Music Production 101

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Authored by Michael Bierylo, David Mash

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Course Code: OLMSC-101

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition

$1,545

Non-Credit Tuition

$1,290

There is an extraordinary range of affordable tools that make it possible for most musicians to produce their own music at home. The goal of this course is to familiarize you with the basic tools and techniques used in electronic music production.

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Since this course is an introduction, we’re assuming that students have no previous experience in music technology. In this course we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started.

From you, we are only expecting that you have some basic musicianship skills and a desire to produce your own music. Producing music is not a spectator sport, and for each lesson we’ll have projects for you to complete that will get you working with the topics presented.

In this course, you’ll explore topics that will get you started with setting up your production system and on your way to completing some basic production tasks. Each week, you’ll be actively engaged in activities and online discussions that will take you through the process of producing music on your computer.

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

  • plan an electronic music production project
  • identify common types of music production tools and their capabilities
  • design and configure a personal studio that includes a variety of hardware and software tools
  • create interesting musical sounds using software-based synthesizers and samplers
  • record and edit MIDI sequences
  • record and edit audio
  • use a variety of digital audio production and editing techniques
  • create a basic mix using the capabilities of a typical Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  • use a variety of effects to enhance a basic mix, including compression, EQ, chorus, delay, and reverb
  • prepare a finished work for distribution in a variety of audio formats
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Syllabus

Lesson 1: Setting Up an Electronic Music Studio

  • So What’s a Producer?
  • The Music Production Process
  • Developing Musical Ideas
  • Audio Recording
  • Digital Audio Workstations and Sample Loops
  • Editing
  • Mixing
  • Mastering
  • Music Production Tools
  • Audio Interfaces: USB and Thunderbolt
  • Monitor Speakers and Microphones
  • MIDI Performance Controllers
  • Control Surfaces and Grid Controllers
  • Configurations, Connections, and Connectors
  • The Ableton Live Workspace
  • Software Instruments and Effects in Live
  • Effect Processing Tools
  • Music Production and Mixing in Ableton Live
  • Assignment 1.1: Desktop Production Project Plan and Toolset
  • Assignment 1.2: Designing Your Studio

Lesson 2: Sound and Signals

  • Sound Propagation
  • Properties of Sound: Pitch, Timbre, and Loudness
  • Analog Audio
  • Standard Operating Levels: Reference Levels
  • Analog Audio Connections
  • Audio Specifications and Fidelity
  • The Noise Floor and Signal to Noise Ratio
  • Frequency Bandwidth and Response
  • Distortion, Headroom, and Dynamic Range
  • Measuring Dynamic Range
  • Assignment 2: Sound and Signals

Lesson 3: MIDI Sequencing

  • Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)
  • MIDI Messages
  • MIDI Sequencing in Ableton Live
  • Ableton Live’s Control Bar
  • Transport Functions and Location
  • The Song Position Display
  • Getting Ready to Record
  • Real-Time Recording
  • Metronome Settings
  • Viewing MIDI Recordings
  • Record Modes in Ableton Live
  • Assignment 2: MIDI Sequencing Project, Part 1

Lesson 4: MIDI Editing

  • What Makes an Expressive Musical Performance?
  • Editing MIDI Sequences
  • Tempo and Keys
  • Changing a Time Signature
  • Setting the Clip Length
  • MIDI Editing
  • Bars, Beats, and Subdivisions
  • Editing Note Length
  • Event-Level Editing
  • Quantization
  • Correcting Durations and Dynamics
  • Editing Pitch
  • Editing Song Form: Cut/Copy/Paste Operations
  • Ableton Live Editing Tools
  • Assignment 4: MIDI Editing Project, Part 2

