It’s never too late to learn Sound Production

The Marketing team have been set a task to spend a day in the life of a student. Our aim is to provide an insight into some of our courses to help us provide better information to applicants.

Steven Pirrie spent some time with Julie McShane, who is an HND Sound Production student at our Ayr campus. Having completed an HNC Sound Production course at West College Scotland, she was delighted to be accepted to Ayrshire College to complete her HND Sound Production Course.

Julie is one of Ayrshire College’s many mature students – students, who for whatever reason, have decided to go to college later in their life.


For the last 5 years Julie has run her own business, looking after and caring for people’s pets and animals, however she has always had a passion for music. “I’ve always been musical” says Julie, “and I’m a songwriter as well, with a home studio, and I wanted to come to college to get more familiar with the technology side of recording and sound production”. Julie lists soul, funk and progressive rock as her main musical influences, and includes Billy Cobham and Jan Hammer as some of her favourite artists.

On the subject of returning to education, Julie explains “I didn’t expect it would be easy or straightforward. I always knew I was probably going to be the oldest in the class, which I have been, but I don’t mind that”. She accepts that there are challenges to overcome when faced with these age differences – “sometimes younger students can be rowdy or disruptive. I was that age myself so I know what it’s like, but you just want to do your best to get on with it.”

She lists being able to see a noticeable growth in her skills in sound production since becoming a student as her favourite thing about coming to college. “I can see my progression – “I’m two years down the line in studying Sound Production and will be going to uni next year, which I’m really pleased about. There’s such fierce competition for a place.” It’s clear that her college experience has been highly rewarding, and reflecting on her personal progress and how far she has developed has been great source of motivation and encouragement.

Enrolling in college later in life is no easy decision. The decision to give up working a full-time job to focus on learning new skills, or completely changing your career path is not an easy one by any means. However, many mature students feel that it’s a necessary sacrifice to make in order to follow your own dreams and aspirations. “Going to college has impacted my business, and I’ve had to reduce my amount of customers to accommodate my college learning.” She goes on to explain “I don’t regret that though. To be honest I was looking for something else to do, it was just a natural progression to move away from doing that, and I’ll let it go completely when I can move on to working in the music industry.”

A typical day on her course sees Julie working on a variety of practical and theory-based tasks. In her “Audio for Multimedia” class, Julie and her classmates use digital sound production software in conjunction with video game software Unity, to create compositions of soundtracks and sound effects for video games.

Her “Sound Production Practice” class might see Julie heading into the recording studio, setting up arrays of microphones to capture surround sound and practice other professional recording techniques.

“Advanced Studio Techniques” class involves the students working with DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software to create their own music entirely digitally. Here she gets to grips with programmes such as Pro Tools and Logic Pro to produce her own music and sound.

Another class has Julie learning how to record sound for contact. This allows her to record her own sample library, which she can then go on to use in her compositions.

Julie has had tremendous support from her friends and family when deciding that she was going to enrol at college. Knowing about her passion for music, they encouraged her to follow this path to learn new skills and help forge a career in something so close to her heart. “I would advise anybody to come back to college to learn about something they’re passionate about.”

Julie has advice for anyone considering returning to education later in their life – “Keep your eye on the end goal and really focus on it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you think you need it, everybody has the right to a further education.”

When asked if she has any regrets about her decision to enrol as a mature student, she admitted “only that I had not come to Ayrshire College in my first year.”

Julie keeps her options open for her plans for the future of her career, but lists teaching as one possibility. Finding that commercial sound production is a male-dominated sector, Julie is keen to encourage more women and girls to get into the industry, and is keen to help deliver a more female-centric experience to any future female students.

“All in all, I’m happy I came to Ayrshire College. It’s a stepping stone to where I want to be.”

Julie has been accepted to UWS in Ayr and is looking forward to entering their BA/HONS Commercial Sound Production course at its 3rd year.


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