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Laws for Audio Engineers

Taken from the Society of Broadcast Engineers’ SBE Signal journal in the 1980’s…

“Audio engineering is a science that runs on the Laws of Physics. We have all studied these Laws in our formal education. There are other Laws that are equally powerful, however. These are found through experience in the classroom of applied technology. We present a summary of the laws of physics, part 2, for your entertainment.”

Anderson’s Law — Nothing takes 5 minutes. [James “Jim” Anderson, engineer & teacher]

Bailey’s Law — The most expensive part will always fail first, thus saving the main fuse. [Corey Bailey, mastering & restoration engineer at Warner]

Blasingame’s 1st Law — When operating in the vacuum of a studio, time moves faster than anywhere else in the Universe.

Blasingame’s 2nd Law — No matter how fast and effective an audio engineer works, to the paying client it's like molasses. [Joseph “Joe” Blasingame, audio engineer]

Boden’s Law — If an experiment works, you must be using the wrong equipment. [Lawrence “Larry” Boden, mastering engineer]

Bridge’s Corollary to Holt’s Law — The more edits, the worse the performance. [Anthony “Tony” Bridge]

Brosious’ Law — The components you have will expand to fill the available space. [Hamilton “Ham” Brosious, audio salesman]

Brown’s Law — The general public doesn’t really need to know how records or sausage is made. [Philip “Phil” Brown, mastering engineer]

Butten’s Six Ps of Project Management – Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance [Charles “Charlie” Butten, founder of Clear-Com]

Calbi’s Law — Nothing is as easy as it looks. [Gregory “Greg” Calbi, mastering engineer]

Capp’s Law — If it can find a way to wear out faster, it will. [Frank Capp, engineer/equipment designer at Capps & Co.]

Chinn’s 1st Law — If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing!

Chinn’s 2nd Law — The last 1 dB is a bitch! [“Rick” Chinn, audio engineer]

Conn’s Law aka Eric’s Axiom — There’s no such thing as an entertainment emergency. [Eric Conn, mastering engineer]

Dickinson’s Dialectic — Fun sticks to the tape. [James Luther “Jim” Dickinson, producer & musician]

Dozier’s Law — Negative expectations yield negative results. Positive expectations yielded negative results. [“Reggie” Dozier, mix & mastering engineer]

Droney’s Law — Life’s a bitch, then you mix. [Maureen Droney, audio engineer & industry advocate]

Duncan’s Law — When in doubt, mumble. [Kent Duncan, audio engineer]

Eberle’s Laws —

• Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it makes it worse.
• No matter what results are expected, someone is always willing to fake it.
• No matter what occurs, someone believes it happened according to his pet theory.
• No matter what the result, someone is always eager to misinterpret it.

Eichelburger’s Law — Never try to stop a falling razor blade. [“Gene” Eichelburger, audio engineer]

Emerman’s Law — In a crisis that forces a choice to be made among alternative courses of action, people tend to choose the worst possible course. [“Mac” Emerman, engineer & studio designer/owner at Criteria]

Evan’s Law — Every man has a scheme that will not work.

Freinwald’s 1st Law — You only need two tools in life: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move but should, use WD-40. If it shouldn’t move and does, use the duct tape. [Clay Freinwald, broadcast engineer]

Freinwald’s 2nd Law — If you can’t fix it with a hammer, it must be an electrical problem.

Fulginiti’s Law — In a hierarchical organization, the higher the level, the greater the confusion. [“Greg” Fulginiti, mastering engineer]

Garay’s Law — An object will fall so as to do the most damage. [“Val” Garay, engineer/producer & studio owner]

Golden’s Law — A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure. [“Jonny” Golden, mastering engineer]

Gray’s Law — In any collection of data, the figures that are obviously correct beyond all need of checking contain the errors.

Gray’s 1st Corrollary: No one you ask for help will see the error either.

Gray’s 2nd Corrollary: Any nagging intruder who stops by with unsought advice will spot it immediately. [Kevin Gray, mastering engineer]

Grundman’s Law — Under the most carefully controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, humidity and other variables, the system will perform as it damn well pleases. [“Bernie” Grundman,” mastering engineer]

Guy’s Law — The probability of a given event occurring is inversely proportional to its desirability. [“Steve” Guy, mastering engineer & location recordist]

Hansch’s Law — Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

Harned’s Law — Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a larger can. [Grover “Jeep” Harned, engineer/equipment designer at MCI]

Harrison’s Law — There is always an easy answer to every problem — neat, plausible, and wrong. [David “Dave” Harrison, engineer/equipment designer]

Hayward’s Law — It’s all about keeping it (live sound) from being as bad as it would otherwise be. [William “Bill” Hayward, FOH engineer]

Hazen’s Law of Multitrack Recording — No matter how many tracks your machine has, there will always be something else that needs to be overdubbed onto that cut on the tape. [Lee Hazen, recording engineer]

Henderson’s Law — Familiarity breeds rubato. [Scott Henderson, audio engineer & musician]

Hidley’s Law — Nothing is impossible for a man who doesn’t have to do the work. [Thomas “Tom” Hidley, acoustician & studio designer]

Holt’s Law — The better the recording, the worse the performance. [J. Gordon Holt, journalist & founder of Stereophile]

Hulko’s Law — A theory is better than its explanation. [Lee Hulko, audio engineer]

Hull’s Law — Why put off ’till tomorrow what you can put off ’til mastering. [Scott Hull, mastering engineer]

Hull’s 2nd Law — Perfect is close enough.

