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Tonmeister is a legally unprotected professional title for the activities of a sound engineer , sound engineer or media designer for image and sound or media engineer in the role of artistic recording manager for music , film and word production. The field of activity includes the recording and mixing of studio and live productions as well as the sound reinforcement for concerts and theater events. The sound engineer studies lead to various sound engineer degrees as bachelor, master and doctorate.

On the scientific basis of acoustics , sound engineers require , in addition to technical knowledge, particularly extensive musical knowledge and skills and serve as a mediator between artistic demands and the technical implementation of sound. For an apprenticeship, musical understanding, creativity, empathy and excellent hearing as well as sound technical knowledge are expected.

The activity originated with the sound recording for shellac records , sound films and sound broadcasting at the beginning of the 20th century. In this job description, acoustics are influenced by digital techniques.


The questions posed by the classical sound engineer gained in importance around the middle of the twentieth century, when the predominant musical culture of chamber music and orchestral concerts was to be transferred to the new media of radio and record , which were becoming enormously important . The personnel required for this should be able to move confidently both in the musical culture of the time and with the technical-aesthetic conditions of these media.

In contrast to the manual and technical master trades , from which the word "sound engineer" was derived, the job title as such is not protected. Erich Thienhaus had the idea for the music transmission course . In 1949 he founded the first sound engineering institute in Europe, the ETI in Detmold , which has a high international reputation.

job profile


The sound engineer acts as the recording manager for music or radio play productions. He presents a recording concept (work plan), directs sound and music and is responsible for editing. He uses a score to monitor the fidelity of the text, intonation , phrasing , balance and the interplay between the groups of instruments, the rhythmic accuracy and the adherence to the tempo , etc. He thus exercises a certain influence on the interpretation . He must be a competent partner and advisor to the artists.

At concert or theater events , he is responsible for the music and speech transmission, i.e. the implementation of high-quality sound and the acoustic implementation of directional concepts. Often he is also responsible for device maintenance and installation up to checking and implementing the applicable safety guidelines.

In film and television , the activity begins with recordings on the set , includes the creation of special noises (sound design), the synchronization of actors through to the recording of film music and the creation of the final mix ( multi-channel sound ) in a recording studio .

The variety of areas of application and their different requirements for knowledge, experience and technical implementation mean that the sound engineer, building on his training, develops a high degree of specialization in his profession.

Fields of activity

The sound engineer is the mediator between artists, producers and acoustic technology. At every stage of production, the sound engineer is responsible for ensuring that the end product corresponds to the artistic goals of the musicians and producers. An artistic-technical double qualification is required. In his role as the production manager, he is responsible for the implementation of the recording and the communication between the recording room and the control room and is the artistic director of the recording team. In his role as sound engineer at the mixer, he is the technical manager of the recording team.

A musical idea - at the time when the sound engineer is called in, usually already implemented in a musical interpretation - to be as true to the score as possible, as well as to produce as a recording in terms of performance and artistic aesthetics, to process it under artistic and technical aspects, and for playback in It is the job of the sound engineer to prepare common reproduction formats. He supports and advises interpreters and, if necessary, composers in their musical creative will through supportive feedback and - if necessary - influencing the musical events in front of the microphones, as well as through the design with the technical tools on the way from the musical rehearsal the actual recording up to the finished sound carrier. In popular music, the sound engineer is often also active as a producer and works closely with sound engineers, technicians and the artists in the team.

Areas of responsibility

Graduates of sound engineer courses are mainly prepared for the following areas of responsibility: On the one hand for the profession of artistic recording producer, who is also known as music director, and on the other hand for the profession of sound engineer at the mixer for music recordings (English balance Engineer). The areas of responsibility in popular music are also very complex: Producer, Sound Engineer, Composer, Sound Designer, to name just a few. The range of application areas includes all ensembles, from solo to symphony orchestra, from jazz duo to big band, from singer / songwriter to metal band, from live recording to broadcasting a cathedral concert or an opera, from a stereo Recording up to a 120-track production for wave field synthesis, and stylistically across all epochs of music history up to the present.

Occupational fields

Sound engineers work in the radio, film and television sectors and in private recording studios. Due to their high-quality and multifaceted training, graduates of the sound engineering degree are increasingly opening up related professional fields in the areas of sound reinforcement (FOH), in theaters and opera houses as well as in the development of audio technology.


In addition to imparting sound technical knowledge and skills ( mathematics , electrical engineering , acoustics , sound engineering , digital technology , studio technology and practice, recording support, etc.) , the sound master’s degree also includes intensive training in the musical field ( ear training , music theory , instrumentation , score studies , music history) , Musicology , instrument studies , music criticism , music analysis , score playing , form theory, work analysis and stylistics, instrumental and vocal practice, etc.), as well as the basics of dramaturgy . Normally, mastery of at least one musical instrument (main instrument, minor instrument; piano is usually a compulsory subject) is required; some degree programs supplement the curriculum with topics such as business studies, law, business administration , etc. Admission requirements are general university entrance qualifications (Abitur) plus an entrance examination / entrance examination.

The master’s degree in Berlin, Detmold and Vienna has a standard duration of at least ten semesters. The upstream bachelor's degree varies between 6 and 8 semesters. In Detmold, the courses "Music Transmission / Sound Engineer" and "Music Direction / Sound Engineer" are offered. The courses impart artistic-musical, technical, room acoustic and communication skills.

The following state institutions provide training in academic degrees such as Bachelor, Master or PhD (in Austria Mag.):

In addition to these universities, there are also private educational institutions that offer qualifications in the field of music recording on an independent basis. These include the SAE Institute , the Deutsche POP Academy , the Hamburg Audio Academy and the SfT School for Sound Technology in Wuppertal and Regensburg. However, in terms of content, length and depth of training, there are considerable differences to the degree programs at state art colleges.

Professional associations


See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h Michael Schubert: The job description of the sound engineer. In: https://www.eti.hfm-detmold.de/ . Erich-Thienhaus-Institut, Detmold, 2019, accessed on December 24, 2019 .
  2. Sound engineer, sound engineer. Public Employment Service , accessed on July 4, 2019 (job description for Austria).
  3. Carlos Albrecht: The Tonmeister: Microphones of acoustic instruments in pop music live and studio setups . Schiele & Schön , 2017, ISBN 978-3-7949-0933-9 , pp. 6 . , limited preview in Google Book Search
  4. ↑ Sound engineer job description. Deutscher Bühnenverein , accessed on July 4, 2019 .
  5. Film sound professions - job descriptions in film sound. Film Sound Professional Association , accessed July 4, 2019 .
  6. a b Martin Rennert: Tonmeister. In: https://www.udk-berlin.de/ . University of the Arts Berlin, accessed on December 24, 2019 .
  7. ^ Claudia Witt: Bachelor courses: Sound. In: https://www.filmuniversitaet.de/ . Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, accessed on December 24, 2019 .
  8. ^ Martin Hufnagl: Tonmeisterstudium. In: https://www.mdw.ac.at/ . University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, accessed on December 24, 2019 .
  9. Caroline Süess: Tonmeister. In: https://www.zhdk.ch/ . Zurich University of the Arts, accessed on December 24, 2019 .