Music Production 101

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Authored by Michael Bierylo, David Mash


Course Code: OLMSC-101

Next term starts January 13, 2020

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Designed for anyone interested in producing music on his or her computer, regardless of style, this course provides an overview of the wide range of tools available to the modern electronic musician. Through hands-on exercises and projects, you’ll experience the process of producing a piece of music with your computer, from developing the original musical idea through distributing a final mix. This course will teach you not only how to design and configure an electronic music studio that supports your creative goals, but also how to understand and utilize the most popular tools and techniques employed by electronic musicians. You’ll learn how to set up audio interfaces, microphones, MIDI sequencers, synthesizers, drum machines, and more to effectively create and produce your music ideas.

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Note: Music Production 101 is a revised version of two former Berklee Online courses: Desktop Music Production for Mac and Desktop Music Production for PC. If you have already taken Desktop Music Production for Mac or Desktop Music Production for PC, please note that you will encounter similar or repeated lesson content should you choose to enroll in Music Production 101.

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

  • Configure a personal production workspace and use software instruments and audio recordings to produce a piece of music
  • Understand the properties of sound and how they are represented in the analog and digital domain
  • Understand basic audio specifications used in product descriptions and use them to choose audio tools that will best match your creative needs and budget
  • Create a composite version of a performance using multiple takes understand how the MIDI protocol represents musical performances
  • Create and effectively use audio loops in a music production
  • Recognize how audio signals move within a mixer
  • Use common mixing and mastering techniques to create a stereo master audio file
  • Use cloud services for distribution and collaboration
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Setting Up an Electronic Music Studio

  • How Will You Use Your Studio?
  • Overview of Tools Used in an Electronic Music Studio
  • The Role of Portable Hand-Held Recorders
  • Mobile Devices in Electronic Music Production
  • Building a Reason Rack
  • Configuring Controllers in Reason
  • Configuring Computer Audio in a Simple Studio
  • Home Studio Connections
  • Room Preparation and Setup
  • Speaker Placement
  • How is an Electronic Music Studio Different from a Recording Studio?

Lesson 2: Sound and Signals

  • Sound propagation
  • Sound properties
  • Decibels
  • dB - SPL
  • dB Reference Scales: dBu, dBV
  • Operating levels: +4dB, -10-dB
  • Mic Levels
  • Balanced vs Unbalanced
  • Analog Connectors
  • Audio Specifications
  • Noise Floor
  • Signal to Noise Ratio
  • Frequency Bandwidth
  • Frequency Response
  • Distortion
  • Head Room
  • Dynamic Range
  • Studio Set-Up

Lesson 3: MIDI Sequencing

  • MIDI messages
  • Sequencing
  • The Transport
  • The Arrange Window
  • Menus and Transport Display
  • Getting Ready to Record
  • Bars, Beats, and Subdivisions
  • Metronome Settings
  • MIDI Recording
  • Record Modes: Replace and Overdub
  • Loop Recording
  • Step Recording
  • Standard MIDI files

Lesson 4: MIDI Editing

  • Editing MIDI Sequences
  • Tempo
  • Keys
  • Song Length
  • Event-Level Editing
  • Note
  • Velocity
  • Duration
  • Fixing Mistakes
  • Correcting Timing
  • Correcting Durations
  • Correcting Dynamics
  • Editing Pitch
  • Exercise: Cut/Copy/Paste
  • Reason Editing Tools
  • Quantization: grid and groove
  • MIDI Mixing and Automation

Lesson 5: Working with Synthesizers

  • Types of synthesizers
  • Synthesizer architecture
  • Audio signal path
  • Control signal path
  • Synthesizers in Reason
  • Software Synthesizers, Standalone or Plug-In

Lesson 6: Working with Time, and Tempo, and Rhythm: Drum Machines, Pattern Devices, and Loops

  • Patterns in Music
  • Creating Drum Patterns
  • Step sequencers
  • Arpeggiators
  • Defining Rhythm Loops
  • Defining Loops
  • Loops and Song Tempo
  • Adaptive Audio Changing Audio Pitch and Time
  • Loop File Formats
  • REX files, Apple Loops
  • Making and Using REX Files
  • Time Correction

Lesson 7: Audio Recording

  • Digital Audio Basics
  • Sample Rate
  • Resolution
  • File Types
  • Mass Storage Options
  • Digital Metering
  • Buffering and Latency
  • Microphone Types
  • Polar Patterns
  • Preamps and DI’s
  • Basic Mic Placement
  • Monitoring During Recording
  • File Management

Lesson 8: Digital Audio Production Techniques

  • Comparing Audio Record Modes to MIDI
  • Recording Multiple Takes
  • Basic Audio Editing Techniques
  • Comping Multiple Takes
  • Time Correcting Audio Performances

Lesson 9: Audio Editing and Processing

  • Non-Destructive Editing
  • Defining Regions
  • Editing a Song Form
  • Destructive Editing
  • Cut/Copy/Paste
  • Comping Multiple Takes
  • DSP
  • Change Gain vs. Normalize
  • Exercise: Using the Change Gain and Normalize
  • Silence
  • Using the Silence Command
  • Fade In/Out
  • Using Fades
  • Time/Pitch Correction

