5 Tips from Marc Urselli (U2, Elton John, Foo Fighters) on How to Make a Career in a Recording Studio

Marc Urselli, chief house engineer for the historic & legendary recording studio EastSide Sound, has been a guest in a recent studio talk with HOFA tutor and audio engineer Christoph Thiers. Christoph and Marc discussed studio workflows, recording bands and ensembles, live sound mixing, producing and also about how to become a most valuable assistant in a recording studio.

Marc Urselli

Recording & Mix Engineer

*1977 in Aarau (Switzerland)

3-time Grammy Award winning engineer (7 nominations)

Credits: U2, Elton John, Foo Fighters, Kesha, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, …

These are 5 tips Marc Urselli shares with aspiring audio engineers:

1. Get hands-on experience

Today, it’s difficult for aspiring engineers to take the path to studio work since there are not so many studios left to do an internship. Nevertheless, gaining practical experience is essential to learn how an audio engineer works. For example, all of Marc’s colleagues at EastSide Sound Studio started as interns and then moved up to assistant. Marc himself was also an unpaid assistant for 2 years before he got a job.

Tip: You can also gain important practical experience by realising productions and creating mixes in your home studio.

2. In addition to professional know-how, soft skills are crucial

Soft skills are the most important skills that interns and future assistants have to master. The most important soft skill is to learn to be transparent, like a fly on the wall, and to be useful, when needed. Striking the perfect balance between being too eager and too pro-active and not being pro-active enough or not completing assigned tasks makes for the most useful intern / assistant.

3. Know the routing

If you want to work as an assistant in a recording studio, it is important to know how to operate a DAW. However, the most important know-how for aspiring assistants in a recording studio is to know the signal paths in a studio, i.e. to know the routing: How do you set up a microphone, how do you connect it to a preamp, how does a patchbay work, etc.?

4. Work accurately

It is particularly important to carry out all tasks carefully. This starts with reading emails properly and paying attention to all the relevant details when communicating with clients. Care is also needed when preparing for a recording session: everything should be set up in the proper way. This includes mounting all required microphones on stands, connecting and testing them, setting up the routing to the mixing console and DAW, patching everything into the patchbay and routing all signals to the musicians’ headphones. Care should also be taken, for example, to ensure that there are no cables lying around that clients can trip over, etc.

5. Know what’s going to happen next

The most valuable assistant is the one who is able to anticipate things and is prepared for everything that is possibly going to happen, for example, 4 guitarists to appear for a recording session instead of the announced two. All interns Marc works with are asked to watch recording sessions to learn what’s going to happen next. This way, one can become most useful as an assistant and get hired (and paid!). In a next step, you can then, for example, prepare sessions independently and later oversee complete productions.

For a career in the recording studio, it is therefore crucial to master not only the musical, but also the technical side of music production. But even if you want to work as a freelance engineer or producer, extensive know-how and plenty of practical experience will help you to deliver professional productions and get satisfied customers.

That’s why we have designed our audio engineering courses to contain a very high practical content. You get detailed introductions to all relevant instrument groups and the best techniques for miking and recording these instruments as well as comprehensive insights into the production methods of a wide range of musical styles. An important part of the audio engineering training at HOFA-College are the regular practice mixes that you mix in your studio and submit for analysis. For these, you will receive professional feedback from the experienced audio engineers at the HOFA studios.

Find out more about the HOFA audio engineering online courses here ›

You can find the complete interview with Marc on our YouTube channel:


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Christoph Thiers
Christoph Thiers
Christoph Thiers has been active in the music industry for over a decade and has worked on hundreds of productions of various genres as recording, mixing and mastering engineer. His track record includes artists such as Die Fantastischen Vier, Sarah Connor, Birdy, Nathan Evans, RAF Camora and Boris Brejcha, as well as numerous awards and chart placements. He is also engaged in new media formats and artist development, acts as a consultant to indie labels, artists and start-ups alike and has been involved in various software developments for professional music production. In recent years, Christoph has specialised in immersive music production and handles Dolby Atmos mixes for international label clients and renowned indie artists.

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