone mixes if possible, and label everything. About that time the engineer should walk in the door. All he or she should need to do is push up the fader. (if you're really worth your salt you can even get the mic pre gain pretty close!!)

A good assistant does his best to make the engineer look good to the producer and artist. Remember, in many cases the engineer is not all that familiar with your room so he will be at your mercy to make stuff work. You're job is NOT to verbally critique the work of ANYONE on the session. A good assistant keeps his mouth shut unless specifically asked for their opinion. (e.g., where do drums sound best in the studio?)

A good assistant admits when he's made a mistake and then works to fix it. Oh, and don't look or act like the world is coming to an end when something does go wrong...it doesn't instill confidence in the producer, engineer, or artist. Work to solve the problem quickly and with a minimum of antics.

The assistant's job is to function as a liaison between the studio and clients...to help the client get the best out of the studio and its equipment. I felt it was important to not come off as a know-it-all. I had two measures of success as an assistant...1) if the session was so well setup the engineer turned to me and said, "Why am I here?" and 2) if the band came in from recording a song and said, "Dude, it sounds better in the headphones than in the control room!" (although this was next to impossible with Kevin engineering!!!)

I confess to getting lazy at times with Kevin because he is such a hands-on engineer (ping pong anyone???) During mixing especially, Kevin is so self-contained that the job became more about fixing small problems than anything else...there really wasn't much to do.

I was also spoiled working with Kevin because I had so much fun. The Commitments soundtrack and film mix is still my personal benchmark for how much fun a person can have while on the job!

I have many, many other thoughts on the subject, but I'll save those for another time!

Eric Rudd
Assistant Engineer, Ocean Way Recording 1987-1994

Eric,

Thanks for all the kind words. Your monsterous cheque is in the mail... hahaha

For those who are assistants, Eric has hit it right on the head. You are the sole representative of the studio and you professionalism and demeanor will directly affect whether the client stays or returns to your studio. And yes, we engineers do take that into consideration when we book a session, the more angst, the less likely we are to return. Also producers and engineers often hire asssistants to take over the role of engineer if they own carreers allow for that !!!! So if you want to be remembered for the right reasons and have a wonderful learning experince, reread Eric's comments 20 times.

One thing about working at a studio like Ocean Way was that all of assistants were excellent recordists themselves. I felt confident leaving the control and allowing Eric run the console , doing punch ins, alligning the machines. They were all very knowledgable and had great personalities. Because I was an assistant myself I always tried to treat my team as an equal, never an underling. Most of those assistants have gone on to have very successful careers as independents.

Lastly, we did play a lot of ping pong, a great stress reliever on top of all the laughing.




KK
Old 5th March 2007
  #7
Gear addict
 
Eide's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Killen View Post

Lastly, we did play a lot of ping pong, a great stress reliever on top of all the laughing.



KK


Who won??
Old 5th March 2007
  #8
engineer / producer / mixer
 
Kevin Killen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eide View Post
Who won??

I did........
Old 6th March 2007
  #9
Gear interested
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Killen View Post
I did........
Yep, he did.

Other engineers who are great ping pong players....

Allen Sides
George Massenburg

If I remember, Clark Germain is a pretty good player too!!!

Eric
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