The Assistant’s Handbook
This week we will be addressing the all-important and often overlooked role of an assistant engineer in the recording studio. Becoming an assistant engineer is often the best way to begin making industry contacts that can take you to the next level. We will be covering what’s in an assistant’s bag, your responsibilities as an assistant and how to behave in the studio setting.
The Assistant’s Bag
As an assistant, your role is to make the engineer’s job as easy as possible. Assistant engineers are crucial to proper workflow, because the engineer doesn’t have time to waste on smaller tasks that could interrupt the session. Because of this, there are certain items all assistants should have in their bag ready to go, such as:
-Drum Key (for tuning)
-Session recall sheets
Basically, your goal as the assistant is to be in tune with the engineer and anticipate their needs during a session so he doesn’t have to stop what he’s doing.
Your responsibilities can vary depending on what the engineer wants to do on their own and what they will trust you to setup for them. The key here is to get to know each engineer individually, their preferences and setup choices and make sure when they enter the room they are ready to go to work. A general list of tasks include:
-contact the engineer and arrive EARLY
-gain setup information for the session
-plan your setup
-determine the type of session
-prep their Pro Tools/DAW session, including labeling, mic choices, notes, etc.
-label patchbay cables for external gear, including left/right and mono/stereo
-connect and turn on all outboard gear
-setup headphones, cues, input levels, talkbacks, etc.
-phone should be OFF or SILENT
Another easy way to gain points with an engineer is to arrive with their favorite beverage and be willing to go above and beyond what is asked of you in every circumstance. The more you establish a relationship with the engineer, the more willing they will be to show you tips and tricks in between sessions and after-hours.
One of the most important things you need to remember while you’re in a session is it is a privilege for you to be in the room with these individuals. This is an incredible opportunity for you to observe professionals in their element and take mental notes… it is NOT an opportunity for you to interject with your opinion or talk to the engineer and producer while they are working. As a general rule, you are to be a fly on the wall, observing everything and speaking only when spoken to. I know this may sound harsh, but you have no idea how frustrating it can be to professionals when an assistant starts chiming in with their opinion and interrupting the flow of creativity. You need to wait for them to become comfortable with you, and eventually they will let you in their inner circle.
Once you become an incredible assistant, you will find yourself surrounded with more opportunity and the best chance for you to advance your career with an engineer or producer who just can’t live without you operating their session.
Remember, he who can be trusted with little can be trusted with more! Be sure to follow us on twitter @iamjambot and @_signaturesound to keep up with everything we are doing at the studio, and check back every Monday for a new article. Have a happy Memorial Day and we’ll seeya next week!