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 unified in its belief of putting everything students learn into practice at all stages of 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(link is external): 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 in other settings.
- Mobile Audio Recording Services: A student-run venture where you learn to create stereo and multitrack recordings of live performances on and around campus.
- School of Music Sound Crew: Training and opportunities for designing and mixing live-sound audio events.