One look at the hundreds of knobs and switches on a studio's mixing board is enough to persuade just about anyone that recording engineering is complicated (I've often wondered if some of the knobs are just there to impress clients). Three area studios have put together courses to help musicians learn the ropes.

Omega Studio's School of Applied Recording Arts and Sciences, in Rockville, offers four different programs that meet for four hours once a week, for six to 10 weeks. The classes are approved by the Maryland State Board for Higher Education and include basic, intermediate and advanced engineering, and advertising and production engineering. The courses aren't cheap -- ranging from $595 to $995 -- but they are comprehensive. Many local studios are staffed with alumni of Omega's program. 946-4686.

Columbia's Roar Productions offers an a la carte approach to engineering education through their School of Recording Technology. Each of the 12 courses covers a single area, such as basic principles of recording, microphone techniques, studio care and maintenance and audio for advertising. Most classes are one night; prices range from $50 to $150. Those who'd like to get an overview of recording should consider the $20 orientation session; the fee can be applied toward future courses. Roar also offers classes in conjunction with Howard County Community College. 596-2600.

Cue Recording Ltd. recently moved into a Falls Church studio and plans to offer eight-week engineering courses similar to Omega's. 532-9033.