Digital Music Production and Composition



Course Number



The goal of this course is to provide students with the essential tools to create and express through music production, sound design, and composition. No experience is required, and this course intends to engage students at whatever experience level they enter at. 

This course will focus on creating using the software, Reason, though the topics and skills can be applied to many digital music making platforms. We will learn the essential operation of that software, with the goal of empowering students to create music and sound pieces in a wide variety of styles, whether those be songs, experimental sound art, beat making, ambient music, or spoken word pieces.

Topics in Music production, sound design and composition will include:

-Elements of sound synthesis: oscillators, filters, envelopes, modulation

-Types of synthesis: Subtractive, wavetable, FM.

-The instruments of digital music production: synths, samplers, loopers, sequencers, and drum machines.

-Sound design: manipulating, shaping, and processing sound as an expressive medium.

-Using and manipulating samples to incorporate outside sound sources into the student’s works.

-Song structure: forming the linear architecture and flow of a piece.

-Song orchestration: an examination of the vertical layering of sounds to create expressive textures.

This course will also focus on the creative process as it relates to music production. As a group of active creators, we will discuss common creative practices, workflow, creative roadblocks, and other relevant topics that arise during the creative process.

This course is creative project-based, and by the end of the term students will have a portfolio of 4-5 pieces.


Making Music: Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers. By Dennis DeSantis


Students will complete 4-5 sound projects. Students will be expected to actively pursue musical creation in this class. Evaluation will be based on the student's active involvement with their own work and engagement with the class, not the style or skill level of their creative work.

Note: This course will run in person. Though students have the option to participate remotely. The capacity for the computer lab this class meets in is still being determined. We will make adjustments about our meetings as needed based on that final information closer to the beginning of the term.

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This course will run online, with weekly Zoom meetings. This course is largely project-based, so the online environment will ideally not change the fundamental goals of the class. As well, my hope is that peers will be able to meet online to share and comment on creative work throughout the quarter (as we would in person).


We will use the software Ableton Live, which students will need access to on their home computers. As of now, Live is available as a free 3-month trial, which will cover the entire length of the quarter. 


*If you currently own and use other DAW software, be in touch as it will likely work for this class.

*If you don’t have a computer to run the software, be in touch and we can explore options. (For example ATUS may have laptops to loan, if you’re in Bellingham.)


Fall 2021
Course Instructor