Friday, May 24, 2013

Give A Man A Fish

Just a quick thought on learning today. If you learn how to do something, that's great. You've got a skill. If you learn it to the point where you understand how it works, then you're in the best shape possible.

I see it all the time when teaching volunteers how to mix. You explain faders and EQ, the difference between a sub and an aux, and they slowly get it. But at first it's usually a case of "if this, then do that". Which is functional but doesn't help a lot when stuff stops working or you need to do something different.

When things start to get really good is when things finally click into place and they begin to understand how gain structure and signal routing work from front to back. That's the point where you go from having a semi-skilled person who's trained for a single application, to having a full fledged operator who is now ready to step up to any mixer anywhere and dig in.

Not that it's always that easy because equipment differs so much but I think you get the point. Understanding the underlying processes puts you at a distinct advantage to someone who only understands how to accomplish tasks.

Keep this in mind any time you're learning something new. If you're getting into recording it's good to know rules of thumb regrading bit depth and sample rate. It's even better to read up a little bit on sampling theory so you know why you're making those choices. Not that you have to be an expert on Reed-Solomon code. But it makes good sense to understand the machinery behind the face plate. Apply it to anything, learning lighting should include some electrics and electronics studies. You get the idea.

Don't just learn tasks. True Brethren of the Knob and Fader understand the inner workings.

Here's a link to a LifeHacker post on how to learn anything in a short amount of time.


  1. Ugh, I can't stand people who don't bother to learn more than the rote steps behind executing something rather than the underlying systems behind what they're doing. Those kinds of people inevitably become helpless whenever something changes or otherwise occurs outside of their rote understanding. And then I have to bail them out of it and it sucks.

    Anecdote: The booking guy at my venue gig wanted me to teach him sound because someone was offering him tour manager work and they wanted him to be able to do tour sound too. I started out by explaining gain structure, and about midway through he said "look, can't you just show me how the board works?" At this point I declined to provide further instruction.

    1. Sounds like that might have been a wise move.


You're the Scotty to our Kirk