Sound Design for the Electronic Musician

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Authored by Michael Bierylo, David Mash


Course Code: OMPRD-202

Next Semester Starts
June 26, 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 Reason and Vital. 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 Reason Studios 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 a Reason+ subscription at the discounted price. 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 Fundamentals, or equivalent knowledge and/or experience.

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Software Requirements

  • VCV Rack
  • Reason+/Reason 12
  • Optional: While Reason is required and may be used as a standalone DAW for this course, you may also choose to use Reason Rack as a plug-in in one of the following DAWs:
    • Logic Pro
    • Ableton Live
    • Pro Tools
    • Cubase
  • Vital virtual synthesizer (free version acceptable)
  • 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

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


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


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