Guest article by Florian Schmitz, Audio Engineer and HOFA-College graduate
To be successful as a music producer and audio engineer despite being blind – that was my declared goal after graduating from school in summer 2007. In this article you will find out whether I have achieved this goal and much more.
How I got into music production
The first time we went to a recording studio with our band to produce a CD, I was deeply fascinated. At that time, I was a bass player, but I also played drums and percussion and tried out a few things with synthesizers. That was in 2005.
Working in this recording studio then sparked my interest in the technical side of music. Since then, I have intensively studied the topics of music and audio production and the associated technology.
All beginnings are difficult.
Since I had only little vision since my childhood, this statement was even more true for me. At that time, at least in German-speaking countries, it was not possible to work in a recording studio as a blind or visually impaired person.
Most DAWs were simply not accessible with a screen reader like VoiceOver under macOS.
The first own productions
I started working with macOS at the beginning of 2008 and have stuck with it until today.
A year later I bought a Mac Pro, set it up with VoiceOver and slowly built my own little recording studio. What others started in the garage or basement, I started in my bedroom.
At first, I tried Cubase, which wasn’t very accessible, but at least it was easier to use than Pro Tools or similar. I could operate the DAW with a mixture of VoiceOver, keyboard commands, a MIDI controller and sometimes huge magnification. Unfortunately, the latter then became obsolete as my vision disappeared.
With Cubase, I was able to produce my first film scores for a few projects and documentaries in 2009. I also worked on my own projects. I was able to gain a lot of experience, but I wanted more, I wanted to go much further. Finding an apprenticeship, however, was impossible. Nobody could imagine that a blind person could work in a recording studio. Completely ridiculous, actually, but unfortunately true. The “best” argument was that I couldn’t see the red light (“On Air”). Today, I can laugh about it. Not back then. But I didn’t let go. I had set myself the goal of becoming an audio engineer and wanted to do everything I could to achieve it.
Then, at the end of 2010, I discovered HOFA and the HOFA-College online.
Training for blind people in the area of audio engineering and music production
contacted HOFA and asked about the PRO course. They didn’t have any experience with blind participants either, but I got the chance to try it. I started the online course to become an audio engineer at the beginning of 2011. Normally, the course takes 12 months, but already the process of developing my own approaches in the DAW took a lot of time.
In the meantime, I also switched from Cubase to Pro Tools, because Pro Tools could then be operated with VoiceOver, so I also had to get used to the new DAW. On top of that, I also had to familiarise myself with my guide dog. All in all, it took me 24 months to complete the online course.
And at the beginning of 2013, I finally held my certificate as an audio engineer in my hands. Looking back, I still get goosebumps. I struggled, tried, failed, kept going, plodded and sweated, and am immensely proud that I made it.
Today I am someone who shows and explains to other blind people, but also to some sighted people, how to work with macOS and for example Pro Tools in the field of music and audio production. In many situations, it is even an advantage not to see the screen, the graphics and, for example, the EQ curves in the DAW. Listening is much more important in my opinion.
The small bedroom recording studio has since turned into a “real”, professional recording studio.