Instructor Information

Dr. Charles Redmond


Course Description

In this course we will be learning how to produce digital audio. We will do this by composing our own songs and producing them with a digital audio workstation. We will learn about sound synthesis, audio effects, equalization, rhythm, and harmony. We will have a midterm exam, a comprehensive final, and a final project. You will begin working on your project from day one, and I will also be evaluating you on your timely progress. The midterm and final will each be worth 33% of your grade. Your final project will be worth 17% of your grade. Your timely progress on your project throughout the term will be worth the final 17% of your grade.

Course Objectives

The student will use a digital audio workstation to:

  • generate MIDI;
  • import audio;
  • edit audio;
  • apply effects to audio and MIDI tracks;
  • apply equalization to audio and MIDI tracks;
  • automate track parameters;
  • produce drum, bass, and lead tracks.

The student will apply and demonstrate an understanding of:

  • reverb;
  • equalization;
  • compression;
  • delay;
  • harmonic spectra;
  • subtractive synthesis;
  • frequency modulation.

The student will apply and demonstrate an understanding of:

  • chords;
  • major and minor scales;
  • pentatonic scales;
  • chord progressions.

Computer Systems Department Learning Outcome

Learning Outcome Assessment Tool
Students will produce professional audio. Final Project (Rubric)

Final Project Details

Your final project must be an originally composed song, which includes a drum track, a bass track, a chord progression providing harmony, and a lead track. It must be at least one minute long. I will be collecting both the Reason file and the MP3 file for the song.

I would like everyone to sign up for an account on SoundCloud and post, each week, one audio file which reflects your progress on your project. I will give more details on this in class. SoundCloud's website is located here:

Project Rubric

2 points 1 point
Level No clipping. Volume is appropriate for each instrument. Clipping present. Some instruments unusually soft or loud.
Definition Each instrument has its own space, from left to right, back to front, and bottom to top. Sound is muddy and not well separated.
Continuity Smooth transitions from clip to clip. Some clips are out of sync with the rest of the composition.
Originality Composition is original. Composition is a minimally modified class example.
Harmony Chords, bass, and leads fit together harmoniously. Chords, bass, and leads in different keys and unintentionally dissonant.
Rhythm Drums, bass, and rhythm instruments in time with one another. Parts out of sync and unquantized.


All of the software you will need for the course will be in our labs, so you are not required to purchase anything. If you are, however, interested in purchasing any of the software for your own use at home, here is the information for it:

For a digital audio workstation, we will be using Reason Essentials. The latest version is version 2. This is available via download from Propellerhead (for about $125.00). Here is their website:

Previous boxed versions of Reason Essentials are available from various venders. These are generally less expensive than the download from Propellerhead.

We will also be using Band in a Box, from PGmusic, as a songwriting tool. They offer various packages, and it can get quite confusing. It would probably be best to talk to me before you decide to make this purchase. Their website is located here:

We will also be using the audio editing software Audacity. This is free, and is available here:

If you want to export MP3's with Audacity, you also have to have the LAME MP3 encoder. You can find it here:

Suggested References

There is no required text for the course. There are, however, some excellent references I can share with you:

  • Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques by Rick Snoman. There is a new edition coming out in 2013, but previous editions are available.
  • Dance Music Production by Rick Snoman. This is a website, found here: There are many helpful videos offered for sale.
  • The Songwriting Sourcebook: How to Turn Chords into Great Songs by Rikky Rooksby. (2011).
  • How to Write Songs on Keyboards - A Complete Course to Help You Write Better Songs by Rikky Rooksby. (2005).
  • Melody in Songwriting: Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs by Jack Perricone. (2000).
  • Composition for Computer Musicians by Michael Hewitt. (2009).
  • Reason 6 Ignite!: The Visual Guide for New Users by G.W. Childs. (2011).
  • Going Pro with Reason 6.5 by G.W. Childs. (2013).
  • Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio by Mike Senior. (2011).
  • Producing and Mixing Hip-Hop/R&B by Mike Hamilton. (2009).
  • The Drumset Style Resource: A Comprehensive Guide to Exploring New Techniques and Styles from Hip-Hop to Jazz by Pete Sweeney. (2012).
  • The Breakbeat Bible by Mike Adamo. (2010).
  • Bass Grooves: Develop Your Grooves and Play Like the Pros in Any Style by Ed Friedland. (2004).
  • Building Rock Bass Lines: A Solid Foundation for the Rock Bassist by Ed Friedland. (2003).
  • Blues Piano for Beginners by Mark Harrison. (2011).
  • Pop Ballad Piano for Beginners by Mark Harrison. (2012).

Online Portion of the Course

This course is a hybrid course, which means that a portion of it will be offered online. I will be posting instructional videos to add to the material that we cover in class, and it is of course mandatory for you to view and study them. There will be no need for online office hours since all of my office hours will be held in person. There will also be no need for online assessment, because, again, all of our assessment will be done in the classroom. I will give you more details on how to access the online materials in class.

Office Hours

All of my office hours will be held in the computer labs. In order to better suit your schedule, I would like to be flexible with these. Please contact me if you would like to meet with me, and we can set up a time that fits both of our schedules. If, by the end of the week, I have not fulfilled my total quota of at least six office hours, I will make up the difference on Friday or the weekend. I will of course announce the times of these end-of-the-week office hours.


It is very important that you make every effort to attend class. It is much more difficult to learn the material on your own. If you miss class regularly, the chances are that you will not do as well in the course as you would have done otherwise. I will take attendance every day so that I know who attends and who does not. A prerequisite for additional help outside the classroom is regular class attendance. You are responsible for what is announced or covered in class even if you are absent.

I WILL NOT RE-TEACH CLASS LESSONS, OVER AND OVER AGAIN, TO INDIVIDUALS WHO MISS CLASS! Get to know your classmates. If you miss class, get the notes, study the notes, and try the homework. See me then with your questions.


We will have a midterm exam, a comprehensive final, and a final project. You will begin working on your project from day one, and I will also be evaluating you on your timely progress. The midterm and final will each be worth 33% of your grade. Your final project will be worth 17% of your grade. Your timely progress on your project throughout the term will be worth the final 17% of your grade. Letter grades will be assigned according to the following scale:

  • 94%-100% A
  • 90%-93.99% B+
  • 84%-89.99% B
  • 78%-83.99% C+
  • 70%-77.99% C
  • 65%-69.99% D+
  • 60%-64.99% D
  • 0%-59.99% F

Working the sliders below will help you understand what combinations of scores will result in particular letter grades.

0% midterm

0% final

0% final project

0% timely progress

F letter grade

Learning Differences

Any student who fells s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact us privately to discuss your specific needs. Please know that it is the policy of Mercyhurst University that it is the student's responsibility to provide documentation of his/her disability to the director of the Learning Differences Program. Please call the Learning Differences office at 814-824-3017 to coordinate needed accommodations.

Tentative Schedule

Important Dates: October 25 (midterm) December 10 (final, 11:00-1:00)

Week Topic
Week 1 Synthesis I/Drums I
Week 2 Synthesis II/Harmony I
Week 3 Synthesis III/Drums II
Week 4 Synthesis IV/Harmony II
Week 5 Synthesis V/Harmony III
Week 6 Synthesis VI/Harmony IV
Week 7 Compression I/Harmony V
Week 8 Compression II/Bass I
Week 9 Equalization I/Bass II
Week 10 Equalization II/Melody I
Week 11 Reverb I/Melody II
Week 12 Reverb II/Melody III
Week 13 Delay I/Melody IV
Week 14 Delay II/Melody V