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Digital Audio I: Syllabus
MCO 4350 - CRN 42552, Purchase College Fall ‘16
Room #MUS-0001 Wednesdays 4:30-6:20

Instructor: Peter Denenberg / 914.251.7933

Course Description

Digital Audio I familiarizes students with the concepts behind creatively recording and mixing music (and other audio as well) using Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). Digital audio theory, DAW signal flow and system requirements, stereo mixing techniques, and use of software-based audio effects processors such as equalizers, compressors, reverbs, and amp simulators will be among the topics covered here. Students will also be introduced to the concepts of MIDI recording and virtual instruments.  

Recommended Reading

The Mixing Engineers Handbook 3rd edition / Owsinski
ISBN-10: 128542087X
ISBN-13: 978-1285420875

This subject requires all students to have access to a digital audio workstation (DAW). The recommended DAW is ProTools 12. The following DAWs may also be used, though only limited support and instruction will be provided: Logic (Pro or Express), Cubase, Reaper, Digital Performer, Sonar, or FL Studio, Ableton Live. The Purchase library has ProTools installed on several computers and these can be used for classwork.

As a result of meeting this course’s requirements students will be able to; Record, import, edit, and process digital audio using non-linear DAW software. Mix multi-track music recordings with an understanding of the basic principles of mixing. Utilize signal processing such as equalizers to effectively manage frequency balance, compressors and limiters to control dynamic range and reverb to add depth to recordings. Students will understand how to assemble a basic Digital Audio Workstation integrating a computer, audio interface, and microphones.

Weekly outline

August 29 – September 4
Week #1
Review of the evolution of the digital audio workstation (DAW), the birth of ProTools; “where did all this come from”, as well as why does this look the way it does?
Overview of sample rates, bit depth, waveforms, frequency and amplitude, the basics of A/D & D/A conversion. Class will trace “signal path” from air to digital and back to air again.

September 5 - September 11
Week #2
How to correctly begin a project.
Session file management, ProTools file structure, storage methods, file sizes and calculation. File type and audio formats; AIFF, BWF, SD-II, MP3, MP4, OGG, AAC, CD, CDR, DVD, DVDR, ADAT, DAT, DA-88, SACD, DVD-Audio.
Interface and hardware overview, “launching” the DAW. System settings, latency.

September 12 - September 18
Week #3
Begin In depth editing, lecture/lab work.
Edit tools, modes, groups, destructive and non-destructive record, the zero crossing, edits as delay throws. “We will create and edit recordings as a group in a semi-lab mode”. Parallels to analog processes are explored throughout.
Begin discussions of basic mixer terminology.

September 19 - September 25
Week #4
More in depth editing and “DAW basics” work.
Continuation of edit tools, modes, time manipulation, groups, voice management, latency, I/O setups, hardware and software inter-dependencies.
Begin recording and importing audio. Discuss file-labeling workflows.

Assignment - due IN CLASS for week 6; Class will record a Mad-Libs style library of audio in class. Students will download this file and edit into two projects as discussed in class, presentations are week #6

September 26 - October 2
Week #5
Hands-on editing session demonstration.
Review large-scale pop session, demonstrate how to re-edit multi-track recordings for arrangement & time considerations.
Automation basics, the tempo line etc.

October 3 - October 9
Week #6
Students present “Mad-Libs” project, discuss workflow.

October 10 - October 16
Week #7
Mix automation explored.
Historical background followed by demonstrations of touch sensitive and controller type / fader modes, the volume line and Clip Gain with this too. RTAS vs AAX vs Audiosuite plug-in types and differences discussed as well as VST and Audio Units for other DAW options.

October 17 - October 23
Week #8
Processing, Digital EQ’s
“Why do they sound different when it’s all done on the same chip?” (possible guest), Ear training drills with filters and processes “name that process” Discuss class project; establish list of possibilities for audio manipulation, assign papers on each process.

Assignment - due IN CLASS for week 9; Research assigned “process”, give brief history and example / application(s). Be prepared for presentations week #9

October 24 – October 30
Week #9
“Process” assignment presentations and discussion.

October 31 - November 6
Week #10
More on process
Vocal/Instrument “comping” discussion and demonstration. Rendering “freeze & un-feeeze” strategies. Tuning a vocal or instrument. “Auto back-up”, “save as” practices, recovering from crisis, corrupt sessions, reinforcement of back up routine “do’s and don’ts”

Assignment - due IN CLASS for week #11; Research back up scenarios, prepare chart with at least three “types” of back-up methods and the advantages / disadvantages for each.

November 7 - November 13
Week #11
Review back-up assignment / students present.

November 14 - November 20
Week #12
More in-depth DAW & ProTools specific stuff, latency & delay compensation, level standardization, analog vs digital “0”, unity gain, meter calibration.

November 28 - December 4
Week #13
Listen to examples of classic lo-res “vintage digital chic” in popular music to identify and illustrate digital artifacts. Discuss sample rate and bit depth with regard to destination media and quality. MFIT (Mastered for iTunes), MP3, AAC and proper archival file strategies. Data compression, how far can we go?, what’s really too far? Proper session archiving reviewed.

December 5 - December 11
Week #14
Guest and/or Clocking & hardware, setting up external I/O’s, jitter, dc offsets, dither, managing an “all digital” future.
Semester review

December 12 - December 18
Week #15

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to meet all attendance and participation requirements in music classes. Unexcused absences, tardiness, or lack of preparation for class will not be accepted; students are allowed two excused absences (with prior permission only), three unexcused absences in any course earn a student a failing grade for that course. Two late arrivals equal one absence. Leaving class early is considered equivalent to arriving late.

Course Grading
There will be graded homework assignments during the semester covering material from reading, class lectures, discussions, and listening.
Grades based on attendance 30%, class participation and quiz grades 30%, and final exam 40%.

All graded activities will be reflected in the final grade.  All projects and assignments should be completed neatly and completely.  They will be graded on content and grammar (when applicable). In order to receive an A on an individual writing assignment, students must submit complete, thoughtful answers that are grammatically correct, and that demonstrate good academic writing style.  They must be turned in on the stated due date to receive full credit — no exceptions.

Academic Honesty
In this and all of my classes, every student must be aware of and adhere to the college’s policy on academic honesty.  See the Student Handbook and other college publications for the policy

Academic Progress within the Major- Conservatory of Music Policy
A grade of “C” or better must be obtained for all core music classes within a major. Core classes are any music courses that appear on the 8 Semester Plan for graduation. A C- or below constitutes failure to progress academically and is grounds for dismissal from the major. Once the Conservatory is notified as to a student’s standing he or she will meet with the BOS area head. A letter will follow from the Director’s office informing the student that due to “poor academic progress” he or she will be counseled into another in the program of study.

Professional Standards – School of the Arts
Breaches of professional conduct are grounds for dismissal or probation depending on the severity of the infringement. Examples of poor professional conduct include, but are not limited to, poor treatment of facilities and studios, lack of preparation for rehearsals and/or lessons, disrespectful/disruptive behavior directed toward peers, faculty, administration and staff. The Conservatory of Music follows the SOA procedures for due process for any possible infractions.