Sound Synthesis Basics: 3 Electronic Music Exercises for Musicians and Music Students

Logic Studio
Logic Studio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Below are three electronic music exercises that will help musicians, music students, and music educators work on their mixing and studio skills. As a music professor teaching sound synthesis I developed these exercises for my beginning Sound Synthesis students who were just beginning to use audio programs like Logic Studio and Garageband to create new music.

Any musician can adapt and use these music exercises to work on basic audio skills, including use of audio effects, sound, noise, and music composition.

I encourage musicians and music educators to adapt these projects to their own studios and classrooms as useful tools to expand their skills. 

Project 1: Effects and Appropriation
DESCRIPTION: Students use effects and editing techniques used in class to create a new piece using appropriated material. Students will learn to recognize different types of copyright licenses.

Appropriated materials includes use of prerecorded sounds and music created by someone else. 

Image representing Creative Commons as depicte...
In most educational settings, use of someone else's work will fall under "fair use" if used for educational purposes alone. To avoid issues with copyright infringement, search for works with Creative Commons licensing allowing "derivatives" of works or public domain music, usually found at sites like

1) Take a 30 second appropriated clip.
2) Using techniques learned in class, create a 1 minute sound piece.
3) Projects will be graded on: original concept and use of technology.

Project #2: Sound of Music
Using only noise and static from a variety of sources, create a two to five minute electronic composition that:

1) Uses panning
2) Uses a wide combination of effects
3) Demonstrates musicality (dynamics, tempo, rhythm, etc.)
4) Has a distinct beginning - transition - middle - transition - end

End composition must be a high-quality audio file burned to CD and ready to play on i-Tunes. Compositions will be graded on their originality, musicality, and technicality.

Project #3: Live Performer and Tape

Using a one minute clip from an earlier assignment:

1) Edit clip to make a cohesive one minute electronic piece with a set beginning, middle, ending
2) Choose an instrument, voice part, or noisemaker, that will work well as a solo part with tape
3) Compose a work for live performer and tape using chosen instrument/voice and tape part
4) Create a written score (using Finale or clean handwritten score)
5) Make copies of the score for the class
6) Perform the piece in class

Pieces will be graded on:
1) Originality
2) Cleanliness and accuracy of score
3) Musicality
4) Performance
5) The ability for the work to be duplicated by another performer without the composer present

Students may use traditional or graphic notation for the piece, as long as the score is accurate, and extremely legible.

Thank you

Thank you for making the New Music Resource such a great success! I hope that you find these exercises helpful and apply these techniques and others found at NMR to your studio and classroom. 

Intermedia composer, percussionist, author, and obsessive sci-fi buff, Sabrina Pena Young composes mind-numbing electroacoustic works heard in Asia, North America, Australia, and Europe. Her music has been heard in film festivals, radio, electronic dance clubs, random boom boxes in France, and as not-so-pleasant background music. Her multimedia works have been performed at venues like the Beijing Conservatory, the International Computer Music Conference, Miramax's Project Greenlight, the Athena Festival, the New York International Independent Film Festival, Art Basil Miami, Turkey's Cinema for Peace, and Pulsefield International Exhibition of Sound Art. 

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