Lesson 5: Working with Synthesizers

  • What's a Synthesizer?
  • Hardware: Integrated Instruments
  • Sound Modules
  • Subtractive Synthesizers
  • Samplers
  • Physical Modeling
  • FM Synthesis
  • Synthesizer Architecture: Generators and Processors
  • Properties of Sound: Pitch, Timbre, and Loudness
  • Software Instruments: Standalone, Plug-In, or DAW-Specific
  • Going Deeper with Digital Samplers
  • Software Samplers
  • Assignment 5: Electronic Orchestration

Lesson 6: Working with Time, Tempo, and Rhythm: Drum Programming, Pattern Devices, and Arpeggiators

  • Patterns in Music
  • Creating Drum Patterns
  • Defining a Rhythmic Feel
  • Groove Quantization
  • Creating Variations
  • Randomization and Chance
  • Drum Racks
  • Session View in Ableton Live
  • Clip Launching
  • Recording Clips into Arrangement View
  • Adding a hardware drum machine
  • Step Sequencers
  • Arpeggiators
  • Assignment 6: Rhythms and Patterns Project, Part 3

Lesson 7: Audio Recording

  • Digital Audio basics
  • Sample Rate
  • Resolution
  • File Types
  • Mass Storage Options
  • Digital Metering
  • Buffering and Latency
  • Microphones Types
  • Polar Patterns
  • Preamps and DI’s
  • Basic Mic Placement
  • Audio Interface Configuration
  • Monitoring During Recording
  • File Management
  • Assignment 7: Final Project MIDI Arrangement

Lesson 8: Audio Editing and Processing

  • Non-Destructive Editing
  • Defining Regions
  • Using Clips in Ableton Live’s Sampler Instrument
  • Launching Audio Clips in Ableton Live’s Session View
  • Editing a Song Form
  • Destructive Editing
  • Using DSP to Edit Audio
  • Using the Change Gain and Normalize Commands
  • Fade In/Out
  • Changing Tempo and Pitch
  • Assignment 8: Final Project Audio Recording

Lesson 9: Loops and Digital Audio Production Techniques

  • Making Audio Loops
  • Editing a Loop
  • Audio Tempo vs. Sequence Tempo
  • Audio Clip Warping
  • Matching Audio Loop Tempo to Sequence Tempo
  • Rendering MIDI Tracks to Audio
  • Beat Slicing
  • Strengthening a Weak Performance
  • Audio Quantization
  • Assignment 9: Final Project Loops, Audio Editing, and Processing

Lesson 10: Mixing and Audio Effects 1

  • Mixing in Ableton Live
  • Audio Routing in Mixing
  • Technical Issues in Mixing
  • Aesthetic Issues in Mixing
  • Effects Processing
  • EQ and Filters
  • Assignment 10: Final Project Mixing: Levels, Panning, and EQ

Lesson 11: Mixing and Audio Effects 2

  • Dynamics Processing
  • Typical Parameters of Dynamics Processors
  • The Compressors in Ableton Live
  • Types of Dynamics Processing
  • Limiting
  • Gating
  • Time-Based Effects
  • Delay Effects in Ableton Live
  • Doubling/Flanging/Chorus Effects
  • Reverb
  • Mixing and Automation
  • Assignment 11: Final Project Mixing: Dynamics, Reverb, and Automation

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

  • Collaboration Via the Cloud
  • Mastering
  • Mastering Tools
  • Audio Distribution Formats
  • Audio File Compression Overview
  • Distributing Audio Files
  • Assignment 12: Final Project Mastering and Submission

Requirements

Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Students should have:

  • a basic, working knowledge of rudimentary music theory
  • some basic keyboard skills

Textbook(s)

  • No textbooks required

Software

  • Ableton Live 12
    • Although you will be able to complete the work for this course with Live Standard, all course materials will be presented using Ableton Live Suite.
  • Audacity (free)

Hardware

  • MIDI keyboard controller
  • Audio interface
  • XLR microphone and cable
  • One of the following studio monitoring options (both recommended):
    • Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as necessary cables
    • Over-ear studio headphones, such as Sennheiser HD 600, Sony MDR-7506, Philips SHP9500, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, etc.

