Sound Design for the Electronic Musician

Authors: Michael Bierylo, David Mash | Course Code: OMPRD-202

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.

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 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.

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

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

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.

Prerequisites

To be successful in this course, you should have good computer skills, know how to configure your computer for sound, and have a MIDI keyboard. Before taking this course, you should also be familiar with concepts like digitization, signal flow, multi-tracking, equalization, signal processing, and MIDI; all of which are covered in our Music Production 101 course.


Required Textbooks

None required


Software Requirements

  • Reason 9*
  • 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 DAW that supports Quicktime video playback. These include Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Logic ProX, Cubase, SONAR, Nuendo, or Digital Performer. 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.
  • Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, or Safari
  • PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Edge
  • Flash Player (if using the Record Live tool)

*Berklee Online and Propellerhead have come together to offer an educational discount on Reason. Once you enroll in the 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.


Hardware Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.7 or later
  • 4 GB RAM or more highly recommended
  • 3 GB hard drive space (program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space)
  • Free USB port for Ignition Key
  • Audio interface with low latency to play software synthesizers in real-time
  • MIDI Interface and MIDI keyboard
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam

PC Users

  • Windows 7 or later
  • Intel or AMD processor with dual cores
  • 4 GB RAM or more
  • 3 GB hard drive space
  • A 16 bit Windows compatible audio card, preferably with an ASIO driver
  • Free USB port for Ignition Key
  • Audio interface with low latency to play software synthesizers in real-time
  • MIDI Interface and MIDI keyboard
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam

Comments

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Next Term Starts September 26


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

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