Sound art emphasizes recording techniques as opposed to traditional musical composition. The field of sound arts treats sound as design in the same way visual arts discerns sculpture and painting. Sound artists combine traditional instruments, like saxophones, with non-traditional instruments, like cement-mixing machines, to create soundscapes for exhibition and recorded pieces for home listening.
Students in associate's degree sound arts programs focus their studies on audio and video postproduction as well as recording techniques and equipment. These programs require a significant amount of laboratory and field work outside the classroom in order for students to develop pieces for their portfolios, which must be completed prior to graduation.
Students in bachelor's degree programs learn the fundamentals of audio theory and recording to control noise, facilitate communication and enhance works of audio art. Applications of knowledge in this field include minimizing noise from high-traffic roadways, supervising audio equipment installation and recording sound designs for broadcast media. These programs also generally require a significant amount of lab hours outside of classroom training.
Associate's Degree Programs in Sound Arts
In order to apply to two-year associate's degree programs in sound arts, prospective students must have a high school diploma. Over the course of these programs, students develop their artistic sensibilities and technical skills while learning about editing, sound mixing and recording booth controls. Specific courses offered in these programs include:
- Audio equipment
- Business of music
- Music theory
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Sound Design
These four-year programs, which require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, blend audio art, science and technology. Students learn to shape soundscapes and mix, record and engineer traditional music for video games, recorded sound effects and live performances. Courses teach feedback suppression, different sound mixes for recorded and stage performances, signal processing and the effects of noise on the environment. Topics of study include:
- Audio postproduction
- Music theory
- Recording science
- Sound production
- Studio maintenance
Trained sound artists could find themselves working for television studios, video game companies or other locations where recording artists are used. Job titles available to associate's degree holders include:
- Foley artist
- Multimedia artist
- Sound engineering technician
- Television score composer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that broadcast and sound engineering technicians would see an 8% job growth from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). The increasing number of jobs is the result of the fact that more businesses, schools and radio and television stations are looked to adopt new, higher performing audio and video equipment. The BLS estimated that there were 15,900 sound engineering technicians in the U.S. as of May 2018 with a mean annual salary of $63,500.
Doctoral and master's degrees in recording arts are available for students interested in furthering their careers into management or academia. Recording arts degrees at the graduate level are commonly found at not-for-profit universities.
Overall, undergraduate programs in sound arts give nontraditional music lovers the opportunity to develop their skills in the field through theoretical music studies and hands-on music-making experiences.