DMC Audio 101: Introduction to Music Production and Digital Audio Workstations

In early November, I took advantage of the great entry-level audio production workshop that the Duderstadt staff offers. Although the course assumes at least some knowledge of and exposure to music and how sound behaves, it has a fairly low barrier to entry and most folks could take a lot away from it. Split into two 2-hour sessions, the workshop is the first of several steps in getting certified to use the state-of-the-art recording studios also housed at the Dude.

The workshop began with some basic concepts and terminology related to the nature of sound, signal flow, and the recording process. Then, the instructor had us open Logic, a commonly used audio production software, and oriented us to its interface and toolbars.

Over the rest of the first session, we imported public domain music clips and used them to demo different features in Logic, including editing tools and various effects. Among the techniques and effects discussed were compression (reducing the range between high and low signal amplitude), reverb (additive effects that simulate the way sound waves bounce off surfaces in real space and reach the ear after the initial signal), and EQ (the practice of removing or boosting frequencies of sound to alter the aesthetics of the track).

In the second session, we reviewed some of the terrain we had covered the week prior, delving a bit deeper in certain areas. The instructor also mentioned Reaper, a free and open source software (FOSS) DAW maintained by a community of volunteers that some people use as an alternative to Logic. At the end of the workshop, the participants all took a brief written exam to certify that we had learned the material and to qualify us for the next workshop in the series.

Although it was immediately clear that we had barely scratched the surface of both Logic’s capabilities as a DAW and the theoretical and applied contexts in which recording engineers operate, the two-session workshop provided a useful orientation to the domain of audio production, and gave me enough of a grounding to start experimenting on my own and learning more through trial and error.

Stay tuned for some early evidence of what I learned from this experience in the music for ‘Above the Treeline,’ fellow Shapiro Design Lab resident Stephanie Dooper’s podcast about the non-economic impacts of climate change!