Career Coach: Sound Design
I caught up with Mike Wyeld from the Royal College of Art for a bit of career advice.
What led you to explore a career in sound design?
Sound Design was something I was always interested in. I minored in music composition in university, and ended up composing something using cut apart techniques for a graduation piece. From that, a few friends asked me to do the soundtracks for their films for college. One of those films did well at film festivals and stuff. So, I thought – okay, maybe I can do this.
Did you undertake any study or qualifications, or is it something that you can learn on the job?
After initially just playing around, I got offered a place at the National Film and Television School here in the UK to study for an M.A. in Sound Design and film stuff, and I jumped at it. It was actually way more challenging than I thought it would be, but I learned a lot. Having said that, going to college for sound isn’t essential but it certainly can help give you a leg up. Many of the most famous sound designers started by volunteering at local radio or TV stations or at recording studios. Many come through being in bands or being DJs or music programmers. There’s no one pathway to becoming a competent sound designer.
Was the reality of working in sound design like what you had expected?
I have to say no, it wasn’t. In feature film sound, there’s a kind of hierarchy that sets me on edge. I like that world, but I also like making sound for it’s own sake and try to have as much freedom as possible. Not always the easiest thing, but it’s so much fun. It’s way better than when I worked in an office. I wrote for a while for different publications and TV, but I enjoyed sound design much more.
What are some of the skills or attributes that you need in order to build a career in sound design?
You should be a person who thinks in sound. All the stuff like software and sound theory will come, but you should be obsessed by sound, or at least obsessed by good sound. Music, sure, but beyond that. Some sound designers I’ve met have collections of weird sounds – one has over a thousand sounds of bottles being opened! You should also be open minded. It’s a globalised industry, so you should love to travel.
If someone was interested in a career in sound design, what advice or guidance would you give them?
Just start making sound. Work with friends who are making video games, films, experimental work – everything. Also, read as much as you can and imitate other sound designers. Get some experience in different pieces of software. Learn to play an instrument. Anything you can do to just be around sound.
What are some of your goals and aspirations for the months ahead?
I have some new thoughts on how people can understand sound design ideas. I’d like the opportunity to make another book about sound.