The Unsung Heroes Behind Your Favorite Song

It may go without saying that there’s a lot of work that goes into producing a song. It doesn’t just start and end with the singers themselves. There’s the sound technicians and audio engineers, instrumental musicians, assistants, lawyers and more.  But have you ever given some thought to the ones who make the tools? I’m talking about the minds behind making condenser microphones, mixers and soundboards, DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Pro Tools, amplifiers, and MIDI keyboards. We’ve come a long way from record players and vinyls, and Silicon Valley is seeing a surge in new tech companies that aren’t interested in making music, but in making the tools that artists use to make their songs a reality.

Example: The Modern Mixing Console

When I first think of a recording studio, the detail that stands out the most is the massive soundboard. It’s the device that’s used to mix elements of a song together from all kinds of sources and produce a finished song. Through the board, you can control nearly every aspect of a sound, from its EQ to the compression, from panning instruments left or right to adjusting volume and more. It’s hard for a layman to believe that audio engineers can understand what every knob and fader does, as there are often hundreds of them expanding the size of the board.

The modern mixer was invented in the early 1970s for DJs to easily switch from one track to another. It evolved in design to encompass the behemoths you see in recording studios today, allowing artists and audio engineers to put together their visions from scratch to finish. Just imagine, if it hadn’t been for those aspiring DJs of the past, artists today may not have had access to these tools.

Where Can You Learn About Media Technology?

As I said before, Silicon Valley has noticed a small boom in audio engineering development. These companies, such as Dolby, Sonos, and Turtle Beach, aren’t just interested in music, but in the engineering that goes into translating music from instruments to data.  Online news outlet, VOA News, recently published an article about a non-profit called Real Industry. They offer courses and workshops for students interested in the science behind the music industry.

Program director Priya Shekar told VOA News: “Music technology is applications of STEM subjects like electrical engineering and computer science to music and audio applications...That could be everything from designing new music apps, all the way to designing filters and effects that are used in audio production, to designing new instruments.” 

With experience in developing music education apps herself, Shekar is proud to connect hundreds of students with tech professionals in Silicon Valley. The non-profit is just one example that has proven that you don’t need musical talent to become a part of the industry. The products and tools are just as important.