World Music Composition Styles

Author: Phillip Sheeran | Course Code: OCOMP-493

A wide knowledge of musical cultures can add depth and flavor to compositions in any genre, and is a key component to writing effectively for film, television, and commercials. The ability to evoke another time or place through the use of specific musical elements is a vital professional skill for any writer.

World Music Composition Styles is designed to give you a compositional toolkit of world music concepts and ideas that can be used as a starting point for composing in world styles or for spicing up your own music with world flavor. This course will focus on compositional elements in a variety of genres from around the world, including Ireland, Spain, Turkey, Mali, India, Japan, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia. It examines the defining characteristics of what differentiates one genre or style of music from another through comparison and extensive analysis of melody, ornamentation, rhythm, harmony, timbre, tempo, and instrumentation. The course takes an in-depth look at the classification of instruments in each style, how they are categorized by type, body shape, and material, how sound is initiated, and how they are played.

The course also includes a technology component designed to teach you best practices in world music production using your digital audio workstation. At the end of each lesson, you will be asked to create and sequence a short composition of music inspired by the style of the country covered.

By the end of this course, youÂ’ll have a much broadened your exposure to different musical styles, and the necessary skills to incorporate these styles effectively into your own compositions.

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

  • recognize characteristics of rhythm, melody, ornamentation, time signature, harmony, and instrumentation in different world music styles
  • identify and classify instruments into major categories and sub-categories, including instrument shape, material, and sound initiation
  • analyze world music styles using defining characteristics
  • apply production tips and techniques in the sequencing of world music match-ups using a sample library
  • create a fusion piece using characteristic elements and instruments of different styles

Lesson 1: Setting Up an Electronic Music Studio

  • How Will You Use Your Studio?
  • Overview of Tools Used in an Electronic Music Studio
  • The Role of Portable Hand-Held Recorders
  • Mobile Devices in Electronic Music Production
  • Building a Reason Rack
  • Configuring Controllers in Reason
  • Configuring Computer Audio in a Simple Studio
  • Home Studio Connections
  • Room Preparation and Setup
  • Speaker Placement
  • How is an Electronic Music Studio Different from a Recording Studio?

Lesson 2: Sound and Signals

  • Sound propagation
  • Sound properties
  • Decibels
  • dB - SPL
  • dB Reference Scales: dBu, dBV
  • Operating levels: +4dB, -10-dB
  • Mic Levels
  • Balanced vs Unbalanced
  • Analog Connectors
  • Audio Specifications
  • Noise Floor
  • Signal to Noise Ratio
  • Frequency Bandwidth
  • Frequency Response
  • Distortion
  • Head Room
  • Dynamic Range
  • Studio Set-Up

Lesson 3: MIDI Sequencing

  • MIDI messages
  • Sequencing
  • The Transport
  • The Arrange Window
  • Menus and Transport Display
  • Getting Ready to Record
  • Bars, Beats, and Subdivisions
  • Metronome Settings
  • MIDI Recording
  • Record Modes: Replace and Overdub
  • Loop Recording
  • Step Recording
  • Standard MIDI files

Lesson 4: MIDI Editing

  • Editing MIDI Sequences
  • Tempo
  • Keys
  • Song Length
  • Event-Level Editing
  • Note
  • Velocity
  • Duration
  • Fixing Mistakes
  • Correcting Timing
  • Correcting Durations
  • Correcting Dynamics
  • Editing Pitch
  • Exercise: Cut/Copy/Paste
  • Reason Editing Tools
  • Quantization: grid and groove
  • MIDI Mixing and Automation

Lesson 5: Working with Synthesizers

  • Types of synthesizers
  • Synthesizer architecture
  • Audio signal path
  • Control signal path
  • Synthesizers in Reason
  • Software Synthesizers, Standalone or Plug-In

Lesson 6: Working with Time, and Tempo, and Rhythm: Drum Machines, Pattern Devices, and Loops

  • Patterns in Music
  • Creating Drum Patterns
  • Step sequencers
  • Arpeggiators
  • Defining Rhythm Loops
  • Defining Loops
  • Loops and Song Tempo
  • Adaptive Audio Changing Audio Pitch and Time
  • Loop File Formats
  • REX files, Apple Loops
  • Making and Using REX Files
  • Time Correction

Lesson 7: Audio Recording

  • Digital Audio Basics
  • Sample Rate
  • Resolution
  • File Types
  • Mass Storage Options
  • Digital Metering
  • Buffering and Latency
  • Microphone Types
  • Polar Patterns
  • Preamps and DI’s
  • Basic Mic Placement
  • Monitoring During Recording
  • File Management

