Audio Basics for Recording

Author: Dan Thompson   •   Course Code: OMPRD-210

Music technology has become integral to the life and work of every musician. Increasingly, all professional musicians and music producers are responsible for and expected to be able to effectively record themselves and others, navigate MIDI and audio systems, and troubleshoot their own and others’ recording set ups. Audio is at the heart of every sound system, both analog and digital, and a fundamental knowledge and understanding of audio and audio systems is a must.

In Audio Basics for Recording, you will learn to understand and manage both simple and complex sound systems, including recording studios and live sound reinforcement set ups. The ability to properly set up, operate, and manage any sound system effectively depends on a foundational understanding of both acoustical sound and electrical audio signals. This course will provide you with an in-depth look at such sound systems, both analog and digital, from initial acoustic inception, through transduction and electrical manipulation, to power and acoustic reproduction.

The course will take you though the complete audio signal chain, beginning with the acoustic source. You’'ll explore audio transducers including microphones and loudspeakers. You’’ll then explore basic and advanced signal flow, including analog and digital consoles and digital audio workstations (DAWs), culminating in gain structures, where you’'ll learn to trace levels through a complete hybrid studio signal chain, from source and microphone to loudspeaker and headphones. Along the way you’'ll learn about basic acoustics and electronics, analog and digital formats and professional conventions, levels and metering, and DAW and console signal flow. 

Audio Basics for Recording is geared towards students interested or engaged in recording themselves and/or others and interested in setting up and navigating a recording studio of any size. By the end of the course, you’'ll be able to configure and trace a recorded signal through a complete recording studio set up, while optimizing levels and avoiding noise and distortion. You’'ll be able to read and understand equipment spec sheets, studio, console, and DAW signal flows, and properly set up a basic recording studio integrating both analog and digital elements and interconnects with attention to proper impedance, interfacing, and clocking. You’ will have the skills to optimize gain stages and trace levels throughout the system, as well as troubleshoot potential problems. Consider this your twelve-week audio bootcamp!

Upon successful course completion, you will have gained a thorough understanding of both analog and digital audio systems. You will be able to:

  • Read as well as generate signal flows of complex audio systems
  • Navigate analog and digital audio console, control, and DAW architectures
  • Read and understand audio equipment specification sheets
  • Trace levels through sound system gain structures
  • Use Ohm’s Law to calculate voltages, current, and power in circuits
  • Manage audio levels and impedances in complex sound systems
  • Differentiate between and apply different decibel conventions
  • Apply professional metering conventions
  • Use proper grounding schemes and manage system noise
  • Differentiate between various microphone and loudspeaker types and applications

Lesson 1: The Basics of Sound

  • What is Sound? Frequency, Wavelength, and Period
  • Frequency and Period
  • Wavelength
  • Transduction: Acoustic to Electric
  • Amplitude
  • Oscilloscope
  • Complex Waves

Lesson 2: Transducers

  • Electromagnetic Induction
  • Microphones
  • Ribbon Microphones
  • Condenser/Capacitor Microphones
  • Tube Microphones
  • Microphone Specifications: Frequency Response
  • Sensitivity and Polar Response
  • Omni-Directional and Cardiod Microphones
  • Hypercardiod and Supercardiod Microphones
  • Shotgun Microphones
  • Bi-Directional / Figure-of-8 Microphones
  • The Proximity Effect
  • Transient Response
  • Loudspeakers
  • Moving-Coil Loudspeakers
  • Electrostatic Loudspeakers
  • Baffle Types
  • Infinite Baffle
  • Bass Reflex (Ported)
  • Loudspeaker Specifications
  • Efficiency
  • Dispersion Characteristics

Lesson 3: Signal-Flow Basics

  • Signal-Flow Principles and Symbols
  • Signal-Flow Principles Review
  • Effective Steps for Generating a Signal Flow
  • Signal-Flow Symbols
  • Radio Signal Flow
  • Signal Flow for Stereo Radio
  • Home Theater Receiver Signal Flow

Lesson 4: Advanced Signal Flow

  • Mixer Signal Flow
  • Source to Destination
  • 8-Channel Mixer Signal Flow
  • Advanced Signal Flow: The Recording Console
  • Sony MXP-3000 Recording Console Signal Flow
  • Advanced Functions
  • In-Line Analog Console Signal Flow

Lesson 5: The Decibel

  • Exponent Laws
  • Logarithms
  • Log Rules
  • Calculating Logarithms
  • The Decibel Scale
  • Exponential Change in Power
  • Power vs. Voltage/Pressure
  • Sound Level, Power, and Voltage

Lesson 6: Reference Levels

  • 0 dB References
  • Signal-to-Noise and Dynamic Range
  • Inverse Square Law
  • Mic Sensitivity
  • Other Gain Stages/Faders
  • Power Amplifier Sensitivity
  • Loudspeaker Sensitivity
  • Gain Structures

Lesson 7: Basic Electronics

  • Ohm's Law
  • Circuit Interactions
  • Series vs. Parallel
  • Circuit Voltages and Currents
  • Resistance vs. Impedance
  • Series-Parallel
  • Transmission
  • Balanced vs. Unbalanced
  • Basic Electronics

