Program Highlights

The Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Commercial Music will prepare you for a career in the creative side of the music industry. A key component of the program is the Millikin Studio, a state-of-the-art recording studio and video-editing suite. Each student completes a senior project of their choice in consultation with the advisor. Previous projects include: recital, video project, composition recital, production of a compact disk either as engineer, producer or performer. In addition, B.M. students will receive professional experiences through internships and coursework with First Step Records, Millikin’s student-run record label and publishing company, and the Blue Connection Art Gallery.

Learning goals for this program

  • Demonstrate critical listening and theoretical skills through transcription, harmonization, composition or arranging and style differentiation
  • Demonstrate technological skills in the recording studio or computer-based DAW, or through music production, as well as associated listening skills


Plan of Study

Departmental Course Offerings

Courses change each semester, so this list should not be considered a commitment to these individual topics. However, this does represent a list of many of our current and popular courses. The list is provided so that you can begin to imagine your academic career at Millikin in this major.

Music Theory I Rudiments of music: key signatures, scales, triads, seventh chords. Diatonic harmony, basic rhythm skills, critical listening. Second semester emphasizes diatonic part-writing, analysis of basic modulations, and small forms. **Satisfies University Studies Quantitative Reasoning requirement, Coordinated with MT113, 114. (**Students must meet Quantitative readiness by having a ACT Math sub-score above 21 or Pass MA098 or equivalent)(MT111, MT112)
Music Theory II Study of chromatic harmony and analysis of larger forms in historical perspective. Coordinated with Ear Training 213. Pre-requisite: MT 112/114. (MT211)
Ear Training I Emphasis on reading and singing skills, basic solfege. Rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic dictation; error detection. Coordinated with MT111, 112. (MT113, MT114)
Ear Training II Continue to develop skills acquired in MT 114. Chromatic examples used in dictation, reading, and singing. Co-enroll with Music Theory 211. (MT213)
Intro to Ethnomusicology An introduction to the theoretical principles and research tools that have influenced the history of ethnomusicological inquiry. Various world music's explored through performance, recordings, texts, and primary research. Pre-requisites: MH211 and MH314, music majors only.
Twentieth Century Music Twentieth Century compositional techniques, with an introduction to jazz and popular harmonic practice. Pre-requisite: MT211/213.(MT212)
Survey of Western Music I Introduction to the critical study of Western music history, including representative composers, works, and genres, as well as significant concepts and issues, antiquity-1800. Pre-requisite: MT111/113. (MH211)
Survey of Western Music II Introduction to the critical study of Western music history, including representative composers, works, and genres, as well as significant concepts and issues, 1800-present. Pre-requisite: MT111/113. (MH314)
Introduction to Recording Studio A general introductory study of the multi-track recording studio and the signal path of sound during the different stages of the recording process. Emphasis is placed on the multi-track console operation and the patch bay.
Studio Techniques I A laboratory/general study approach to the operation of consoles, patch bays, microphones, and digital audio workstations, specifically Avid Pro Tools. This class provides the student with an opportunity to practice the theory learned in MC 104 through hand-on learning and demonstrations in the Millitrax recording studio and CAI lab. The course introduces the students to Avid Pro Tools, and the skills and knowledge needed to operate the software in a professional environment. Students will become familiar with the recording, editing and mixing capabilities of Pro Tools. In addition, students will learn about the basics of computer systems, digital audio theory and file management. The full Avid Pro Tools 101 course will be completed, as students take their first step towards Pro Tools User/Operator Certification. Pre-requisite: MC 104. Open to commercial music and music business majors only. (MC201)
Studio Techniques II A continuing laboratory/general study of the multi-track recording studio. Subject matter includes the continued application of signal processors and intermediate digital audio workstation operation. Students are required to complete up to twelve hours of supervised recording session engineering. Additionally, MC201 builds on the foundation laid in MC201, enhancing and deepening student’s understanding of Pro Tools editing workflows, navigation techniques, virtual instruments, real-time plug-ins, MIDI and automation. Students in MC202 complete the Avid coursework and continue on the path toward Pro Tools User/Operator certification. Successful completion of the Avid coursework in MC202 will allow the student to take the exam to receive a Pro Tools User Certificate. Pre-requisite: MC201. Open to commercial music and music business majors only. (MC202)
Studio Pressure Night A series of highly structured recording sessions in the Millitrax recoding studio. Students may enroll in any one of the following capacities: recording engineer, instrumentalist, vocalist or producer (producers must have successfully completed MT416 or MC303). Students may take this course as many times as they desire and in different capacities. Students will work closely with the instructor and be coached to deliver optimum quality studio performances and high quality recordings/productions. Pre-requisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor. (MC220)
Recording Engineering Practicum A laboratory study of advanced audio techniques and video production. Emphasis is placed on audio recordings of commercial music, video editing, SMPTE time code interlocking, and the technical complexity of a music video. This course provides laboratories for students to develop and create an original music video project. Pre-requisite: MC201 and 202. (MC401)
Production Capstone course for the commercial music major. Students bring their unique skill sets to bear on the act of commercial record production. Students will complete a series of rigorous recording assignments while studying time-tested techniques and methods for successful record production. Heavy requirement for preparation, attendance and participation.  Pre-requisite: MC401, graduating seniors only. (MC431)