Lesson 8: Digital Audio Production Techniques

  • Comparing Audio Record Modes to MIDI
  • Recording Multiple Takes
  • Basic Audio Editing Techniques
  • Comping Multiple Takes
  • Time Correcting Audio Performances

Lesson 9: Audio Editing and Processing

  • Non-Destructive Editing
  • Defining Regions
  • Editing a Song Form
  • Destructive Editing
  • Cut/Copy/Paste
  • Comping Multiple Takes
  • DSP
  • Change Gain vs. Normalize
  • Exercise: Using the Change Gain and Normalize
  • Silence
  • Using the Silence Command
  • Fade In/Out
  • Using Fades
  • Time/Pitch Correction

Lesson 10: Mixing and Audio Effects 1

  • Reason’s SSL Style Mixer - Compare to 14:2 Mixer
  • Audio Routing in Mixing
  • Insert Effects
  • Aux Send and Returns
  • Overview of Effects Types
  • Spectrum Processing: Filters
  • Dynamics processing

Lesson 11: Mixing and Audio Effects 2

  • Time-Based Effects
  • Delay
  • Doubling/Flanging/Chorus
  • Reverb
  • Automation

Lesson 12: Mastering, Music Distribution and Course Wrap-up

  • Audio Distribution Formats
  • Downloads
  • Streaming
  • Audio File Compression
  • Mastering
  • Mastering Tools
  • Mastering for MP3
  • Making MP3 Files
  • Distributing Audio Files Via the Web
  • Sharing Files on the Web
  • Cloud collaboration

Phillip Sheeran

Author & Instructor

In his 30-year music career, Phil Sheeran has been a composer, a guitarist, and a recording/mixing engineer, but composing and producing world music–inspired compositions has always been the heartbeat of his work. Phil established himself as a renowned Brazilian-Latin jazz guitarist, co-leading the Seattle-based Brazilian jazz group Beija Flor with vocalist Samia Panni. Phil has recorded 10 CDs (internationally released) and two Latin House Club Mix LPs. His albums have hit No. 17 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and charted top five in the nation for airplay. On the jazz side, he has shared the stage with Bela Fleck, Andy Narell, Greg Karukas, and worked in the recording studio with Tommy Brieklein, Brandon Fields, Harvey Mason, and Brazilian musicians Nico Asumpçao and Carlos Goméz, just to name a few. He has also received NAMA nominations for Best Jazz Artist, Best Jazz Recording, and Best Electric Guitarist.

Phil works in Los Angeles, arranging and orchestrating compelling, edgy music for film trailers, television, and multimedia projects. His work can be found in numerous productions by Miramax/Disney, A&E, Fox Sports, Warner Bros Entertainment, Sci-Fi, Biography, MTV, and Telepictures. He holds a BFA in music from Cornish College of the Arts. He is trained in classical and jazz studies with Gary Peacock (bass), Ralph Towner, and David Burgess (guitar), as well as composition/orchestration, arranging, and performance. He studied extensively with Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo in Rio de Janeiro.

You should be able to read notated music with a knowledge of harmony. You should be able to record MIDI in a Digital Audio Workstation such as Logic, Pro Tools, SONAR, Live, or similar program, send that MIDI to a software instrument that triggers samples, record, mix, and export the resulting sequence as an MP3. You should also be able to import and export MIDI and audio files.

Required Textbooks


General Requirements

  • MIDI Keyboard
  • Audio and MIDI Interface (internal or external)
  • A printer is recommended, so that you can print out music examples used in the course
  • Speakers or headphones for your computer
  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface).

Software Requirements

  • PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higher
  • Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Safari
  • Flash Player: current version
  • QuickTime: current version
  • Adobe Reader: current version
  • World Music Sample library, such as East West Quantum Leap (EWQL) "RA" or the equivalent
  • Finale (full version) or Sibelius (full version). Note that you will need to submit scores as PDF files. Finale Notepad, PrintMusic, and Finale Guitar are not sufficient for use in the course. You can also opt to handwrite scores, scan them, and submit them as PDF files.
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, such as Logic, Reason, SONAR, Digital Performer, etc., to sequence your scores and submit them as MP3 files.

System Requirements: PC Users

  • Windows Vista SP2 or higher
  • Intel Pentium or higher
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Secondary 500 GB or larger, 7200 RPM internal or external hard drive for storage and streaming of sample library

System Requirements: Mac Users

  • OS X 10.7 or later
  • Intel Processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 500 MB free space recommended
  • Secondary— 500 GB–1 TB or larger, 7200 RPM internal or external hard drive for storage and streaming of sample library


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Next Term Starts June 27

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