Introduction to Music Production is a MOOC offered by Berklee College of Music through the Coursera online learning platform. If you want to know more about how these courses work, you might like to look at my earlier posts: A year of MOOCs and Review of Berklee College of Music’s Developing Your Musicianship.
This course veers more towards the technical side of music than the musical. If you want to work as a studio engineer or producer, or you are simply looking to have more control over how you produce your own music, then this is the right course for you. The course is six weeks long and covers a broad range of production topics:
- The nature of Sound
- Signal Flow
- Digital Audio Workstations (DAW)
- Dynamic Effects
- Filter and Delay Effects
The key term in the title of this course is introduction. Any one of these topics would merit an entire course of its own, and in a six week course there is only so much detail you can go into. So don’t expect to come away from this being an expert in any of these topics. That being said, the course instructor, Loudon Stearns, does an excellent job in the course videos of conveying the key points clearly and concisely. So you will come away with a sound overview of the end-to-end production process and some idea of where to begin with each part of that process.
Perhaps because the course does attempt to cover such a lot of ground in a short space of time, this is quite an intensive undertaking, especially for students who are fitting it around other commitments. I would say that Coursera’s estimate of six to eight hours of work a week is a little on the low side. Which is not to say that the effort won’t be rewarding.
At the end of each week, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding in two ways. First you will take a series of multiple-choice quizzes on the topics introduced that week. Secondly, and this is the time consuming bit, you are required to create your own teaching materials that cover one aspect of what you have learned that week. These materials are then peer reviewed by at least three other students. You will then also have to peer review the work of three other students.
As an example of what’s involved in this part of the course, here are the teaching materials I created:
- Audio Cable Safari (Prezi)
- Recording audio in Reason 7 on Mac OS X (PDF)
- Advanced Dynamics Processing (PDF)
- The Mixer Channel Strip in Reason 7 (video)
- Digital Reverb Explained (PDF)
- Modulation with Subtractor in Propellerhead’s Reason (video)
This hopefully gives you some idea of the workload. That being said, creating your own teaching materials is an ideal way to cement your understanding of the course topics.
At the end of the course there is also a final exam. Unlike the weekly tests, this one is much longer, covers all the topics taught throughout the course and is timed.
If you manage to pass the course and you have signed up for certification (signature track), you’ll be awarded a nice looking certificate like this one.
The best way to use this course is to give yourself a quick overview of the music production process and then use it as a springboard to further investigate topics of particular interest to you. If you approach it in that way, and you are prepared to put the hours in, you will get a lot out of it.