Ingoldsby’s Law — You cannot determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter. [Kenneth “Ken” Ingoldsby, audio engineer at Sound Masters]

Kelsey’s Law — Make three correct guesses consecutively and you’ll establish yourself as an expert.

Knight’s Law — A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the pants. [”Mickey” Knight, audio salesman]

Lightner’s Law — If it happens, it must be possible. [William “Bill” Lightner, audio & mastering engineer]

Lippell’s Law — If a research project is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well. [Thomas “Tom” Lippell, equipment designer at Quad Eight Electronics & Biamp]

Ludwig’s Law — Never turn your back on digital. [Robert “Bob” Ludwig, mastering engineer]

Ludwig’s 2nd Law — The other line moves faster.

Marino’s Law — Everything takes longer than you think it will. [George Marino, mastering engineer]

Meadow’s Law — It won’t work. [Glenn Meadows, mastering engineer]

Merten’s Law — The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time reporting on the nothing you are doing.

Moran’s Law — If (N) is the number of patches to be made, then (N-1) is the number of patch cables available. [John Moran, mastering engineer/studio owner at Digital Services Recording]

Mortensen’s 1st Law — When using recorded music as a test source, the end of the song always coincides with the beginning of the test. [Daniel “Dan” Mortensen, live sound engineer]

Moyssiadis’ Law — As soon as you mentioned something, if it’s good, it goes away; If it’s bad, it happens. [David “Dave” Moyssiadis, recording & mastering engineer]

Neumann’s Law aka, The Other Golden Rule — Whoever has the gold makes the rules. [Georg Neumann, microphone designer]

Nordahl’s Law — Everything goes wrong at once. [Tore B. Nordahl, consultant & equipment designer at Studer, Neve & Mitsubishi]

Perry’s Law — If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of. [Kenneth “Ken” Perry, mastering engineer]

Putnam’s Corrollary to Hazen’s Law — When Hazen’s law is invoked, just unplug the erase head and record over the spot. [Norbert Putnam, audio engineer]

Quick’s Law aka The Hide–a–Bed Hypothesis — Anything designed to do more than one thing will not work as well as something designed solely to do either of those things. [Steven “Steve” Quick, mastering engineer]

Reese’s Law — There are two sides to every argument, unless a person is personally involved, in which case there is only one. [Michael “Mike” Reese, mastering engineer]

Rettinger’s Law — Nothing is ever a complete failure; it can always serve as a bad example. [Michael Rettinger, acoustician & studio designer]

Ricker’s Law — Experiments should be reproducible. They should all fail the same way. [“Stan” Ricker, mastering engineer known for promoting 1/2 speed cutting]

Roger’s Law — Never underestimate the power of a sufficiently large number of stupid people. [Erik “E-Rock” Rogers, live sound engineer]

Roth’s Law — At least 50% of all problems with a piece of electronic equipment are because of connectors. The remainder is everything else. [Brian Roth, audio engieer]

Sax’s Law — All Laws are basically false. [Douglas “Doug” Sax, mastering engineer]

Schnee’s Law — Anything that begins well will end badly. (Note: The converse of this law is not true.) [William “Bill” Schnee, audio engineer]

Schrodeder’s Law — 90% of everything is crap. [Manfred Schrodeder, acoustician, reasearcher & physicist at Bell Labs]

Smith’s Law of Probability — If there is a 50% chance of choosing correctly, the incorrect choice will be made 75% of the time.

Smith’s Law of Product Development — If you get the prototype displays running first, Marketing will sell it and promise delivery before you can finish development. [Robert “Bob” Smith, audio engineer]

Snoddy’s Law — It works better if you plug it in. [Glen Snoddy, audio engineer]

Stone’s Law — Necessity is the mother of strange bed fellows. [“Chris” Stone, engineer & studio designer/owner]

Storyk’s Law — The amount of work done varies inversely with the amount of time spent in the office. [John Storyk, acoustician & studio designer]

Stuart’s Law — The worse they are, the more verses they know. [John Stuart, recordist]

Tarsia’s Law — The obvious answer is always overlooked. [Joseph “Joe” Tarsia, engineer & studio designer/owner]

Todrank’s Law — There are two types of people: those who divide people into two types, and those who do not. [Robert “Bob” Todrank, acoustician & studio designer]

Voishvillo’s 1st Law — There are only two types of engineers:

• those who know that they do not know
• those who do not know that they do not know.

Voishvillo’s 2nd Law — Never show an uncompleted project to a fool. [Alex Voishvillo, acoustical engineer]

Westlake’s Law/Phoenix’s Law — The first 90% of the project takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90%. [Glenn Phoenix, engineer/equipment & studio designer at Westlake]

Wilcox’s Law — In any endeavor, two thirds of the work is done by one-third of the participants. [Peter Wilcox, musician]

Woram’s Law — Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic…with a nod to Arthur C. Clark, who coined this phrase. [John Woram, audio engineer & author]

Zappa’s Law — Fix it in the shrink wrap. [Frank Zappa, engineer, musician & composer]

Zentz’s Law — Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out. [Allen Zentz, mastering engineer]

We Need Your Help

Help us to add footnotes to this page! Let us know who these guys are and what they’re know for in audio circles…Thanks to Paul Stubblebine, Clete Baker, Howard Johnston, John Moran, Dave Glasser, Ellis Burman, Steve Hall, Rudy Chalupa, Michael Romanowski, Tony Bridge, Mark Franklin, Greg Reierson, Scott Hull, Eric Conn, Steve Quick, Corey Bailey, George Blood and Michael Romanowski for their help with new info on these folks as well as additional Laws!