Career spotlight: Studio Engineer/Producer

Commanders of the control room, Studio Engineers help transform musical moments into timeless masterpieces by facilitating the production of music and sound.
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What does a Studio Engineer do?

A studio engineer can take on a number of different roles depending on the size and type of facility they work in. In some cases their roles can be quite niche and specific, in others they can span a range of duties.

A studio engineer's responsibilities generally involve recording and processing audio so that it’s ready for commercial use or release. Their role involves working with musicians in a studio, managing recording sessions and ensuring sound is captured at the desired quality. They can be responsible for mixing the audio so that the recordings can be transformed into a final product, like an album or single.  

Studio workers whose job title incorporates a producer role have a lot of artistic input when they work on a project. At times, they can be sonic designers creating an identity for a piece of music by using different recording techniques to process sound. They also work as collaborators writing and producing the music used by artists in their releases alongside helping them to record parts of the song. A studio engineer could comprise different distinct roles (listed below) or a mixture of responsibilities from each.

Assistant Engineer

This role is centred on keeping the client(s) and main engineers happy. Duties range from making tea and coffee and hosting clients to setting up microphones, fixing and running cables, packing down and generally being on call to ensure a session runs smoothly.

Recording Engineer

Responsible for managing the recording session, recording engineers choose the equipment to be used, decide on microphone type and placement and work with the artist and producer to ensure sound is captured in the correct way, at the correct level, using a digital audio workstation (DAW).

Mix Engineer

A mix engineer processes and balances the recorded or synthesised audio and creates the final balanced mix of a project before it is sent to audio mastering.


Works with the artist(s) and other engineers to record, manage and produce a project and provide artistic direction and creative contribution, where appropriate.

A studio engineer seting up mics in a recording space
“The producer role, everyone’s got a different take on what it means and encompasses. It can be about sound engineering or working with musicians, writing the music, fixing can cover a whole manner of things, essentially to get the idea captured and taken all the way to being out there in some shape or form depending on what it is.”

– Jay Auborn (Musician, Producer and Creative Director of dBs Pro)

The day-to-day

The audio recording industry is a client-driven sector, therefore working patterns can vary greatly depending on the size of the project, the type of project and profile of the client.

Recording sessions often involve 12-hour days starting at 10am but can sometimes start and finish later depending on the client. Sessions require setup and pack down, which is usually done by the assistant engineer who will be on hand throughout the day, ready to help set up the appropriate microphones (alongside other duties) for recording different instruments.

The recording engineer will also be at the studio for the full session, as booked by the artist. To ensure the quality of the recordings is at the standard required by the producer, the recording engineer spends their time operating a digital audio workstation (DAW), choosing the best microphones for each take and deciding what recording equipment to use to achieve the desired sound.

Mix engineers work to a similar timescale, starting at 10am and finishing at around 10pm. Their day will mostly be filled with processing the recorded audio to craft a balanced mix. They often work alone or with input from the producer of the project.

Other roles like that of a producer can be much more varied. In some situations, the producer provides direction and creative input from a consultancy position. At other times they can be involved in the recording, writing and mixing process.


“There are two elements to my work which I’m jumping back and forth from all the time. As a producer, my personal interest comes much more to the forefront in terms of how I imagine things to sound. When I’m undertaking other roles in the studio, where I’m not acting as producer, I’m more transparent and what I do is guided by the artist or their producer. In this situation it's important to make things the way they hear them, not how you want them” – Jay Auborn (Musician, Producer and Creative Director of dBs Pro)

Why become a Studio Engineer/Producer?

Pete Day - (Mix Engineer to 13 UK Top 10 hits including 6 number 1s and tutor at dBs Plymouth)
“I love listening to good records, so if I can be part of making or creating a good record, that is the most rewarding thing for me. If the track is great and the recording has been done properly, I’m there to put the icing on the cake, which I love.”