Commercial Music Curriculum

The Commercial Music major is founded on a simple and elegant curriculum that has proven to timelessly mirror the production chain as it exists in the music industry:

Song - - Arrangement - - Production - - Performance - - Recording - - Release

Built on providing aspiring artists and musicians with the creative power of technology, our vision has remained true and effective since inception.  Our mission is to deliver on this vision in a way that leads students from comprehension and skills development to creative practice.  Hence, there is nothing contained in the production chain shown above – and thus the curriculum itself -  that is not put into serious practice from Day 1.  Furthermore, all elements of the production chain are contextualized relative to one another in all classes, which results in a clear road map for students.  The Music Industry Studies faculty is completely unified in our belief of putting everything students learn into practice at all stages of the curriculum.

Walking Through the Curriculum

  • Songwriting and Songwriter’s Workshop: a two semester course of study that first examines the structures and craft of songwriting, then moves on to the search for a distinctive and crafty “voice” on the part of the student songwriter.  Both courses require extensive writing and analysis and the Workshop also involves numerous performance and demo recording opportunities.  It’s quite common for students with no design on being songwriters in the long term to enroll in these courses to better learn song craft and the power of songs.

  • Commercial Arranging: Viewed in no small part as preparation for production, students learn to score for combinations of strings, horns, and rhythm section w/vocalist.  Each project is recorded in Millitrax recording studios (rehearsed and conducted by the arranger) with a full compliment of studio musicians, vocalists, and recording engineers.

  • Project Studio: Also viewed as preparation for production, students learn to apply arranging principles to the desktop production environment.  Of particular emphasis is the desktop producer’s ability to work closely with singer songwriters, producing high quality demo recordings that demonstrate the ability of both the producer and the songwriter to work collaboratively on a shared vision.

  • Studio Pressure Night: SPN as it’s known within the program is the center ring of the circus where players, engineers, and artists (the term we use for vocalists) work on their skills and artistry in a real life pressure packed environment (twice a week from 7:00 p.m. to midnight!!!) in Millitrax recording studios.  This is the moment when singers learn to become recording artists.  It’s very exciting!

  • Production: The capstone - course for the major, this is the time and place where students assume bottom line responsibility for every aspect of a series of record productions.  Students examine in great detail their own skill sets and engage in structured reflection upon each production experience, while adding valuable artifacts to their portfolios.

  • Music Industry Seminar: In order for our students to appreciate that what they are learning is in fact the basis for a successful career in the creative side of the music industry, we host a semester long series of events called Music Industry Seminar. Successful  music industry professionals are brought to campus to address and otherwise engage with students so that students can experience for themselves the value of what they are learning, discover how their own personal strengths and desires can be shaped into a career, and model their own efforts on the hard-won experience of our industry guests.

  • Introduction to the Recording Studio: While many of our incoming students have some experience in recording, we start from scratch. The world of professional audio is one where successful participants need to speak, and understand, the language. What’s a decibel? What’s the difference between a dynamic microphone and a condenser microphone? What is lossy audio? Regardless of how you choose to utilize your technical training, the vernacular is the same across all professional audio disciplines – album production, sound for film/video/web, game audio, broadcast, etc.

  • Recording Studio Techniques I: Day one – plug a microphone into a panel, route that signal through the recording console to a track in Pro Tools (or analog tape), record the signal and play it back. No, it’s not that easy but through lectures, labs and hands-on Pro Tools training in our CAI lab you’ll slowly start to build your confidence, and your skills.

  • Recording Studio Techniques II: You now have a clear understanding of the basics. Now we delve deeper into the recording studio – microphone techniques, equalization, use of outboard effects to create a three dimensional mix. We continue to refine your understanding of the best practices currently used in recording studios for creating high quality recordings. We will continue to meet in the CAI lab to broaden your knowledge of Pro Tools, culminating in an exam that will allow you to earn your first of two potential Avid Pro Tools certifications.

  • Recording Engineering Practicum: Off come the training wheels. It’s now entirely the responsibility of the students to record, edit and mix two songs throughout the semester. You will schedule the recording sessions, hire the musicians, arrange, produce and record the songs you choose. This is your opportunity to use what you have learned, and push the boundaries further and truly use the Millitrax recording facility and CAI lab to deliver a finished product that will be presented to your peers – the class. We will then dissect the recording and discuss what was done well and what needs improvement and how to achieve your sonic ambitions. Lectures focus on advanced recording topics including mixing, introduction to mastering, delivery formats and critical listening.

Along the way there are multiple opportunities to continue to hone your engineering skills recording a variety of musicians and styles. Exceptional students will be chosen to be a member of the recital crew - stereo and multitrack recordings of more than 150 performances on and around campus. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to run the audio at a live show? The p.a. crew transports, sets up and runs the live sound equipment for upwards of 40 shows on and around the Millikin campus. The cream of the crop of upper-class Commercial Music majors are invited to take the studio manager’s exam in the Spring and perhaps be hand selected to become a recording studio manager.