Online Master's Degree Course

Culminating Experience in Music Production 1


Authored by Sean Slade


Course Code: OMPRD-693

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 6 - Degree Only

Level 6

All Master of Music in Music Production students complete a culminating experience or thesis project. This experience is meant to be exactly as named: the culmination of your work in the program, the experience through which you synthesize all you have learned. The culminating experience helps shape your next steps in the profession and in your career. In short, the culminating experience provides an opportunity for you to complete unique and original professional work. Through the culminating experience, you make a creative contribution to help solve a problem that exists in the profession. The work involved in the culminating experience represents the highest expression of your learning at the graduate level.

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In this course, you will review and finalize the proposal that was developed in OMPRD-599 Commercial Vocal Production. Additionally, you will review the culminating experience guidelines that you learned in the Proposal Development course. You will spend the semester developing your project, following your determined plan of action, and managing organizational and time management skills, to execute your research and work. You finalize your culminating experience committee, developing a plan to communicate with and receive feedback from each committee member. You will also learn to compute, interpret, and present data and results to support the project. By the end of the course, you will have completed a draft of your project. For recording projects, a draft generally means completion of recordings and rough mixes.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Develop a draft or substantial portion of your culminating experience project
  • Execute the research required for your project
  • Execute, revising if necessary, the planned scope of work and timeline for your culminating experience
  • Synthesize knowledge gained to develop an original contribution
  • Assess feedback and incorporate revisions as appropriate
  • Determine your culminating experience committee, developing a communication plan and process
  • Assess all culminating experience requirements in terms of plans of action, documentation, research, and more
  • Compute, interpret, and present data and results to support the project
  • Apply organization and time management strategies to master a long-term project
  • Examine the process of completing the culminating experience project
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors Request Info


Lesson 1: The Recording Project and the Course

  • The Project: Recording a Four-Song Finished Master and the Theory Behind an Extended Play (EP) 
  • Defining the "Average Listener"
  • Defining "Musical Taste"
  • The Dream World of the Record
  • Assignment 1: Advisor Choice and "Average Listener" Master Recording

Lesson 2: The Job of the Record Producer

  • Producer Responsibility No. 1: Schedule and Budget
  • Producer Responsibility No. 2: Shaping The Music
  • Producer Responsibility No. 3: Supervising Performance
  • Producer Responsibility No. 4: “Work vs. Play”
  • Assignment 2: The Professional Record Producer Project Roles

Lesson 3: What Has Brought Us Here (Edison Cylinder to The Present)

  • Recording Technology and Musical Expression
  • Pop Music—The Cycle of Style/Anti-Style
  • Eternal Verities: Constants in Popular Songs
  • Assignment 3: Romantic and Novelty Song Aesthetic Qualities

Lesson 4: Creating a Concept for Your Project

  • Choosing an Artist and "Getting the Gig"
  • Genre—Rules or No Rules?
  • Conceptualization Techniques
  • The Concept of a Commercial Reference Disc (CRD)
  • Assignment 4: Project Artist/Band and Music Exploration

Lesson 5: Exploring Genres 

  • All Genres Are Created Equal
  • Hip-hop
  • Electric Guitar/Bass/Drums Music
  • The Crisis in Modern Pop
  • Assignment 5: Project Genre Submission

Lesson 6: Songwriting and Song Selection

  • Do You Write Songs?
  • Songwriting Strategies
  • Sampling (Creating Songs from Other Songs)
  • Songs as Jokes
  • Assignment 6: Original Song Submission

Lesson 7: Components of Collaboration

  • What Is an Artist?
  • Project Categories: The Singer/Songwriter, the Band, and the Self-Production
  • Common Recording Session Difficulties
  • Life Outside the Studio
  • Assignment 7: Successful Collaboration with an Artist

Lesson 8: Demo to Master

  • The History of the Demo
  • Demo to Master Example: "Lady O" (The Turtles)
  • Demo-to-Master Examples: “Spoonman” and “Evenflow”
  • Demo to Master Example: "Thinking About You" (Radiohead)
  • Assignment 8: Rough Demos Submission and Review

Lesson 9: Preproduction Part One

  • "What Are You Going to Do to My Song?" Defining Preliminary Pre-production
  • Song Selection/Song Analysis
  • Song Structure
  • Groove: “To Drum or Not To Drum?”
  • Assignment 9: Rough Demos Submission and Review

Lesson 10: Preproduction Part Two

  • Tempo
  • Lyrics
  • Melody, Prosody and Chord Changes
  • Key and the Basic Arrangement
  • Assignment 10: Submit Final Demos with Lyric Sheets

Lesson 11: Supervising Performances in the Studio

  • Project Organization Tips
  • Creating the “Vibe” and Establishing Trust
  • Identifying and Obtaining the Best Performances
  • Guy Stevens
  • Assignment 11: Recording Project Studio Schedule

Lesson 12: Your Basic Session

  • What is a Basic Track?
  • To Play or To Program? Live Drummers vs. Loops and Samples
  • Strategies For Recording and Judging Basic Tracks
  • Principles of Making a Rough Mix
  • Submission of Basic Sessions Rough Mixes 


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Architectural, Acoustic, and Audio System Design for the Modern Music Production StudioCritical Analysis of Music Production TechniquesCreative Recording and Editing Techniques in Music Production, and Commercial Vocal Production or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to produce, engineer, and mix a 4 song EP over the course of both Culminating Experience in Music Production courses. Students will focus on pre-production in CE 1, then produce and mix their EP in CE 2.


  • Full-featured Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), such as Pro Tools (Studio or Ultimate), Logic Pro, Cubase Pro, Ableton Live (Suite or Standard), or Reaper


  • MIDI controller
  • Audio interface, with a minimum of 8 mic preamps
  • One of the following combinations of 8 XLR microphones:
    • Option 1:
      • 4 dynamics (one of these should be appropriate for kick drum and bass, such as the Shure Beta 52A)
      • 2 matched pairs of condensers (4 total)
    • Option 2:
      • 5 dynamics (one of these should be appropriate for kick drum and bass, such as the Shure Beta 52A)
      • Matched pair of condensers (2 total)
      • 1 ribbon
  • Professional-quality studio monitors (pair), such as Dynaudio's or Focal's, as well as necessary cables
  • Professional over-ear studio headphones, such as Sennheiser HD 600, beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, etc.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Sean Slade

Author & Instructor

Sean Slade is an associate professor in the Music Production and Engineering (MP&E) Department at Berklee College of Music. After graduating from Yale University in 1978, he moved to Boston, playing guitar and saxophone in various beat combos before co-founding Fort Apache Studios in 1985.

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Slade has produced, engineered, and mixed records for Radiohead, Hole, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Warren Zevon, Lou Reed, Joe Jackson, the Dresden Dolls, and many more artists. When not teaching at Berklee, he can be found recording music at Quarry Recorders, his studio in rural Maine. Read Less


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