– Pete Day (Mix Engineer to 13 UK Top 10 hits including 6 number 1s and tutor at dBs Plymouth)

Katie May (Assistant Mix Engineer at Real World Studios and Freelance Mix Engineer)
“By far my favourite part is that you get to be in the room with a band when something magical happens and that is an absolute privilege, especially if it’s a band you really like or if it’s a band you don’t know but they happen to be really good musicians. You get to hear that vocal take that gives you goosebumps. That sort of stuff I find incredible”

– Katie May (Assistant Mix Engineer at Real World Studios and Freelance Mix Engineer)

Where a career as a Studio Engineer can take you

As we have already touched upon, there are numerous roles a studio engineer could undertake. Typically studio engineers begin their life working in a commercial institution as an assistant engineer before progressing to become a recording engineer or mix engineer, and then a producer. Freelancers' work can vary with people taking on some and all of the roles earlier on in their career.

As an engineer or producer’s reputation grows, the opportunity to work for more high profile clients also increases. At the top end of the profession, sought after producers and engineers can find themselves working with the world's A-list recording artists, commanding a high wage for their services, with people choosing to work with them to achieve a specific vibe or sound.

Other considerations

In the modern digital age, it is feasible for bands and artists to produce high-quality, successful recordings using home studio setups. Artists – especially in the electronic music industry – tend to take on all of the roles themselves. That said, the majority of popular music is still recorded in high-end commercial facilities, where you will find distinctive roles and progression in place.

“The first step is figuring out whether you really wanna do this to be honest, because it is a lifestyle commitment. Luckily for me I’ve known from day one that this is what I want to commit myself to. So if you’re not sure that you want to do this, have a long think because there is a lot of time and life investment involved.”
– Katie May (Assistant Mix Engineer at Real World Studios and Free-lance Mix Engineer)

Who is this role suited to?

Studio Engineers/Producers tend to have distinct personalities, interests and skill sets. You may be cut out for this role if…

You are:

A problem solver - Providing creative and practical solutions throughout the production process forms a large part of studio-based recording work. Problem solving can take on many forms from fixing audio issues using software to choosing the right microphone for a desired sound. Studio engineers get great satisfaction finding solutions for their clients.

Attention to detail - Delivering a commercially viable recording requires attention to detail at each stage. From choosing the best recording equipment for the project to carefully balancing audio for a final mix, an eye for nuances is essential.

Creative - Like most roles in the music industry, creativity is key. The creative approaches of studio engineers during the recording process have been responsible for the sonic identity of some of the world’s most important records.

Excellent communicator - The recording process is collaborative. Being able to effectively understand a client’s vision and communicate your ideas in a manner that fosters a positive environment is essential for generating high-quality output in the studio.

You like:

Music - A studio engineer is naturally a music fan at heart with an affection for the artform as a whole, spanning multiple genres.

Working with technology - The tools of the trade come from the ever-changing world of music technology. Working with multiple software suites, machines and devices make up the day to day in this profession.

Learning new skills - Frequent advances in technology require learning new skills on a regular basis. Studio engineers love learning how to use innovative new devices and techniques in their work, as they become available.

You're good at:

Recording and music production - Being proficient in these areas will mean you can deliver the high-quality work expected by customers and build a loyal client base.

Working collaboratively and on your own - Engineers can switch between working in a group during recording and working solo during mixing.

Organisation and time management - Studio bookings often work on an hourly or day rate. You will need good organisational and time management skills to ensure recording sessions are ready to start quickly and projects are completed on time.

Building rapport - Developing positive relationships is extremely important. Building good rapport will help you get the best performances from bands and artists resulting in higher quality output and more repeat business.

How do you become a Studio Engineer/ Producer?

A dominant factor in finding regular work as a studio engineer or a producer is reputation. At the start of your career you will be practising your skills on your own music, for yourself and for other artists on a local level. At first the work will be unpaid, but you will be developing your skills and building your reputation in the industry. As demand grows you will be able start charging for your services.

Many engineers also follow a traditional route starting life as an assistant in a recording studio before progressing onto different roles in the company they are employed by.


