Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Striking the Right Notes to a Successful Career in Music Production and Engineering

Music Production and Engineering (MP & E) is one of the fastest growing fields today with application in almost all aspects of society. Films and theatre, pivotal Indian institutions, demand music specialists for almost every step of production; and practically every Indian firm has acoustic needs - to establish a brand theme tune, for advertisements, as back ground music for corporate events, to play in foyers, etc. - fulfilled only by those knowledgeable in the field of music.

What does it mean to be a music production engineer?

We all know what it means to be an engineer: have an aptitude for science, a strong hold on mathematics, be on top of technology trends, and you're already on your way! But now a days, engineering is becoming merely an undergraduate stamp to put on your résumé, a stepping stone to a further and higher ambition.

Using engineering principles and applying the "engineer's mind," MP&E is that field which combines science and creativity. People involved in MP&E use aesthetics, creativity, and technical knowledge to create a musical production. In short, music production engineers are those involved in every step leading up to the creation of a musical recording. MP&E is cross-disciplinary, using engineering and production techniques to adapt to the music industry's rapidly changing technology and evolving trends.

So is it for me?

Can you pick out harmonies and instruments while hearing a musical track? Can you imagine how various instruments come together to create music? Do you just plain love music and have a knack for science at the same time? Then MP&E may be your thing! However, do beware of a common misconception: just loving to listen to musicis different from 'knowing' music. Most colleges abroad recommend at least two years of intense study of music, including a sound theoretical background, before you join a course in music production. Classical music (Western, Carnatic or Hindustani) tends to have a strong focus on the formation and composition of music, a prerequisite in the composition of sound, so being a student of one of these forms of music is a must.

How can I prepare myself to be in MP & E?

However, there's more to this field then just being a virtuoso instrumentalist or vocalist! As a high-schooler, there are many things you can do to prepare yourself for a career in the music industry. Intern at local recording studios in your area if you are interested in seeing real technology at work. Try to get involved in bands and ensemble playing to experience the fundamentals of team work in a musical setting. Try recording and tracking music using the freeware from trusted publishers such as Sony and Audacity that is available online. It's all about showing initiative, as no class can teach you more than you can learn by trial and error. Did you know that YouTube is one of the biggest platforms of amateur musicians around the world? Embrace the musical side of social networking!

Where can I study MP&E?

MP&E has tremendous scope abroad as well as in India. However, the educational facilities and programmes offered vary greatly due to the demand for courses. One thing is for sure: there's never a lack of options!

Studying MP&E in India

Undergraduate degrees: In India, due to there being few colleges specialising in music, one option would be to do a B.Tech in acoustical /sound engineering, with a dual-major in management studies. The Indian colleges which offer such undergraduate degrees include several large institutes -IIT, NIT, and BITS Pilani. The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune also offers courses in sound engineering. With this training, you can either directly jump into your career with internships or continue your education with an M.Tech in Acoustical Engineering or an MBA.

Diploma courses: Once you complete your B.Tech, you would be well advised to augment your knowledge and education by taking diploma or certificate courses in specific areas in order to jumpstart your career. Several specialised small colleges such as the Sound Engineering Academy (SEA), Kerala, the Audiophile Institute of Sound Engineering, Kerala, the Muzik Lounge School of Audio Technology, Chennai, and the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) institute, Mumbai, offer diploma and certificate programmes specialising in studio work. This is supplementary to your undergraduate degree. You can choose to take courses in a variety of areas, including:

• Diploma in Sound Engineering and Sound Recording: This is generally a one year (two semester) course, taken full time.

• Certificate in Sound Recording: 6 month course

• Certificate in Live Sound: 3 month course

• Certificate in Pro-recording: 2 months

Studying MP&E abroad

Undergraduate degrees: Abroad, MP&E is often offered as a separate four or five year course at the undergraduate level. A prerequisite is to have formal education in physics and mathematics. Scholarships are often awarded to those who show proficiency either in vocalability or instrumentals, and also demonstrate a clear interest in, and knack for, music. The great thing about MP&E and acoustical engineering is that it's a viable option in several reputed universities. Indiana University, Texas State University, and John Hopkins University, for example, offer very interesting undergraduate programmes in MP&E.

Diploma courses: There are also small private schools in the US that offer diploma and certificate courses in MP&E that can be taken in a short period of time, after your undergraduate degree, similar to those diplomas available in India. Here are a few specialised colleges for music production and engineering:

• SAE Institute: The SAE Institute is one of the largest audio engineering colleges in the world, with campuses in 23 countries (including India - in Mumbai, as mentioned earlier). The full-time programme spans nine months, while the part-time takes twice as long. Scholarships are available as well.

• Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences: Located in Tempe, Arizona (USA) this college has only 12 students per class, enhancing the overall learning experience. The programme lasts for 42 weeks and scholarships are available as well.

