This may be a vague question but I really want to get some formal education and a degree in the sound/audio world so I have been looking at some schools for it.

Getting straight to the point, what is the difference between the education in Sound Design (in schools such as Savannah and others) and the education provided in the "School of Audio Engineering". Reading through the descriptions of them, it seems pretty damn similar so I'm a little confused.

I know Audio Engineering and Sound Design are completely different specializations but if you have attended these schools or have/could read the descriptions of their education and clarify this for me that would be tremendous help because their descriptions overlap in most if not all ways. Or is it just that both educations train you to be a "jack of all sound/audio trades" but one has an emphasis on audio engineering and the other emphasizes sound design?

It would probably be best if I would also give you some information on my goals concerning this path. I am currently an electronic music producer with a high passion for sound design (the literal meaning, synthesizing sounds and manipulating them). I want to get some education to become a jack of all audio/sound trades to open my options and to further my skills. Designing sounds for linear visual media intrigues me as a possible career as does becoming a Sound Designer (your meaning) for film projects etc while also working on my own sound/audio/musical projects.

Thanks for your time. - Arnar

Here are the links: http://www.sae.edu/en-us/course/1840/Audio_Engineering http://www.scad.edu/sound-design/index.cfm

5 Answers 5


"I know Audio Engineering and Sound Design are completely different specializations"

In practice maybe, but not that much in technical skillsets. Both of them record, edit audio digitally, treat audio and mix. The actual specialization will become of what you actually work on, not of the education. Of course courses have differences in course content, and you should review the courses on a course basis, so you know what you're getting, but those two you linked could be very similar. I think the biggest general division in education in the audio arts is between formal music composition and musician courses and all the "audio engineering/music technology/recording arts/sound design" type courses, but even in those cases there's often some cross-breeding. The difference may come also in whether there's some aspect to producing sound for other media (film, tv, radio, video games...), instead of producing pure sound/music. But I think most courses have integrated the "other media" aspect as that's where the most jobs tend to be and it's a totally relevant and important subfield for "sound communication".

But I emphasize that if you're stuck with job titles, those will come of what you work on (i.e. what describes your role or even just personal focus best), not what you did a course in. And remember that schools do business, some of the titles as well as course names and descriptions that they throw may well be read as "buzzwords", unless you really dig into the specific differences in the content.

And keep in mind what you're going to do in the end and focus on practicing that. The degree and (most) parts of the studies don't equal the job that you'll be doing or the real working situation that you'd be working in. The actual work in most cases is entirely practical topped up with client and colleague relationships and administrative tasks.

  • Thanks for your answer. You guys really helped clarifying some things for me. I believe I have found my dream school now. Jan 10, 2013 at 0:04

In addition to the great info Internet Human provided, it's worth mentioning that as an electronic music producer you are off to a good start. Designing sounds from scratch is a very strong practical skill to have as a sound designer, even if not for every project.

I think you're right to look for a program that teaches sound design/audio engineering, but instead of focusing just on the classes I would highly recommend looking for a program that will provide you the time and the opportunity to freely collaborate with your fellow students. I got my college degree in music technology and I can easily say that I learned 75% of my skills from extra-curricular collaborations and the other 25% from my classes. I'm in a master's program now so the classes are a bit more challenging and specialized, but to a certain extent the same relationship still applies.

It's good to focus on technical knowledge to a certain extent, as computers and sound technology provide the medium through which you work—however, the MOST important skill you can possibly learn as a collaborator of any kind is good communication . This is especially true as a sound designer, as many of the people you will collaborate with are far from trained in the arts and processes of sound design. Knowing how to translate a director's [sometimes extremely vague] vision into your to-do list for the day is vital to having a healthy career. It's very hard to teach such an individual skill in a class... it can only come from experience with building your own personal workflow.

Truthfully, you can learn the technology along the way. Remember, technology changes so quickly that 4 years from now we will all likely be using different computers and software (on OSX 10.14, mountain lynx). So really, we are all constantly learning the technology, but what stays with us is our creative approach and methodology to using it. Watch others work; read books; read forums like this one; watch videos on www.soundworkscollection.com; watch a lot of movies, and not just the ones that are in theaters now; buy a field recorder, gather sounds, and start playing with them in your workstation. You'll learn a ton by just getting your hands dirty.

