Online Master's Degree Course

Music Demo Production for Songwriters

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Authored by Sarah Brindell, Bonnie Hayes, Chrissy Tignor

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Course Code: OSONG-570

Next Semester Starts
Jan 10, 2022

Level 5 - Degree Only

Level 5

Develop your sound through song arranging techniques and by producing, recording, and mixing songs at a professional level. You will focus on creating unique instrumentation and overall sound for your original songs, harnessing the power of a Digital Audio Workstation and using professional production techniques. To realize the potential of your original songs you will learn about tracking instruments, drum programming, synthesis, mixing, and mastering.

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You will learn to listen not only to the song, but to the sound, and to realize the possibilities for bringing your songs to listeners in their most effective and emotional form. You will create recordings and arrangements that work, considering both the layout of their sections and the treatment of frequency range and volume. You’ll use density and intensity to increase dynamics and momentum. By the end of the course you will be able to arrange/orchestrate, and establish form/structure effectively for original song demos in a DAW format.

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

  • communicate artistic ideas to other musicians
  • modify the order and length of song sections following a reasonable criterion
  • select suitable tempos and keys for your music
  •  utilize MIDI in song productions
  • adapt accompaniment parts to various contexts
  • determine the relationship between instrumental palette and genre
  • produce a song within a specific genre, and/or combine genres
  • identify types of accompaniment functions as they support a lead vocal
  • use density and intensity to create dynamic range and momentum
  • create a vocal arrangement that will make your song stand out
  • analyze productions and apply active listening to them
  • apply basic to intermediate DAW techniques for self-production
  • identify and use synthesis techniques, and develop electronic patches
  • apply drum programming realistically and electronic textures
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors Request Info

Syllabus

Lesson 1: Preparing to Record a Demo

  • Finding Your Production Voice
  • The Three P’s of Active Listening (Pieces, Placement, Processing)
  • Review of the Logic Pro X Interface, Making Templates and Track Types
  • Review of Tempo Operations, Markers, and Recording
  • Assignment 1: Studio Preparation

Lesson 2: The Basics: Laying the Foundation

  • Basic Tracks
  • Choosing the Tempo
  • Setting the Tempo
  • Checking the Key
  • Finding the Best Key
  • Writing Main Rhythm Parts
  • Main Rhythm Part Analysis
  • Creating a Simple Rhythm Track
  • Planning the Journey
  • Your Horizontal Arrangement
  • Editing and Quantization
  • Guide Vocal
  • Assignment 2: Song Foundation

Lesson 3: Finding Your Groove

  • Finding Your Groove
  • Establishing a Rhythmic Feel
  • Syncopation and Pulse
  • Drum Beat Basics
  • Practice Exercise: Hearing the Parts in ‘Poison’
  • Signature Drum Beats
  • Displacing the Backbeat
  • Reproduce a Drum Beat
  • Assignment 3: Groove

Lesson 4: Drum Programming

  • Drum Samplers (Drum Kit Designer, Drum Machine Designer)
  • Choosing the Right Samples for Your Song, Drum Programming Writing and Arrangements
  • Programming Styles for ‘Acoustic’ and ‘Electronic’ Samples
  • Creating More Realism with Advanced Quantization
  • Assignment 4: Drum Programming

Lesson 5: The Low End: Bass

  • Bass Basics
  • Drum Loops
  • Bass Line Paradigms
  • Subtractive Bass Line
  • Bass as Instrumental Hook
  • Exercise 5.3: Construct a Bass Line Hook
  • Musical Conversation: Drums and Bass
  • Kick, Snare, Bass Variations
  • Assignment 5: Bass Tracking

Lesson 6: Instruments for Instrumental Hooks: Guitars, Synthesizers, Keys, Horns

  • General Mid-Range Arranging Tips
  • Guitars Overview
  • Eight-Measure Loop
  • Overview of Keys
  • The Role of Synthesizers in Production
  • Common Synth Types
  • Choosing the Perfect Preset in ES1 and Other Logic Synths
  • Adjusting Presets to Make Them Work for You
  • Beefing up the Arrangement with Layering Synth Techniques
  • Assignment 6: Recording Your Instrumental Hook

Lesson 7: Guitar Recording and Production

  • Converting MIDI to Audio
  • Acoustic Guitar Recording Techniques
  • Condenser Microphones
  • Dynamic Microphones
  • Recording in Mono
  • Recording in Stereo
  • Electric Guitar Recording Techniques
  • DI Bass Recording
  • Layering Your Recordings and Using Amp Simulators
  • Assignment 7: Guitar Tracking

Lesson 8: Center Stage Vocals

  • Lead Vocal Performance
  • Optional Practice Exercise: Vocal Take
  • Lyric Considerations in Arranging Background Vocals
  • Background Vox: Musical Considerations
  • Surrounding the Lead Vocal
  • Background Vocal Styles
  • Vocal Recording Setup
  • Problem-Proof Your Recording: Preventing Plosives and Proximity Effect
  • Recording Vocals and Punch Recording
  • Compiling Takes and Comp Tracks
  • Flex Pitch
  • Assignment 8: Vocal Production

Lesson 9: Sectional Contrasts

  • Writing Songs with Sectional Contrast
  • Density, Intensity, and Frequency
  • Spotlight on the Refrain
  • Horizontal Arrangement: Development Section Options
  • Assignment 9: Arrangement Template

