How To Get That Recording Studio Internship

With the number of “Recording Arts” schools ever increasing, and the number of students looking for employment also growing, internship opportunities are becoming more and more difficult to land. Read on as we explore a few key points every studio owner will look for in their interns, so that you can have the best chance of getting the opportunity!

Common Sense

Ok, you’ve sent your résumé to a number of studios, have heard back from a few, and are now on your way to your first interview. Congratulations! But keep your head on straight! You might be nervous, but keep focused.  Most of all, be humble. Remember, you are the one being interviewed, not vice-versa. Mind where you step, where you sit, and where you put that can of Red Bull you are drinking to help compensate for your long hours of study last night. Know the names of the studio owner and any engineers you are meeting with.

Always remember that, as much as you love gear and flashing lights and turning knobs, this isn’t your stuff: so don’t touch it. Better yet, imagine how you would like your gear treated if you spent tens or hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars. I don’t think you’d want some ‘kid’ coming in your studio, who probably doesn’t know the difference between balanced and unbalanced cabling, to be touching your stuff. Yes, that’s probably how you will be viewed. Yes, you should get over it. If you really know your stuff, you won’t have to prove it in any way other than being yourself.

Always be polite, never interrupt someone else, and be completely honest when speaking about your experience. Don’t go lying about the immense amount of experience you have if you can’t back it up in the way you speak, your manner in the studio, and your comfort level while working. The worst thing you can do is talk yourself up, and then not have the ability to prove it when push comes to shove.

So far, this shouldn’t be anything new. It’s mainly called being respectful and honest. If you haven’t learned that by now, good luck getting any job anywhere… but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve been disrespected or lied to.

Set Yourself Apart

Ok, you’re in the studio, have gotten past the initial handshakes and chitchat, and now it’s time to show what you’re made of. If you’ve done your coursework properly, you should now be feeling more comfortable. This is what you’ve studied, this is what you know and what you’re passionate about; relax, let your mind focus, and do your thing.

Think about the areas in which you have shown the most skill during your coursework, and offer your talents in those areas. Don’t ask too many questions, but also don’t be afraid of offering a different approach to something. If you know a miking technique that is different than what is being implemented, suggest it. If it turns out to sound great, you will be viewed in a very positive light: you weren’t afraid to give feedback, you offered good advice, and you proved your worth. Even if it doesn’t sound great, you still show your ability to go against the grain and not be a follower.

If you’re not sure about something, don’t make up an answer or solution you can’t stand behind 100%. You are much better off admitting that you are uncertain. Again, a studio owner will respect you for your honesty. Its widely understood that people have the ability to learn new things, but changing a personality is nearly impossible.

Summing It Up, ‘Out Of the Box’

In general, treat an internship interview as you would treat an interview for any highly regarded studio position. You never know what doors will open up for you if you just show up on time, show respect, and prove your worth when the time is right.

As much as I would like to say a studio owner looks for a brain full of knowledge, or an extremely high level of competence, I actually feel that straightforwardness, respect, and talent weigh in much more. Of course, if you do your homework well you can be more comfortable, making it easier to be straightforward and respectful, and making it easier to show the talents you have… ; )

Charles Szczepanek

Charles Szczepanek

Internationally awarded and recognized, Charles Szczepanek has enjoyed performing for diverse audiences as well as engineering and producing for many highly-respected artists across multiple genres. Hailed a ‘Whiz’ and ‘Genius’ by some, Charles has collaborated with Grammy Award winners. Additional personal achievements include: multiple international prizes for piano performance, recognition by Steinway for ‘Outstanding Piano Performance’, as well as awards in music composition, ensemble direction, and vocal performance.
  • http://ronansrecordingshow.com Ronan’s Recording Show

    Nice article, but I would add to your paragraph in setting yourself apart, if you are “offering a different approach to something”, this should never ever be done in front of the client. If you have a suggestion, it should be made discreetly to the first engineer. A cool engineer will acknowledge your good ideas, but you may inadvertently be undermining the production process or even worse, the clients faith in the first engineer.

    • http://www.wrdstudios.com Charles Szczepanek

      Thanks for the read and comment, Ronan! I agree, and you make a good point. But there are still many occassions where there isn’t time to either pull the head engineer aside or wait until the session is over to make a suggestion. Going along with the ‘common sense’ theme here, I would hope that an intern wouldn’t blurt out something offensive or accusatory… however, with the right approach, it could very well be possible to throw an idea out there, even right in front of a client.