Katie May, assistant engineer at Real World Studios, got her break through higher education. While studying she was alerted to an internship opportunity at Real World Studios, which later developed into a full-time role. This scenario is becoming increasingly common with higher education providers, like dBs Institute, using industry contacts to facilitate opportunities for their students that later lead onto full-time employment.

“Put your foot in as many doors as possible, email studios and ask if you can do even a day’s internship, commit to that, commit to learning their names, commit to making some sort of connection so when you do need a job after you graduate they will remember you and consider you for opportunities. That’s how I got a lot of my mix work, through networking with people at the studio.”

– Katie May (Assistant Mix Engineer at Real World Studios and Freelance Mix Engineer)

Your next steps

Tips from the top

“Speak to as many people as you can, email people, try and get studio experience. Even if it’s unpaid go for it because the connections you make there and the things you will learn will be way more valuable than the skills you teach yourself at home”

– Katie May (Assistant Mix Engineer at Real World Studios and Freelance Mix Engineer)

‍Jay Auborn (Musician, Producer and Creative Director of dBs Pro)
“Something that isn’t talked about much in music is how important it is to have a community of people around you...there’s something important and vital about working with people over sustained time and over lots of different projects...I tend to work with lots of the same people all the time and that’s grown and developed over time. 90% of the work I do is with people I have worked with or associated with previously. That’s how I find new pieces of work as well, through the connections I make with people while working on projects with them.”

– Jay Auborn (Musician, Producer and Creative Director of dBs Pro)
Pete Day (Chart-topping mix engineer tutor at dBs Plymouth)
“When I started I was always worried about using techniques and trying to replicate what others had done in their mixes but then there was a moment when I just said to myself I’m going to mix this exactly how I want to mix it and that’s when everything clicked. I was trying to make the mix work for myself and after that point I never looked back.”

– Pete Day (Chart-topping mix engineer tutor at dBs Plymouth)

Building your skills and portfolio

Gaining experience working with as many different people as you can, in as many genres as possible, is the best place to start building your skills and growing your portfolio. If at first you don’t have people to collaborate, record or mix with, create your own music and practice using that. The internet is also a vast resource for finding audio to work on. Remix competitions are also a great place to find source material to practise with.

Ultimately the best way to equip yourself is by working with people and networking in your local community with musicians to get opportunities to build your skills and portfolio. If there are recording studios in your area try and secure as many internships as possible and use the experiences to make connections with people as you learn the craft.

“Mixing comes with experience and we all make mistakes. You need to mix as many genres as you can to gain the experience and find out where you work best as that’s where you’ll ultimately get your work. Practice, practice, practice because that’s how you’ll get really good at it.

– Pete Day (Chart-topping mix engineer and tutor at dBs Plymouth)

Both our FdA Sound and Music Technology and BA (Hons) Music Production and Sound Engineering degrees will enable you to continue building your studio engineering skills while deepening your knowledge of audio technology. You will have access to some of the industry’s most prominent mixing consoles, hardware effects and microphones, and develop your own personal workflow, skills and experience, enabling you to progress into a variety of professional roles.

If you’re looking to further advance your skills, the MA Music Production & Sound Engineering degree is a great opportunity to formalise your techniques and processes across a range of DAWs and studio environments.


If you’re not ready for university-level study, the Access to HE: Music Production diploma, provided by our education partner Access Creative College, is the ideal starting point for anyone looking to build a career as a studio engineer. You will develop mixing, mastering and music production skills while getting hands-on experience using industry-standard equipment.

“Obviously there’s the technical side of the role which involves making sure all of the equipment is setup properly and the session is running smoothly but there is a big social side to it, keeping people happy and making sure the vibe is good in the room”
– Katie May (Assistant Mix Engineer at Real World Studio and Freelance Mix Engineer)
“I started in a big studio in London, and I started as an assistant. Later I became a recording engineer and then mix engineer and then a writer and producer”
– Pete Day (Chart-topping mix engineer and tutor at dBs Plymouth)