FOR THE FURTHERING OF YOUR EDUCATION THROUGH
THE USE OF MANY MANY WORDS
When I started mixing and gaining interest in Acoustics, I didn’t have access to the internet. I mean sure, it was around, but growing up in the country with farm animals meant you needed a giant satellite in your yard. We didn’t have that and even if we did, the content in the mid ‘90s was… limited.
What we did have was libraries and book stores. While it’s easy now to pull the internet out of your pocket and get any answer to any question you can think of, there’s something to be said for opening an actual book with actual ink printed on actual paper. Maybe I’m just sentimental...
In the event that I am sentimental and you are sentimental like me, I’ve put together a list of books that I’ve read and that I can suggest to anybody interested in the art and science of sound, including general Acoustics, Audio Engineering, and Electronics. Why Electronics? Because Chemistry, of course.
Throughout my career as a Sound Engineer I’ve worn many hats in the field including:
- Music Producer
- Studio Recording Engineer
- Studio Mix Engineer
- Mastering Engineer
- Production Sound Mixer
- Audio Restoration Specialist
- Post Production Mixer
- Live Sound Engineer
- Loudspeaker Designer and Engineer
- Acoustical Consultant
There isn’t a single one of these fields that didn’t benefit from some of the books listed below. I can confidently say that if I hadn’t taken such an interest in the readings, I would not have expanded my career to be so inclusive.
Handbook For Sound Engineers - Glen M. Ballou
If you buy only one book, this is the one I recommend. Originally printed in 1987, it is currently (at the time of this writing) on the 5th edition. This is generally considered the gold standard by many Sound Engineers.
The book starts with general Acoustics and Electronics, through Recording and Playback, and on to the fundamentals of Measurement. Consider it a sort-of “one and done” reference book.
At the very least check it out at your library. Then buy it, because you know you want to.
The Master Handbook Of Acoustics - F. Alton Everest
This is the next step if you want to dig deeper into Acoustics. Originally released around 1981, it is currently on the 6th edition.
Nearly as thick as the Handbook above, this book dives much deeper into the details of Acoustics. Starting with the fundamentals of sound including; levels, propagation and the human ear, then continuing onto interactions with surfaces, and eventually moving into studio design.
Modern Recording Techniques - David Miles Huber & Robert E. Runstein
This book is a fantastic general resource for understanding the function of equipment and techniques in the studio, but the information is extremely relevant in other fields including live sound reinforcement as well as production sound for film.
My copy is the Fourth Edition from 1997 when I bought it new, so maybe mine isn’t necessarily “modern” anymore… At the time of this writing, the 9th Edition is available. I think I should update since my copy is hardly in one piece anymore. I’ve read it a lot.
Mastering Audio - Bob Katz
Another more specialized book focusing on the mastering process. This book is still relevant for any field where you want to understand levels and loudness standards across multiple industries, whether it’s music, video, theater, or public announcement. Bob knows a thing or two about that. He’s got his own well established metering standard!
JBL’s Audio Engineering for Sound Reinforcement - John Eargle & Chris Foreman
Don’t let the JBL branding fool you. This is over 400 pages of detailed guidance through the equipments and techniques of live sound reinforcement. There’s a surprising amount of detail across multiple subjects including acoustical fundamentals and psychoacoustics, microphones, consoles, speakers, amplifiers, and mixers, as well as speech recognition.
Regardless of your field, learning about and experiencing Live Sound Engineering will help you handle and troubleshoot stressful situations quickly and calmly.
Yamaha’s Sound Reinforcement Handbook - Gary Davis & Ralph Jones
Similar to JBL’s book above. What more can I say!?
I’ve read them both. I just happen to own the JBL book because I bought it first. But I’d be just as happy with this one.
The Art Of Electronics - Paul Horowitz & Winfield Hill
Okay this seems like a strange addition to the list, but understanding electronics helps you to understand chemistry and the movement of atoms and electrons better, which believe it or not is helpful in understanding Acoustics. Plus, it never hurts to know how to repair your equipment or even build something simple, like a tone generator!
Like the Handbook For Sound Engineers, The Art Of Electronics is considered necessary reading in this field. Originally printed in 1980, I got my version new in 2001 and it is still perfectly relevant today.
At over 1000 pages, if you are interested in electronics, this is the book.
Understanding Physics - Isaac Asimov
Alright this isn’t the most modern (1966), nor is it the most detailed (269 pages) book. With general physics in a single book, how could it be?
However, I don’t know of any author that can succinctly and clearly make you understand the complexities of science better than Isaac Asimov. Consider this a sort-of Cliff’s Notes for physics. Check it out at the library if you don’t believe me. But understanding these concepts help with… everything! Plus, the first Volume is titled “Motion, Sound, and Heat”. So even if you only read the first third of the book, you are better off for it.
There are simply too many options and only some of them are good. So instead of recommending several websites, I'm going to tell one story...
I doubt anyone here would have known about the old Glenn Meadows Mastering Forum in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, but that was a game changer for me. Before social media put you at the fingertips of celebrities, this hidden gem of a URL was given to me by a colleague and I learned an incredible amount from it. It was just a forum full of the world’s greatest Engineers including Glenn Meadows, Bob Katz, Doug Sax, Bob Ludwig, Steve Hoffman, and many others. They would just chat and talk about sessions, techniques, equipment, pets, food, life… Every day!
It’s long gone now, unfortunately, as are a few of the people that frequented the site. But in a world without Facebook Groups and Youtube and Twitter; a world where you really had to dig for information, it was magical. I was a nobody, learning from somebodies.
In a way I credit that forum and those members for me becoming a successful Engineer today. I didn’t chime in much, and they didn’t necessarily impart to me any world altering information. But being in the same “room” with the people that were listed on my favorite albums throughout my entire life helped me realize that these were just normal folks from different places that struggled and worked and made things happen.
It made me realize that I could too, and as soon as I got my first gig working in Sound over 20 years ago, I never did anything else.
Thankfully, now we have many sources of information! Some of it isn’t great… But the good stuff is out there! And now we live in a world where you can @ somebody and be instantly connected.
What a world! Take advantage of it! But… also pick up a couple real books. ;)