Lesson 10: Mixing and Audio Effects 1

  • Reason’s SSL Style Mixer - Compare to 14:2 Mixer
  • Audio Routing in Mixing
  • Insert Effects
  • Aux Send and Returns
  • Overview of Effects Types
  • Spectrum Processing: Filters
  • Dynamics processing

Lesson 11: Mixing and Audio Effects 2

  • Time-Based Effects
  • Delay
  • Doubling/Flanging/Chorus
  • Reverb
  • Automation

Lesson 12: Mastering, Music Distribution and Course Wrap-up

  • Audio Distribution Formats
  • Downloads
  • Streaming
  • Audio File Compression
  • Mastering
  • Mastering Tools
  • Mastering for MP3
  • Making MP3 Files
  • Distributing Audio Files Via the Web
  • Sharing Files on the Web
  • Cloud collaboration


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Students should have a basic, working knowledge of rudimentary music theory and have some basic keyboard skills.

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Software Requirements

  • Free audio-editing software Audacity
  • Reason 10 or higher (full version)

Hardware Requirements

  • MIDI keyboard controller
  • Microphone (XLR connection recommended if using audio interface)
  • USB audio interface (recommended)

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 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 (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection




For Michael Bierylo, teaching Music Synthesis at Berklee is just one component of an eclectic and highly creative career. From his Virtual Planet studio, he's completed film, video, and multimedia scores for clients like Hasbro Interactive, Nintendo, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, VH1, Martha Stewart Living, and Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. He's also a guitarist, composer, programmer and sound designer for the uncategorizable new music avatars Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. His solo album Life Line earned four and a half stars from the All Music Guide, and he's a voting member of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences.



Author of nine books and a recognized expert on music technology, David Mash is Vice President for Information Technology at Berklee College of Music. One of Berklee's true innovators, he founded the nation's first music synthesis department, developed the Center for Technology in Music Instruction, and assisted in the design of the country's largest networked music learning facility, the Berklee Learning Center. He has also scored award-winning digital films, and appeared on such programs as Newton's Apple, CBS Evening News, 3-2-1 Contact, and National Public Radio's All Things Considered.



Peter Bell, Electronic Music and Production faculty at Berklee College of Music, is a producer, composer, and guitarist. His compositions and productions include the themes to This Old House, New Yankee Workshop, Victory Garden, the ABC After School Special, the award- winning film Radio Cape Cod, as well as countless jingles and production tracks. Peter has produced tracks featuring many world-class musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Tracey Bonham, Livingston Taylor, Kate Taylor, Alex Taylor, Layla Hathaway, John Poussette-Dart, The New Kids On The Block, Rebecca Parris, Mick Goodrick, Mike Metheny, Mark Sandman of Morphine, Alan Estes, Patty Grifin, and others.

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He has recorded with Bonnie Raitt on Warner Brothers and the James Montgomery Band on Capricorn and Island Records, among many others. His awards include two Emmys, seven NEBA awards, and six ASCAP awards. Peter holds a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Composition and Arranging from Berklee College of Music and a BA in Government from Harvard University. Read Less



Tony Schultz has been an audio engineer, music producer and composer for more than 28 years as owner & operator of Big T Productions in Boston. He is an assistant professor at The New England Institute of Art, where he has taught since 1997, specializing in MIDI and Audio Technology. He has been teaching for Berklee Online since 2016.

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Tony has a bachelor’s of music degree in Music Production & Engineering from the Berklee College of Music and a master’s in Music Technology from the University of Newcastle in Callaghan, Australia. He has served three consecutive two-year terms as the chair of the Boston Section of the Audio Engineering Society and is currently serving his second two-year term as the AES VP of the Eastern Region of the US/Canada. He is also the current chair of Regions & Sections, overseeing all Pro and Student AES Sections Worldwide.

Past clients include RCA Records, Mercury Records, Virgin Records, WFNX, Filene's, Home Inc., EF Education, Schneider & Associates, Softskull Press Inc., Brand X Filmworks, Dudnyk Healthcare, Teatro de Marionettas de Venezuela, and the NAHB Production Group.

Tony has presented at a number of colleges including Berklee College of Music, Harvard University and the Royal College of Music in London.

He is a member of the Society of Professional Recording Services (SPARS), National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), and the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP). Read Less



An accomplished audio engineer, Drew Cappotto’s breadth of work spans record production for Billboard charting albums, interactive art installations, and auditory neuroscience research focused on music perception and cognition. His work in the industry includes composition and music production for television and advertising (A&E, Showtime, American Express), audio mastering for an extensive roster of artists as a freelance engineer and during his tenure at Sony Music, and countless hours spent in the recording studio as both a musician and producer/engineer. As an educator, he has held faculty positions at New York University and Berklee College of Music teaching music production and audio engineering. As a musician, Drew focuses on computer-aided composition and electronic music, integrating his experience with production and emerging technologies. 


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