      But, like you’ve mentioned, any sort of communication needs to be with an utmost respect for all of the other people involved in the project. An intern should most definitely not say anything at all if he or she doesn’t know well enough how to phrase a question or make a suggestion without offending others or stepping on their toes.

    • http://ronansrecordingshow.com Ronan’s Recording Show

      Its definitely different for everyone and I of course only chime in with my perspective (which is by no means gospel). I am very laid back in the studio and go out of my way to give interns opportunities, I actually go out of my way to praise the interns in front of the client if they discreetly give me a good suggestion. But if an intern started making suggestions to me about how to record something in front of my clients they would get one warning. Second time they did it they would be fired. It has nothing to do with ego, but everything to do with protecting the integrity of the session and the clients faith in the process.

  • http://www.theproaudiofiles.com Dan Comerchero

    That’s a good point, Ronan. The intern isn’t always necessarily going to be “in the production loop.” of the guy(s) in charge.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
    I’m a big fan of your work as well as your show! (http://ronansrecordingshow.com/)

    -Dan
    (founder/editor)

  • http://www.weiss-sound.com Matthew Weiss

    Allow me to second this article. When I’m hiring an intern – I’m not looking for someone who knows everything. I understand that an internship is for the purposes of learning. I’ve had many people try to impress me during an interview by talking about how knowledgeable they are. Truthfully, I don’t care. I’m looking for a hard working with a positive attitude who can take instruction. Someone who is humble and can benefit from what I can teach her/him.

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  • Fernando

    Hello!
    I have a couple of questions regarding externships. First off, do studios offer externships in addition to internships?
    Secondly, I just started school for audio engineering. Unfortunately, I’m only taking music theory classes this semester, and not any actual audio engineering classes. My question is: I want to take advantage of this free time outside of school by doing something productive that will give me some kind of experience with audio engineering, and I want to do that by externing at a local recording studio. Problem is, I don’t have any experience. So, would it be naive of me to ask the studio if they would consider me for an externship? Basically, I’m trying to get my foot in the door any way possible, but I don’t know how other than waiting until next semester when I have some knowledge on audio engineering. What would you advise?
    Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
    Thank you,
    Fernando

  • Ludvig

    That entire “Set yourself apart” is just really bad advice Charles. I was glad to see Ronan (love your show btw) post what he did.

    You should shine as an intern, by doing what is told and doing it right. Be humble, accept the fact that you are just an intern. Everything you do besides getting coffee and cleaning toilets is a bonus, be happy and enjoy it silently. And don’t come with 2 years of music school and tell the first engineer that you know a better miking technique (even if you do) than his 40 years of experience.

    “It has nothing to do with ego, but everything to do with protecting the integrity of the session and the clients faith in the process.” is so well said!!

  • Justin

    Great article, thanks for the advice.

    As a person who just completed my audio degree, this is the situation I’m currently in.

    I do have one query that was not covered, however.

    As far as the resume is concerned, what kind content should be included? Do studios who are interested in hiring an intern generally respond to resumes that discuss production and engineer experience (regardless of how small or informal that may be) or should it focus on previous employment experience, and general employable qualities (such as work ethic).

    Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/arlunabeccaris Arthur Luna

    Thanks for the tips, I’m getting ready for my first interview here in America. Have been working in Brazil as assistant engineer, now it’s time to try it out over here!

  • Josh Lewis

    My internship lead to an assistants position and then later to a staff engineers position that lasted over 5 years until I got into doing a lot more freelance and studio consulting work. As with any other work environment, there is basic protocol. As an intern, you are there to be helpful and as un intrusive as possible. Anything that will genuinely help the assistant, engineer, or client get great work done, should be done. Plan sessions in advance and get their early. Get a game plan on what will be done in session and help setup for tracking: get mic list, cabling ready, any patching ready, help assistant with any recall of desk or outboard, help with documentation. All of this will teach you to become a good assistant and ultimately a good engineer. Should you need more guidance, do visit us in miami! http://www.miamirecordingstudios.net

  • disqus_Tb44137XkQ

    This is making me worry. It seems like I must have some serious talent in audio engineering before I can actually land an intern/job. Here’s the deal: I am not talented in this at all. I’m just a diploma student (above average intelligence) who hasn’t discovered any of his talents yet, so he chose Sound-Engineering as a career.

    Any help?

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  • doudeman

    Both my internships have been cleaning every day and maybe sitting in on one session a week if that. I just feel like a glorified janitor and I find it insane that both of my bosses are judging my skill on how well I keep the studio clean.

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