Producing Songwriting Demos with Pro Tools

Author: Chrissy Tignor Fisher   •   Course Code: OSONG-230

If you ever want an established artist to cover one of your songs, you need to have a demo that shows just how much potential your composition has. This course is designed for the songwriter interested in production and engineering high-quality demos at home using Pro Tools. The course acts as a springboard for the novice producer/songwriter to jump into the world of producing, recording, and mixing songs to a professional level. The curriculum begins with active listening, analysis, and exploring the producer’s role in recorded music. Next, we explore Pro Tools techniques, drum programming, synthesis, and sampling, alongside guitar and vocal recording techniques. The course concludes with you assembling all musical elements together with mixing; EQ, Compression, Reverb, and other effects will be explored. The course will be taught via a combination of listening and analysis, discussion, and video demonstration. The projects are hands-on and include recording other instrumentalists/vocalists.

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

  • Analyze productions and apply active listening to them
  • Identify various genres for stylistic study and influence
  • Apply basic to intermediate Pro Tools techniques for self-production
  • Identify and use synthesis techniques and develop electronic patches
  • Apply drum programming and electronic textures realistically
  • Apply sampling and create realistic-sounding instruments using the computer
  • Apply guitar recording and production techniques
  • Apply vocal recording and production techniques
  • Identify EQ basics for mixing purposes
  • Apply basic compression for mixing and for effects
  • Apply reverb and ambience to set a listening environment for the mix
  • Identify mastering basics to make mixes louder for radio

Lesson 1: Course Introduction and Review of Pro Tools Operations

  • Finding Your Production Voice
  • The Three P’s of Active Listening: Pieces, Placement, Processing
  • Review of the Pro Tools Interface, Making Templates, and Track Types
  • Review of Tempo Operations, Markers, and Recording In

Lesson 2: Starting the Process: Where Do We Go From Here?

  • Genre Exploration
  • Types of Producers
  • Same Song, Different Productions: Remixes
  • Production Timelines and Game Plans: “Beyond The Demo”

Lesson 3: Drum Writing and Drum Programming

  • Introduction to Drum Samplers (BOOM and XPand!2)
  • 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 and Groove Quantizing

Lesson 4: Synthesis and Synthesizers

  • The Role of Synthesizers in Production
  • Choosing the Perfect Preset (in Vacuum and XPand!2)
  • Adjusting Presets to Make Them Work for You: Oscillators, Filters, Envelopes, and LFOs
  • Beefing Up the Arrangement with Layering Synth Techniques

Lesson 5: Samplers and Realistic MIDI Programming

  • Synths vs. Samplers
  • The Role of Samplers in Music
  • Adjusting Sampler Presets, MIDI Controls, and Velocity for Realism (XPand!2)
  • Sampler Layering and Creating Motifs

Lesson 6: Guitar Recording and Production

  • Acoustic Guitar Recording Techniques
  • Electric Guitar Recording Techniques
  • DI vs. Amp and Bass Recording
  • Amp Simulators and Layering Your Recordings

Lesson 7: Vocal Recording and Production

  • Vocal Recording Setup
  • Problem-Proof Your Recording: Preventing Plosives and Proximity Effect
  • Compiling Vocal Takes
  • Modern Vocal Processing and Effects

Lesson 8: Intro to Mixing (EQ)

  • Creating the Right Balance with Volume and Pan
  • Tweaking Frequencies to Get the Perfect Mix: EQ Basics (EQIII)
  • Targeting and Eliminating Troublesome Frequencies: “The Peak and Sweep” EQ
  • Adding Brightness and Eliminating Boominess: Filters and Shelving EQ

Lesson 9: Mixing Part 2 (Dynamics)

  • Evening Out Louds and Softs: Compression Basics (Dyn-3 Compressor)
  • Controlling Varying Dynamics: Compression Techniques
  • Eliminating Background Noise: Noise Gates
  • Reducing Breaths and Targeted Volume Changes: Volume Automation and Clip Gain

Lesson 10: Mixing Part 3 (Ambience)

  • Types of Ambience Techniques
  • Choosing the Perfect Room: Reverb Types and Setup
  • Reverb Components (D-Verb)
  • Delay and Doubling Techniques (Mod-Delay)

Lesson 11: Advanced Production Techniques and Mastering

  • Changing Your Effects Over Time: Plug-In Automation
  • Making Room for the Kick Drum with Sidechaining
  • Creating Groups and Submixes to Process Similar Instruments Together
  • Getting It Loud!: Using Limiters to Make Songs Radio-Ready

Lesson 12: Course Roundup

  • Self-Promotion Techniques
  • Using SoundCloud Tags, Album Art, Networking, and Distribution
  • Forming Your Production Style
  • Review of the Course and Self-Evaluation

Chrissy Tignor Fisher

Author & Instructor

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

Prerequisites

Students should have knowledge of songwriting, arrangement, and basic Pro Tools skills. They should also be comfortable recording themselves. If you have no prior experience with Pro Tools, consider taking Berklee Online’s four-week Pro Tools Basics course on Coursera. Or, if you already have some experience with Pro Tools and would like to further expand upon your skill set, consider taking Berklee Online's 12-week Pro Tools 101 course, which is not a prerequisite, but does provide a deeper understanding of Pro Tools.


Required Textbooks

None required


Software Requirements

  • Pro Tools 10 or higher (Pro Tools Demo version is not supported in this course)

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • A condenser microphone and pop filter are needed
  • MIDI controller 
  • Audio interface with at least 2 inputs (XLR and 1/4"), 2 outputs, and phantom power
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed (http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

Comments

Got a question? 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.




  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
    $1,479
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition
    $1,229

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