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 June 24

12 Weeks

3-Credit Tuition

$2,817

Non-Credit Tuition

$2,615

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
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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 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Theory: Completion of Music Theory 101Music Theory and Composition 1Getting Inside Harmony 1, or Music for Beginners, 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 FundamentalsComposing 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.

Textbook(s)

  • No textbooks required

Recording

  • Students are required to produce multitrack recordings of their songs, including vocals and instrumental accompaniment (live instruments and/or MIDI sequencing).

Software

  • Full-featured Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), such as Pro Tools (Studio or Ultimate), Logic Pro, Cubase Pro, Ableton Live (Suite or Standard), Reaper, Reason, or FL Studio (Producer or Signature). Note that GarageBand is not acceptable.

Hardware

  • MIDI keyboard controller
  • Audio interface
  • XLR microphone (large diaphragm condenser recommended) and cable
  • Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as necessary cables
  • Closed back, over-ear studio headphones such as Sony MDR-7506 or better

Other

  • Pop filter
  • Microphone stand

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu 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

Instructors

Sarah Brindell

Author

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

Bonnie Hayes 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

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.


John Debo

Instructor

A passionate, dedicated creative with an academic and practical knowledge of recording technology and contemporary music production techniques, John Debo is always surfing an inspired wave of artistic experimentation where the beauty of simplicity is everything. A headspace where the creative process is stripped back to the essence of what true individuality means, where a single instrument often dictates an entirely new workflow, and a spiraling web of creative possibilities.

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Since 1990, Debo has played an instrumental role in pioneering electronic dance music culture in the US. His tri-pronged role as artist, DJ and club promoter gives him unique insight into both current and future music trends. He was among the first in America to recognize and embrace the underground electronic dance music movement happening in the UK and mainland Europe. His weekly club nights at Venus de Milo, Axis & Avalon in Boston carry legend status, laying a strong foundation for the now flourishing electronic dance music scene in the United States.

A known tastemaker, Debo served as a member of the confidential Remixer Craft Committee, a panel of artists & DJs carefully selected by The Recording Academy’s 12 Chapters to assist with the GRAMMY Awards process, ensuring that recordings of note entered into the GRAMMY process are not overlooked by voting membership. He was also selected for a coveted position as a Billboard Magazine Hot 100 Dance Hits chart reporting disc jockey, where his weekly club play chart was used to determine the world-wide weekly Hot 100 dance hits.

As a producer, Debo is a master of his craft. With a career spanning three decades and counting, he has brought his signature touch to an array of mainstream artists including Blur, Everything but the Girl, Modern English and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, to name a few. His studio skills as a writer, producer and remixer landed him a place on groundbreaking labels, including John Digweed’s Bedrock, Pete Tong’s FFRR, Deep Dish’s Yoshitoshi, King Britt’s Archives, as well as more than a few on his own long-running Mindwarp Records imprint. Whether in the studio, on the decks, or sharing experience and experiences in the classroom as an Assistant Professor in the Songwriting Department at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, one constant remains–the music is everything.

With a steady flow of writing, production, and collaborative projects in the works, an inspired and exceptionally creative John Debo will continue to be one to watch. Read Less


Rodney Alejandro

Instructor

In his 30+ year career, Rodney has become recognized as a protean polymath within the entertainment industry. In his most recent rock ‘n’ roll chapter, he was a performing member of the international pop band the Script. As the keyboardist/music director, he was responsible for arranging and weaving the group's hit songs into an unforgettable concert experience. Before his tenure with the Script, Rodney built a career as a consummate professional behind the scenes. 

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Rodney’s work includes songwriting/producing chart-topping songs in the English, Latin, and Asian music markets. He has collaborated with artists such as Quincy Jones, Sting, the Temptations, and Ray Charles. Rodney has also performed with many artists from around the world including Mańa, Babyface, Sofia Carson, and Stevie Wonder among many others. His work has earned industry recognition with projects garnering Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations, winning Billboard Latin pop album of the year in 2004, and multiple gold and platinum-selling record awards. Rodney has also taken on television opportunities and was the main title composer/producer for the Golden Globe winner for best drama series The Shield, as well as the composer/music producer for the drama series Thief.

In 2006, he was honored by his alma mater Berklee College of Music as the Alumnus of the Year, and in 2011 received recognition as the Music Education Advocate of the Year from the Recording Academy Texas Chapter. Rodney is currently an associate professor at Berklee College of Music where he teaches in the Songwriting Department, sharing his knowledge and experience from his distinguished music career.

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What's Next?

When taken for credit, Music Demo Production for Songwriters can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Majors

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.

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