Sound Design for the Electronic Musician

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Authored by Michael Bierylo, David Mash


Course Code: OMPRD-202

Next semester starts Jan 9, 2023

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


In the course Sound Design for the Electronic Musician, you’ll learn to create your own electronic sounds for musical productions using Propellerhead's Reason and Native Instruments' Absynth. By working through a series of practical, hands-on activities, you'll gain an understanding of the skills necessary to produce and replicate the electronic sounds common in today's modern music. This course begins by introducing you to the basics of how synthesizers work, sound design concepts, and how to program a wide variety of synthesizers. From there you'll explore more detailed aspects of sound creation and manipulation including imitating acoustic instruments, FM, oscillator sync, ring modulation, and advanced modulation; techniques that you can transfer to any hardware or software synthesizer.

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By the end of this course, you will:

  • Use control signals and understand control signals in Reason's Subtractor
  • Understand digital samplers
  • Understand modulation and MIDI control
  • Build complex sounds and create sonic gestures (macrosynthesis)
  • Understand the basic sound design elements of visual media

Berklee Online and Propellerhead have come together to offer an educational discount on Reason. Once you enroll in the Sound Design for the Electronic Musician course, you will be able to purchase this package at the discounted price through the Required Course Materials link on your My Home page. Early enrollment is encouraged to ensure software delivery prior to the start of the course. Read Less


Lesson 1: Overview of Electronic Music Synthesizers

  • What's a Synthesizer?
  • Synthesizer Specsmanship
  • Synthesizer Architecture: Generators and Processors
  • Properties of Sound
  • Pitch
  • Timbre
  • Loudness

Lesson 2: Using Control Signals in Sound Design

  • Types of Control
  • Envelope Generators
  • Controlling Pitch—the LFO
  • Understanding the Korg Polysix

Lesson 3: Control Signals in Reason's Subtractor

  • Subtractor Architecture
  • Fixed and Flexible Modulation Routings in Subtractor
  • Real-Time Control

Lesson 4: Sound Design—Characteristics and Editing

  • Sound Categories
  • Musical Functions
  • Instrument Types
  • Sound Characteristics
  • Sound Editing
  • The Art of Tweaking--Sound Editing and Redesign

Lesson 5: More Sound Design—Designing Sounds

  • Sound Redesign, Function Swapping
  • Creating Sounds from Scratch
  • The Default Patch
  • Imitating Acoustic Instruments
  • Solo Brass Instruments
  • Ensembles
  • Classic Electronic Sounds
  • Filter Sweeps
  • Electronic Percussion
  • LFO Patterns

Lesson 6: Understanding Digital Samplers

  • Understanding Digital Samplers
  • Virtual Samplers
  • Sampling Concepts
  • Saving Memory—Looping
  • Sampling Applications

Lesson 7: More on Digital Sampling

  • Drum Machines
  • Velocity Cross-Switching
  • Using Effects with a Sampled Instrument
  • Sampling Project

Lesson 8: Extended Subtractive Techniques

  • Timbre and Waveshape
  • Basic Geometric Waveform Review
  • Wave Mixing
  • Chorusing
  • Waveshaping
  • Frequency Modulation (FM)
  • Linear and Exponential Control
  • Linear FM
  • Amplitude Modulation (AM) and Ring Modulation
  • Oscillator Sync

Lesson 9: Advanced Modulation and MIDI Control

  • Modulation Routings
  • Matrix Modulation
  • Vector Synthesis
  • Wave Sequencing
  • Step-Sequenced Control
  • Control with Gate Signals
  • Additional Modulation Routings within Reason
  • LFO Trigger
  • Modulation Routings between Devices
  • Tempo Control—LFO Sync

Lesson 10: MacroSynthesis

  • The Sound Spectrum Viewed as a Three-Dimensional Space
  • Creating Complex Sounds by Combining over Time
  • Sonic Gestures

Lesson 11: Sound Design for Visual Media

  • The Role of Sound Design for Visuals
  • Sound Design vs. Film Scoring
  • Elements of Music
  • Case Studies

Lesson 12: Final Project Posting and Discussions

  • Final Project
  • Where Do I Go from Here?
  • How to Grow Your Current Setup
  • Suggested Additional Reading


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Completion of Music Production 101 , or equivalent knowledge and/or experience.

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Software Requirements

  • VCV Rack
  • Reason 10 or higher
  • Native Instruments' Absynth 5
  • One of the projects in this course will have you apply what you’ve learned to create sound design elements for a video clip. To do this, you’ll need to use any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that supports video playback (Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Cubase, Digital Performer, etc). Although Reason does not support video playback, there are utilities available that will allow a video clip to play in sync with Reason. These include ReSync 1.1 for Mac or PC or ReasonSync for Mac.

Hardware Requirements

  • Audio interface
  • MIDI keyboard

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
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Michael Bierylo

Author & Instructor

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.

David Mash


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.


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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