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

Michael Bierylo

Author

Michael Bierylo is an electronic musician, guitarist, composer, and sound designer. He has been a faculty member at Berklee College of Music since 1995 and is currently Chair of the Electronic Production and Design Department where he led the development of Berklee’s Electronic Digital Instrument Program, the Electronic Performance Minor, and the Creative Coding Minor. Major projects include artist residencies with Suzanne Ciani, Nona Hendryx, Hank Shocklee, Richard Devine, Chagall, Robert Rich, and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. He is also active in Berklee Online, Berklee’s online school, where he authors and teaches music technology courses.

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Bierylo has performed throughout the United States as a member of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. As a solo electronic artist, Bierylo has performed with laptop computer and modular synthesizers in the US, Berlin, Shanghai, and Krakow including concerts with Grammy-nominated electronic musician BT and Terence Blanchard. As an active member of the Audio Engineering Society he has chaired the Electronic Instrument Design and Applications Track at national conventions, bringing together industry innovators such as Dave Smith and Dave Rossum, as well as design teams from Moog, Roland, and Korg. Read Less


David Mash

Author

David Mash is a guitarist, composer, producer, synthesist, author, educator, and futurist. He retired in 2017 as Senior Vice President for Innovation, Strategy, and Technology at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he had worked for over 40 years. David was the founding chair of Berklee’s Music Synthesis Department (now known as Electronic Production and Design). David has collaborated on development and artistic projects with leaders in the multimedia and music industries such as Kodak, Adobe Systems, Digidesign/Avid, Opcode, Kurzweil, Yamaha, Roland, Korg, Softube, Fishman Transducers, Godin Guitars, and many others.

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David is past International Chair for Electronic Music for the International Association of Jazz Educators, was a founding board member of the Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME), and recently retired as the Founding Executive Chair of the Avid Customer Association board. In addition to recently joining the Board for The Record Co., he is currently President of the board for the Bob Moog Foundation and chairs the Alan R. Pearlman (ARP) Foundation.

Today he is writing and producing music full-time, releasing his own music under the “Mashine Music” and “Stefan” personas, and you can find his work wherever you normally find digital music (Amazon, Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, CDBaby, etc…). He’s also producing music for other artists with his long-time collaborator and friend Peter Bell, under the name “Bar Of 2 Productions.” Read Less


Lee Gilboa

Instructor

Lee Gilboa is a US-Based Israeli composer, researcher, and audio engineer. In her work, she uses speech, audio spatialization, and vocal processing, and engages with different themes around sonic identity such as naming, representation, collectivity, oppression, and self-expression. While living in New York between 2017 and 2019, she began her work as a curator for Daniel Neumann’s CT::SWaM, and she developed her debut album, The Possibility of Sonic Portraiture (Contour Editions). Her works have been presented at Roulette Intermedium, the Immersion Room at New York University, the Cube at Virginia Tech, the Ars Electronica Forum Wallis festival, and the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, among others, and at conferences such as the Audio Testimonies Symposium, Residual Noise, and the Sound of Sound Studies. Gilboa has participated in several master classes and artist residencies internationally, including the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Honk-Tweet, and IRCAM's ManiFeste Academy. She holds degrees from Berklee College of Music and Columbia University. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Brown University’s music and multimedia composition program. Recent activities include the release of a collection of works titled The Other’s Conception and a collaboration with the rapper Sammus.


Brian Cass

Instructor

Brian Cass is an electronic music producer, performer, and educator. Brian's past employers include API Audio, Native Instruments, Ableton, Puremagnetik, Pat Metheny, Jordan Rudess, and Nielsen/Billboard. Post-production clients include MBTA Boston, Museum of Natural History NYC, Toys R Us, Hilton Worldwide, and Comedy Central. He has been teaching private lessons and authoring online tutorials since 2002. Brian has been a Berklee College of Music faculty member since 2012. 


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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