Lesson 10: Mixing: EQ and Dynamics

  • Creating the Right Balance with Volume and Pan
  • Tweaking Frequencies to Get the Perfect Mix: EQ Basics (Channel EQ)
  • EQ Parameters
  • Targeting and Eliminating Troublesome Frequencies: ‘The Peak and Sweep’ EQ
  • Adding Brightness and Eliminating Boominess: Filters and Shelving EQ
  • Evening Out Louds and Softs: Compression Basics (Logic Compressor)
  • Controlling Varying Dynamics: Compression Techniques
  • Eliminating Background Noise: Noise Gates (Logic Noise Gate)
  • Reducing Breaths and Targeted Volume Changes: Region Gain Settings
  • Reducing Breaths and Targeted Volume Changes: Volume Automation
  • Assignment 10: Rough Mix

Lesson 11: Final Mix and Mastering

  • Types of Ambience Techniques
  • Choosing the Perfect Room: Reverb Types
  • Choosing the Perfect Room: Setting up an Ambient Reverb
  • Reverb Components (Space Designer)
  • Delay and Doubling Techniques (Logic Tape Delay and Logic Stereo Delay)
  • Common Delay Parameters
  • Changing Your Effects over Time: Plug-In Automation
  • Making Room for the Kick Drum with Sidechaining
  • Creating Groups to Process Similar Instruments Together
  • Creating Submixes to Process Similar Instruments Together
  • Getting It Loud! Using Limiters to Make Songs Radio-Ready
  • How to Use a Limiter
  • Assignment 11: Mix Master and Replication Master

Lesson 12: Bridging the Gap Between Artistic and Market Identity

  • Dominant Genre Paradigms
  • Roots
  • Hip-Hop
  • Contemporary R&B
  • Dance Pop
  • New Country
  • Rock
  • World and Reggae
  • Latin
  • Your Artistic Identity: In or Out of the Box
  • Analyze Your Own Produced Song
  • Getting Out of the Box: Genre-Blending
  • Maintaining Your Artistic Integrity
  • Surprising or Out-of-Character Musical Element
  • Find Your Audience
  • Niche Markets and Indie Music
  • Assignment 12: Elevator Pitch

Requirements

Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Theory: Completion of Music Theory 101Music Theory and Composition 1Getting Inside Harmony 1, or Music Foundations, and/or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should know the basics of chords, melodies, rhythms, scales, time keeping, and how all of these elements come together to create music.

Audio Production: Completion of Music Production Fundamentals for SongwritersMusic Production 101Composing and Producing Electronic Music 1Pro Tools 101Music Technology for Guitarists, and/or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should have experience creating multitrack recordings using audio and MIDI, including creating rough mixes, in your DAW of choice.

Songwriting: Completion of Music Production Fundamentals for SongwritersLyric Writing: Tools and StrategiesLyric Writing: Writing From the TitleLyric Writing: Writing Lyrics to MusicProducing Songwriting Demos with Pro ToolsProducing Songwriting Demos with LogicSongwriting: MelodySongwriting: Harmony, or Songwriting: Writing Hit Songs, and/or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should have prior experience writing music and lyrics in a contemporary musical style. You should have written at least five complete songs, including music and lyrics.

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Software Requirements

  • Full-featured DAW such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase Pro, Ableton, Studio One, Reason, FL Studio

Hardware Requirements

  • MIDI controller
  • Audio interface with phantom power and at least 2 inputs (XLR and 1/4 inch) and 2 outputs
  • XLR condenser microphone such as Audio Technica AT2020, etc.
  • Pop filter

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu for any questions.


General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. 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

Instructors

Sarah Brindell

Author & Instructor

Sarah Brindell is a songwriter, arranger, producer, musician, and Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music. With touring credits around the world, she has shared the stage and recorded with many renowned artists including Norah Jones, Carole King, and Raul Midon. Her original songs can be heard on many television shows including MTV’s Made. She was a finalist in the Song of the Year contest as part of VH-1’s Save the Music Foundation, as well as the Billboard World Song Contest. A Summa Cum Laude graduate from Boston University, she holds a Master's degree in Music Education, and teaches courses in songwriting, harmony, ear training, arranging, and stage performance. She conducts clinics nationwide and internationally, and continually helps thousands of students to reach their full potential as professional musicians and songwriters.


Bonnie Hayes

Author & Instructor

Bonnie Hayes serves as the chair of Berklee’s Songwriting department. She has more than 35 years of experience as an educator, songwriter, producer, performer, and recording artist. During her career, she has been signed to five record deals and five writing deals, and toured as a side musician with Billy Idol and Cris Williamson. She has written songs for Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Bette Midler, David Crosby, Robert Cray, Adam Ant, and Booker T. & the MG’s, and produced more than 40 records. She designed and implemented the youth program for the Blue Bear School of Music in San Francisco, and has taught piano, guitar, theory, songwriting, and composition to thousands of students at institutions throughout the US.


Chrissy Tignor

Author & Instructor

Chrissy Tignor is a producer, songwriter, recording engineer and vocalist with a super-synthy pop style fused with EDM and hip-hop influences. She is a full-time faculty member in the Contemporary Writing and Production department at Berklee College of Music, and has worked with the likes of Alex Clare, Gary Go, Bastille, Lauren Hashian, and Notting Hill Music. Her music has been synced on Discovery Channel and TLC, and she currently produces, writes and remixes under the pseudonym Data Child.

Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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