Online Master's Degree Course

Sampling and Synthesis in Film Scoring: Electronic and Textural Resources


Authored by Michele Darling


Course Code: OCOMP-677

Next Semester
Starts June 29

Level 6 - Degree Only

Level 6

Electronic sounds have been used in film scores for more than 60 years! As you can imagine, music technology has advanced significantly and with the advancement has come an incredibly rich palette of electronic sounds. From the very first films that incorporated a theremin in the soundtrack to the early electronic and tape delay-based score for the film Forbidden Planet, to the complex electronic scores of today, the sounds and techniques used to create them have evolved. More than ever, the sounds can be expressive and effective at portraying emotion and because of this, the role of electronic-based sounds in film scores has grown.  

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As composers working with synthesized sounds, sampling, and audio effects, you will take on the role of a score sound designer. Current music technology helps us add entirely new realms of possibilities for sound. Creating sounds that no one has heard before is a mission that will engage and excite listeners, and it will make your scores sound unique.

Throughout this course, you will look closely at purely electronic music scores as well as mixed scores that combine electronic-based sounds with traditional instruments. We’ll go through a brief history of electronic music and sound design as score to give us context and we’ll learn to recognize the most influential scores that have had an impact on composers in the field today. We’ll also look closely at current music technology and how it is being used in film scoring. 

This course focuses on using sound as texture within the film score, working with raw and electronic sound material to create innovative and cutting-edge soundscapes. Following an overview of music synthesis concepts, students will use software synthesizers and samplers to develop their own unique sounds and create dramatic musical soundscapes. You will create your own sampled instruments, use effects to enhance the sounds, generate audio loops, and apply these sonic textures to a score.

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Use music synthesis to create a textural score
  • Create original instruments for cinematic composition
  • Manipulate existing sampled or synthesized instruments to customize a sound
  • Apply audio effects for creative sound enhancement
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors Request Info


Lesson 1: Intro To Sound

  • Electronic Music and Sound Design in The Soundtrack
  • Loudness/Intensity/Amplitude, Pitch/Frequency, Shape
  • Tone Color/Timbre, Distance, and Direction
  • Assignment 1: 30 second piece using 1 noise sound file

Lesson 2: Subtractive Synthesis

  • Sound Source: Synthesis Fundamentals
  • Volume and Shape: Amplify and Amp Envelope
  • Timbre and Tone: Adjust the Sound Through Filtering
  • Creating Lead, Pad, and Bass Sounds
  • Analog Synthesis in Films, in Melody, Harmony, and Bas
  • Assignment 2: Create Three New Sounds: a Bass, a Lead, and a Pad

Lesson 3: Subtractive Synthesis, Part 2: Modulation and Motion

  • LFO
  • Creating Movement
  • Envelopes
  • Comparison of other Subtractive Synths
  • Films using filter sweeps
  • Films Using Filter Sweeps
  • Assignment 3: One minute piece with Four Sounds

Lesson 4: Creating Lush Soundscapes with Time Based Effects

  • Reverb
  • Delay
  • Chorus
  • Flangers and Phasers
  • Lush Soundscapes and Ambient Soundtracks
  • Assignment 4: Short Film Clip with Four Layered Ambient Sounds with Movement and Effects

Lesson 5: Drive and Rhythm in The Soundtrack - The Arpeggiator

  • What is an Arpeggiator and how do you use one?
  • Arpeggiator and Filtering
  • Techniques: Arpeggiator as Ostinato
  • Arpeggiator Examples in Film
  • Lesson 5: Short Film Clip with Arpeggiator

Lesson 6: Using Sampling in Your Score

  • Sampling from Existing Audio Files
  • Sample Editing and Manipulation
  • Organizing Your Samples
  • Techniques for Composing with Samples
  • Assignment 6: Begin Final Project:  Short Film Clip

Lesson 7: Creating Sample Based Loops

  • Creating Sample Based Loops Step 1: Build a Sample Kit
  • Creating Sample Based Loops Step 2: Loop Creation
  • Creating Sample Based Loops Step 3:  Composing With Loops
  • Film Examples of Sample-based Loops
  • Assignment 7: Final Project Update

Lesson 8: EQ and Compression

  • EQ Overview and EQ for Creative Uses
  • Compression - Traditional Uses
  • Compression - Creative Uses
  • Film Examples of Sidechaining
  • Assignment 8: Continue Refining the Score to your Short Film Final Project Score

Lesson 9: Additional Sound Processing: Distortion and Experimental Effects In Your Score

  • Distortion Effects
  • Vocoder
  • Ring Modulation and Other Out of the Box Sound Design Tools
  • Modern Experimental Soundtracks and Effects
  • Assignment 9: Post Final Project in Progress

Lesson 10: FM Synthesis

  • FM Synthesis Fundamentals Overview
  • Adding Motion to an FM sound
  • Creating Bass, Lead, and Bell Sounds
  • A Brief look at FM based Synths on the Market
  • Assignment 10: Refine Your Score

Lesson 11: Wavetable and Hybrid Synths

  • Wavetable Synthesis
  • Hybrid Synths and Hybrid Synth Plugins
  • More Modern Film Examples
  • Assignment 11: Final Project

Lesson 12: The Future of Sound Design In Film Scoring

  • The Future: Styles  
  • The Future: Timbre 
  • The Future: Platforms and Multi-Channel Sound
  • Your Next Steps


Requirements coming soon.

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



Author & Instructor

Michele Darling is the first-ever assistant chair of the Electronic Production and Design department at Berklee College of Music and an instructor for Berklee Online. An accomplished sound designer, composer, recording engineer, and educator, Darling worked for many years as part of an Emmy-winning production team at Sesame Workshop, where she composed music, worked on sound design, and recorded voice work for Muppets characters. 

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Her career highlights include sound work for several animated television shows such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, online media, games, and applications for clients such as 4Kids Entertainment, HBO Family, the Learning Channel, Moshi Monsters, and Toca Boca, among many others. Before coming to Berklee, Darling was the director of education at the electronic music and DJ school, Dubspot. Currently, she is a member of the Ableton sound design team, making Ableton Live sound presets for multi-genre music producers worldwide.

Darling holds a bachelor’s from Indiana University School of Music and a master’s in music technology from New York University. She is a founding member of Aerostatic, where she, along with Terry Golob, composes and designs audio environments for films, installations, and music performances featured in galleries and festivals around the world. She is also the founder of the New York-based performance collective Girls Like Bass, a house and funk-influenced band that collaborates with musicians, dancers, and visual artists. Read Less


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

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