All the best,

  • @Matt I have a second notion on music/sound technology in general, especially in productive work environments. I think working artists should strive to minimize "learning" and acquiring technical stuff that will not serve an easy, direct and important artistic purpose in a project. It goes especially for operating systems, DAWs, plug-ins and pretty much everything expect microphones, real physical props and sound libraries. The key is in trying to keep everything as simple and fast as possible and not waste time on things that don't serve a clear purpose, or generate profit. Jan 8, 2013 at 18:01
  • @InternetHuman absolutely. I hate seeing product testimonials where someone is claiming that the product in question "changed they way they work". Even if it's true, it sends the wrong message about the importance of particular products. I agree, keep it simple: it's like a literal toolbox, you keep a hammer, a wrench, a screwdriver, a saw and a ruler and you can already accomplish a hell of a lot.
    – Matt Glenn
    Jan 9, 2013 at 6:58
  • Thanks for your answer. I am very devoted to self-development so improving my communicating skills is very important to me. I also am very devoted to suck in as much information as I can from sources such as books (just finished reading Mastering Audio by Bob Katz, very insightful, learned a lot), web sites, articles, videos, tutorials etc. Not just about what to do and how to do it but also why you do it. I do try to minimize the tools I use as much as possible (i.e. not hoard vst plugins) & just learn the tools I got inside out and only add new tools when there is a clear need for them Jan 10, 2013 at 0:02

SAE from my experience there, they teach very little to no Sound Design. There are cheesy instructors who have jobs there and maybe one or two will take the time to critique your work. Mostly you have the opportunity to learn a little bit of everything about A. Engineering and recording.

  • Thanks for your answer. I have found similar reviews about SAE elsewhere and this has put me off SAE. Jan 9, 2013 at 23:53

Most "audio" schools are still focused on old school training (which is fine since I am old enough to have produced many records on 2"tape) but don't train sound designers and or production skills in general. Take it with a grain of salt since I work here, but Pyramind (www.pyramind.com) is much more of a hands on production training facility. We have placed many people in film and more so the game world as sound designers and composers. The difference is we are large production company (halo for microsoft, disney, sony etc.) that happens to also have a training component. Most of our production staff teaches a bit so the learning is VERY real world. Like I said with a grain of salt since I am a senior producer here but look us up and see if it makes sense. I hear questions like this every day as it's tricky to find this kind of real world training. Regardless I hope you find something that helps.

  • I feel a little like a troll for posting that but I feel pretty strongly about what we have done for people. Heres a link to one of our videos that demo student comp and sound design work.... we have very talented students.... pyramind.com/training/programs/music-sound-picture
    – Pyramind
    Jan 10, 2013 at 1:57
  • Thanks, I will definitely explore this possibility. 1 year seems a little short though compared to some who are for example 3 years. Jan 10, 2013 at 14:20
  • @Arnar Perhaps it won't seem short after you've spent some years (or even just a single year) doing art courses. One year can be totally enough to absorb everything that you wanted from teachers (hearing things from someone who's done/does it professionally) or the facilities (using gear that you can't afford), in the practical sense. If the course is full of project work, then you'll learn fast. E.g. Pyramind's emphasis on "real world training" is very to the essence, unless you're interested in the finer aspects of art (or entertainment), for which the longer courses may offer insight. Jan 11, 2013 at 2:09
  • I guess you're right. I was going to apply to the Sound Technology course in LIPA, I have been working my ass off the last few days working on my application, but after some self-exploration, I feel that it (and other things I have been checking out) focuses on one becoming more of a technician than an artist. And again after that self-exploration I feel that that's exactly the opposite of what I want focus on. Pyramind's course, however, is becoming more and more appealing as from what I can tell it focuses more on actually designing sounds and being creative. Jan 13, 2013 at 4:59

I graduated from SCAD and had a job offer before I graduated. The Cons of SCAD are its location (not in or near an industry hub), the time (full four year BFA vs a one or two year technical college), and there insistence on linear post audio (film, television, etc). Not a lot of opportunities to explore game audio, or experimental sound at least in the classroom space. The Pros to SCAD's program, are its faculty, reputation and alumni in the industry that really help get you started, the facilities, and the fact that it is part of an art school, with students in many different disciplines to collaborate with. The above con I mentioned about not having game audio classes, or really anything outside of film post, is countered by the fact that if you want to do game audio, you can minor in game design, or just join student projects to get your feet wet. I don't think I put any of my classroom work on my reel that got me a job, because I had that much material to pick from over the four year period I was there. There is a downside to that, not everyone that graduates from the Sound Design program is as proactive and prepared, and don't get jobs. It really is kind of all on you and what you choose to do with your time. I also benefited from a new Music Composition minor. You can actually align all your electives to be music composition classes, and not have to take anything extra in your time there and have an extra little tid bit on your degree. Never hurts when networking with musicians and composers. Good luck with your decision.

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