Sound artists use sound as a primary creative medium. They express, through the creation of sounds, their intention, and identity. Sound art is interdisciplinary in nature and takes on hybrid forms.
Sound artists typically do the following duties:
In all sectors:
- create, update, maintain and add to sample and sound libraries
- develop the sound concept for a project and a sound map or storyboard from a script or project description
- use digital sound processing (DSP) to manipulate and synthesise sound and music
- enhance or distort sounds using samplers, synthesisers and audio plug-ins
- mix sounds using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
- work alongside other professionals including sound technicians and engineers, directors, composers, musicians, actors and producers.
- create abstract sounds that evoke feelings or emotions as well as sounds that suggest place, time, mood and atmosphere
- decide when, at what volume level, for how long and from where the sounds are heard
- source and edit music, including using microphones (either in the form of headsets or mics positioned around the stage) to amplify performers’ voices
- design a sound system that encompasses a three-dimensional space, which involves the audience as well as the performers
- reinforce and amplify individual vocals, to ensure they can be heard but still belong to the performer, rather than coming from a loudspeaker elsewhere
- liaise with the director and performers, as well as the other technicians involved in the show.
In games, film and television:
- use various different sound implementation systems such as Wwise, FMOD, Unity and Unreal
- use in-game implementation systems
- use systems that could include UE4 Blueprints, Max MSP or other visual logic systems
- compose and engineer music
- assist in post-production by improving sound quality or adding sound over video
- record, layer and produce sounds and sound effects for a desired impact
- spot, arrange and edit audio into video or other delivery mechanisms.
The following job titles also refer to sound artist:
sound installation creator
sound designer & artist
live sound artist
sound designer and artist
sound artist & designer
sound artist and designer
Although it’s not necessary to have any formal educational qualifications to enter this career, a strong background in audio engineering, music mixing, music technology, and sound design is beneficial.
As competition to become a sound artist is getting higher, it’s becoming increasingly common for new entrants to have high school diplomas or degrees in subjects including:
- music – including digital music, music production and music technology
- sound/audio engineering
- live sound technology
- sound for film, TV and games
- sound design
- sound for the moving image.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Sound artist is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Sound artist career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to sound artist.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of sound artist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of sound artist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of sound artist.
- Labour legislation: Legislation, on a national or international level, that governs labour conditions in various fields between labour parties such as the government, employees, employers, and trade unions.
- Acoustics: The study of sound, its reflection, amplification and absorption in a space.
- Intellectual property law: The regulations governing the rights protecting products of the intellect from unlawful infringement.
- Art history: The history of art and artists, the artistic trends throughout centuries and their contemporary evolutions.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of sound artist.
- Operate the sound in the rehearsal studio: Create cues for any sound technicians and verify their understanding of them. If no sound crew are available, use others’ cues to operate the sound system.
- Set up a multi-track recording: Make the necessary preparations to record music or other sounds on several tracks.
- Mix multi-track recordings: Mix recorded sound from several sources using a mix panel, and edit it to obtain the desired mix.
- Perform technical sound check: Prepare and run a technical sound check before rehearsals or live shows. Check instrument setup and ensure the correct functioning of the audio equipment. Anticipate possible technical problems during a live show.
- Manage electronic logistics for sound equipment: Manage electronic logistics of sound equipment used for broadcasting, mixing, and taping.
- Manage sound quality: Perform sound checks. Set up audio equipment for optimal sound output before as well as during performance. Regulate the volume during broadcasts by controlling the audio equipment
- Program sound cues: Program sound cues and rehearse sound states before or during rehearsals.
- Mix sound in a live situation: Mix audio signals from multiple sound sources during rehearsals or in a live situation.
- Confer on artwork: Introduce and discuss the nature and content of art work, achieved or to be produced with an audience, art directors, catalogue editors, journalists, and other parties of interest.
- Contextualise artistic work: Identify influences and situate your work within a specific trend which may be of an artistic, aesthetic, or philosophical natures. Analyse the evolution of artistic trends, consult experts in the field, attend events, etc.
- Coordinate activities in audio recording studio: Monitor the daily operations in a audio recording studio. Make sure that persons involved in recording studio activities can produce the desired quality of sound according to customer specifications. Ensure the material is maintained and available.
- Use audio reproduction software: Operate software and equipment that transform and reproduce digital, analog sounds and sound waves into the desired perceivable audio to be streamed.
- Edit recorded sound: Edit audio footage using a variety of software, tools, and techniques such as crossfading, speed effects, and removing unwanted noises.
- Record music: Record a sound or musical performance in a studio or live environment. Use the appropriate equipment and your professional judgment to capture the sounds with optimal fidelity.
- Gather reference materials for artwork: Gather samples of the materials you expect to use in the creation process, especially if the desired piece of art necessitates the intervention of qualified workers or specific production processes.
- Operate sound live: Operate sound system and audio devices during rehearsals or in a live situation.
- Set up basic recording: Set up a basic stereo audio recording system.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sound artist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Assess conservation needs: Assess and list the needs for conservation/restoration, in relation to current use and planned future use.
- Plan art educational activities: Plan and implement artistic facilities, performance, venues and museum-related educational activities and events.
- Develop educational resources: Create and develop educational resources for visitors, school groups, families and special interest groups.
- Confer with event staff: Communicate with staff members at a chosen event site to coordinate details.
- Develop artistic project budgets: Develop artistic project budgets for approval, estimating deadlines and material costs.
- Develop educational activities: Develop speeches, activities, and workshops to foster access and comprehension to the artistic creation processes. It can address a particular cultural and artistic event, such as a show or an exhibition, or be related to a specific discipline (theatre, dance, drawing, music, photography, etc.). Liaise with storytellers, craftspeople, and artists.
- Record multi-track sound: Recording and mixing audio signals from different sound sources on a multi-track recorder.
- Keep personal administration: File and organise personal administration documents comprehensively.
- Propose improvements to artistic production: Assess past artistic activities with a view to improving future projects.
- Present exhibition: Present an exhibition and give educational lectures in a comprehensible way that is attractive to the public.
- Participate in music studio recordings: Take part in recording sessions in music studios.
- Participate in artistic mediation activities: Participate in cultural and artistic mediation activities: announce the activity, give a presentation or talk related to a piece of art or an exhibition, teach a class or a group, lead artistic mediation activities, lead or participate in a public discussion.
ISCO group and title
3521 – Broadcasting and audiovisual technicians
- Sound artist – ESCO
- Sound designer job profile | Prospects.ac.uk
- Featured image: Photo by Techivation on Unsplash