Lesson 8: Digital Audio Basics

  • The A/D and D/A Conversion Process
  • Pulse Amplitude Modulation (Sample)
  • Hold
  • Quantize and Code (PCM – Pulse Code Modulation)
  • Sampling Frequency
  • Aliasing
  • Anti-Aliasing Filter (LPF)
  • D/A Process
  • Dither
  • Recording, Transmission, and Storage
  • Word Clock
  • Word Clock Transmission
  • Jitter
  • Transmission Protocols
  • Digital Audio Cables

Lesson 9: DAW Signal Flow

  • Digital Signal Routing
  • Digital I/O
  • DAW Input/Output Matrix
  • Tracks (Recording/Edit) and Mixer Windows
  • Templates
  • Audio Tracks
  • Audio Tracks vs. "Voices"
  • MIDI Tracks
  • Virtual Instrument Tracks
  • Mixer Window
  • Faders
  • Master Faders
  • Group Masters
  • VCA Masters
  • Plug-Ins and Inserts
  • Auxiliary (Aux) Inputs
  • Busses
  • Serial vs. Parallel Processing
  • Recording (Bouncing) the Mix Back Into the DAW Session

Lesson 10: Digital Consoles and Controllers

  • The Digital Console
  • Analog and Digital I/O
  • Input/Output Matrix
  • Paged Architecture
  • Select/Focus Channel
  • Channel Strip
  • The DAW Controller
  • Focus Fader
  • DAW Control Protocol
  • Synchronization

Lesson 11: The Complete Hybrid Recording Studio

  • Input Sources
  • Signal Output
  • Microphones
  • Mic Preamp Stage
  • The A/D Converter Stage
  • Recording Signal Flow
  • Monitoring Playback
  • Adding the Console/Mixer
  • Combining Signals
  • Aux Sends
  • Complete Signal Flow

Lesson 12: Live Sound Reinforcement

  • Live Sound Reinforcement Signal Flow
  • Simple System: Mixer Feeding both FOH and Monitors
  • Full Pro System: FOH Console Plus Monitor Mixer
  • Recording Live to Multitrack
  • Maximizing Signal-to-Noise Ratio
  • Gain Before Feedback
  • Microphone Choice and Placement
  • Preparing for the Final Exam
  • Study Guide: Key Topics
  • Final Exam

Dan Thompson

Author & Instructor

Daniel M. Thompson is Assistant Chair of Music Production and Engineering (MP&E) at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught advanced production, recording and mix techniques, and audio technology for over fifteen years. An independent writer/producer and recording engineer, his credits include work on records, feature films, and television series and movies, including ER, The Sopranos, Swimfan, The Sweetest Thing, Melrose Place, Malibu Shores, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Touched By An Angel, Soul Food and NCIS, to name just a few. Dan has authored articles on music technology for EQ and Electronic Musician, has been a presenter and clinician on music production topics in the U.S. and abroad, including at the Panama Jazz Festival, and his book Understanding Audio (Berklee Press, 2005) is a required textbook for Berklee College of Music's own Music Production and Engineering classes, as well as for numerous other music production and engineering programs throughout the country and abroad. He is a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the Audio Engineering Society (AES), and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).


David Lefkowitz

Instructor

David Lefkowitz has been teaching in higher education for fifteen years. He has taught courses such as physics, acoustics, electronics, sound design, music theory, audio technology, digital audio, advanced recording, and advanced mixing at several colleges. David served as the Assistant Department Chair for the Audio Production Department at The New England Institute of Art. David moderated / coordinated for the Boston area Pro Tools User Group (PTUG) and has presented at the Parson’s Expo and other events. He is a Pro Tools certified expert instructor.

Under his independent business name, Lefko Productions, David worked on records with international and regional artists including Johnny A, Stuart Kimball, the Beloved Few, Entrain, Kol B’Seder, Dany Silva, Bana, and the Mendes Brothers. Bana and the Mendes Brothers were featured in Putumayo World Disk Series. Dave was a principal business partner of Renaissance Recording Company, a commercial recording facility in Boston’s Back Bay where he worked as the chief recording engineer. David’s passion is composition and he is additionally skilled as a playwright, a show producer, a show director and as a musical artist. Unyfi, David’s audience-centered comical rock arts show featuring his compositions first performed at the Regent Theatre and then at A.R.T. Oberon in Feb 2015. Lately, David has been venturing into sound design and so far has worked on various films including Archie’s Betty and Celling Your Soul. David is a member of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).

Prerequisites

Completion of Applied Mathematics for Musicians and any of the following DAW courses: Pro Tools 101, Pro Tools 110, Producing Music with Logic, Producing Music with Reason, Producing Music with Cubase, or Producing Music with Ableton Live, or equivalent knowledge and/or experience.


Required Textbook(s)

Understanding Audio by Daniel Thompson, Berklee Press/Hal Leonard


Software Requirements

  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of student's choice
  • Audacity will be used for several examples and can be downloaded free

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • Sound Level (SPL) Meter (Note: If you have an iPhone or iPad, we recommend Studio Six AudioTools, which contains both SPL meter and RTA)
  • A monitor speaker system, preferably full range
  • High-quality headphones (Sony 7506 or equivalent recommended)
  • Microphone/Mic Preamp
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed (http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

Comments

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  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
    $1,479
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition
    $1,229

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