• McNally Smith College of Music: Looking for a college with a lot of options, reputed staff, and a larger student body? This Minnesota, USA based college may be the right fit.

• Institute of Production and Recording: Yet another Minnesota college, this institute provides rigorous course work and classes to efficiently train you for immediate job placement after earning a bachelors' degree in audio engineering.

Do keep in mind that MP&E is one of those majors with hands-on practical training. It requires constant interaction with musicians, producers, and engineers.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Examples of Bad Writing That Got Published Anyway

Thus, it would seem reasonable that shortening of 10 cm at skeletal maturity or predicted shortening of this amount when the child reaches adulthood would be sufficient to consider Syme amputation.

That was published. What does it mean? Well, you have to stop and think about it, don't you? Break it up into phrases. Shift some things around in your mind. Presumably your mind will reach a conclusion similar to:

A Syme amputation should be considered for a shortening or predicted shortening of 10 cm at skeletal maturity.
I don't think the reader should have to work that hard.

Here's another.

If the organism demonstrates to be a staph on the gram stain, one may consider drilling the femoral neck for prophylactic decompression as this may be secondary to a metaphyseal osteomyelitis.
That's nice. Say it three times fast. Basically, it's a little if... then statement. Very useful to the medical profession. If you see this symptom, then you do that procedure. Why make that so hard to figure out?

If the gram stain shows staphylococci, consider drilling the femoral neck to drain the metaphyseal abscess.
That's better.

Nathaniel Hawthorne never did any scientific writing that I know about, but do you know what he did write? "Easy reading is damn hard writing."

I like that better than I do his novels and short stories. Here's something Hawthorne didn't write:

It has been suggested that the utilization of surgical intervention be deferred until attenuation of the infectious symptomatology.

It has been suggested that... ? I call those "weasel words." Delete them. Always. Also, teach your word processor how to replace "utilize" with "use." But you know what? In this case, we can do even better than that.

LaRocca recommends that surgery be delayed if the patient has an infection.
That's better. Or if you'd rather not dump the responsibility on your good buddy LaRocca because the patient died, try:

Surgery should be delayed if the patient has an infection.
That'll work.

George Orwell noted that good writing is like a window pane. Here's an author who needs a big ol' shot of Windex:

It is common for the need to voluntarily evacuate the pouch to occur on one occasion nightly; more frequent defecation interfering with the patient's sleep has not been encountered in our continent patients.
Thirty-three words. That's bad.

Patients who are continent need only empty their stomach pouches once each night.
Thirteen words. That's good.

I refer to long-winded passive-voice writing that leaves readers wondering "What does that mean?" as speed bumps. You're cruising along at a nice steady pace, reading something, and BAM you've got to stop or slow down. Double back. Sort out the meaning that the author hid because of laziness, incompetence, or unclear thinking.

In writing, speed bumps are bad. Will the reader start reading again, or will he put down your article and go do something else?

Does this author even care? Is he even trying? Make an Acquisitions Editor wonder that enough times and you won't have a reader, because you won't get published at all.

It kinda nags at me that these were actually published, by the way. We've got a bad case of don't-care-itis to treat. Here's another symptom:

The study confirmed the hypothesis that clinical instructors of undergraduate medical students would choose instructional techniques limiting active student involvement in patient care activities when faced with problematical situations.
When I gave this lecture to undergraduate medical students in Thailand, they should've all known what that sentence meant because they were experiencing it. But I didn't always give them time to "translate" the bad English into good English before I blurted out the answer.

Medical teachers of undergraduates tend not to let students look after difficult patients.
Yeah, my examples lean heavily toward medicine, because I lectured for so long at Chiang Mai University's teaching hospital. But my examples and my message apply to all scientific writing.

Remember when I said you should read your writing aloud? One good reason for that is, if you do, you'll automatically simplify the sentences as you go. That's good.

For the other reason, I'm going to detour briefly into fiction.

"I'm coming," he ejaculated.
There's no way you could read that aloud without bursting into laughter. Then you'd delete it from your manuscript and make the world a better place.

Finally, let's detour briefly to the US government. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires that government documents are written in "plain language" which is defined as "writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience."

So what I'm teaching you here isn't just a good idea. It's the law.

 From the Department of Health and Human Services:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a half hour or more of moderate physical activity on most days, preferably every day. The activity can include brisk walking, calisthenics, home care, gardening, moderate sports exercise, and dancing.
That was changed to:

Do at least 30 minutes of exercise, like brisk walking, most days of the week.
A few examples were sacrificed, but the meaning is the same and it's certainly easier to understand.

After notification of NMFS, this final rule requires all CA/OR DGN vessel operators to have attended one Skipper Education Workshop after all workshops have been convened by NMFS in September.
That's nice. I wonder what it means.

Vessel operators must attend a skipper education workshop before commencing fishing.
Okay. Thanks.