I have been fortunate enough in my career to be able to impart everything that I have learned thus far (you never stop learning) onto the next generation of sound designers and sound effects editors. I have found that, in teaching sound and teaching how to create sound for TV and Film, that you kind of transcend to another level in your understanding of how to create sound for the visual image. However, by no means is it simple. I’d be lying if I told you that it is. A lot of energy goes into planning and executing a successful audio class. But have no fear! It can be done. Here are three main ideas to keep in mind when you’re about to embark on your academic pursuits:

Remember the Basics

No matter the audio class, students need to be reminded about what exactly sound is, ie. the basics. Its the old adage, “To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve come from.” That is true for audio as it is most things. I can’t tell you how many young editors I have worked with that don’t understand the correlation between pitch and frequency or what an ADSR envelope is. (For those of you who don’t know those things, frequency determines pitch. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch and vice versa for low frequencies. And an ADSR envelope describes how a sound changes over time, in relation to volume and consists of an attack, decay, sustain and release of the sound) Those basic principals are the foundation for some of the most common sound designing I do on a daily basis. So with that being said, start with the basics and reaffirm them at every level of their sound education.

Sound is Hands-on

As intangible as sound is, I always believe that sound and any audio class should not just be taught by just blankly staring at a power-point presentation. That’s not how you learn in the professional world and it is certainly not how you learn sound in the academic world. Yes, traditional lecturing is necessary to divulge all the information and to explain concepts, but those concepts and information need to be accompanied by activities or assignments that compliment the in-class lecture. I tend to really lean on the editing software that the class is using to:

  1. Demonstrate the techniques or concepts discussed in class in small assignments, so students will learn from self discovery.

  2. Most importantly, it gives them exposure to the actual editing software.

Like I said, sound is hands-on. The earlier in a student’s education that we can expose them to actual editing and editing software - particularly Pro Tools - the better we can lay the foundation for their professional future.

Compassion & Patience

We, as sound editors are often alone in a room for 8-10 hours a day and we often forget that there are many other personalities and skill-levels in this world other than our own. We constantly adhere to strict deadlines and are on a continual basis striving to raise the bar of our work. To that end, the academic world is an entirely different beast. We cannot put our idiosyncratic ways on that of our students. Yes, we should hold them to deadlines and whatnot. They will learn from those hard lines. However, not one student is the same and as educators that’s something we have to keep in mind and not take personal. There will be times when those lines need to be a little bit softer. Compassion with a side of patience is the key.

I commend everyone in any subject of academia. What you do is important. When you think about it, you’re molding young minds; shaping the future. As a sound designer, imparting that knowledge on someone else, someone who is as hungry as you were just starting out in your career, there’s nothing more paramount than that. You’re shaping the future of sound.

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