DIPLOMA IN RECORDING ARTS - Course descriptions

UPDATED MAY 2023

First Quarter (237 hours)

Digital Audio Workstations I (DAW100) 30 hours 

This course provides an introduction to Avid’s Pro Tools (the software used in the majority of professional recording studios). The course follows Avid’s Pro Tools 101 curriculum and is the first of a four-course series that prepares students to receive Avid’s industry-recognized Pro Tools Operator Certification.

Computer Systems and Software (CSS100) 9 hours 

We’ll familiarize students with terminology, components, specifications, and maintenance of Apple computers running a Mac OS. Students will gain an understanding of how to cross-reference specifications of software and hardware, troubleshoot, and best practices for data storage/management.

Principles of Studio Design (PSD100) 9 hours 

Students will be provided with an overview of studio design, from construction concepts to understanding the behavior of sound waves within a room. Students will gain a basic understanding of room treatment and how it contributes to listening environments and monitoring accuracy. 

Introduction to Logic (ILG100) 30 hours 

An introduction to Apple’s popular recording/production software, Logic Pro, through which students will gain hands-on experience working in the program with audio and MIDI. 

Audio System Maintenance (ASM100) 15 hours 

Outlining best practices in troubleshooting and maintaining a functioning audio system in a studio or live sound environment. Fundamental skills such as cable wrapping, soldering basics, and zeroing out a room are core takeaways from this course in addition to soft skills such as professional etiquette.

Music History and Theory (MHT100) 66 hours 

We’ll give students a broad overview of music history, exploring different genres, periods, technological and creative developments, and instruments. The course also includes an introduction to Western music theory, including concepts such as scales, chords, pitch, harmony, and rhythm.

Audio Recording Techniques I (ART100) 42 hours 

The first in a series of four ART courses at the core of the Diploma program, the 100-level course introduces students to fundamental concepts in the physics of sound and electricity, as well as a high-level understanding of speaker and microphone designs, amplification, gain structure, and signal routing. Practical application of these concepts is central to the ART series. Student projects and proficiency tests are conducted in our professional studios and students are expected to independently run sessions in studios B and C by the end of this course.

Practicum I (SWS101) 6 hours, +30 hours of studio time

The practicum series designates 30 hours per quarter to students’ work, practice, and experimentation in our studios. 6 hours of the course are used to establish guidelines and check in with students’ use of independent studio time, which will ultimately culminate in students’ Capstone Presentations at the end of quarter 4. 

second Quarter (237 hours)

Digital Audio Workstations II (DAW110) 30 hours 

This course continues Avid’s Pro Tools curriculum and expands upon the basic principles taught in Pro Tools 101. The course introduces the core concepts and hand-on skills students will need to operate a Pro Tools system running mid-sized sessions.

Mixing I (MIX100) 45 hours 

Students will focus on developing a workflow for mixing audio and emphasizing core concepts such as critical listening, level balance, and panning. Common tools and practices are explained, including equalization, compression, timed-based processing, automation, and delivery standards. Students have the opportunity to observe a mix by a professional engineer (instructor) at the externship site. 

Business of Music (BOM100) 30 hours 

We’ll discover many of the lesser-known aspects of the recording business, including music licensing, artist management, and the legalities of songwriting and publishing deals. In addition, students will explore distribution, promotion, merchandising, team building, and the importance of entrepreneurship. Priority is placed on building skills in entrepreneurship and critical thinking.

Songwriting and Composition (SNC100) 36 hours 

This course puts theory and creativity into action while studying the form, structure, and components of contemporary/popular Western music. Students explore the art and process of music and lyric writing while working to compose and present an original song. 

Sequencing and MIDI Fundamentals (SMF100) 30 hours 

We’ll teach students about Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) protocol and explores its implementation in music composition, recording, and arranging. Students learn how to design and troubleshoot software and hardware-based MIDI systems while re-visiting MIDI in Pro Tools and gaining hands-on experience working with audio and MIDI in Ableton Live. 

Audio Recording Techniques II (ART110) 30 hours 

Students will build upon concepts from ART100 while continuing to work in Studios B and C. Further understanding of stereo micing techniques, microphone design, and hardware processing is emphasized, and methods for recording drums, multiple instrumentalists, and ensembles are explored, as well as practical means of sound isolation, monitoring, and on-the-fly punch-ins and editing.

Practicum II (SWS102) 6 hours, +30 hours of studio time

As students enter Quarter 2, they should feel comfortable running sessions in Studios B and C. Students are encouraged to conduct projects with outside “talent,” whether friends, family, acquaintances, or contacts of Studio West. Project work helps students gain experience recording in professional studios and develop the confidence and interpersonal skills necessary to conduct professional recording sessions.

third Quarter (237 hours)

Digital Audio Workstations III (DAW200) 30 hours 

This course continues Avid’s Pro Tools curriculum and introduces students to the intermediate concepts and skills needed to operate an Avid Pro Tools system in a professional studio environment.

Digital Video I (DIV100) 51 hours 

We’ll provide a high-level overview of digital video production. Students learn the basics of cameras and lighting, dialogue recording, as well as shooting and editing video. Students learn the fundamentals of the video editing software Adobe Premiere Pro, which is used industry-wide. Camera and lighting kits can be checked out from the school to shoot on location for video projects.

Audio Recording Techniques for Music (ART100M) 30 hours 

Building upon the concepts of ART110, we take a more in-depth look at recording as it relates to music. The course focuses on large-scale recording sessions and is conducted in Studio West’s renowned Studio A. Holding the course in Studio A facilitates further practice with patch bays and outboard gear, as well as an in-depth exploration of signal flow and recording on a large format console. This course highlights recording piano, organ, drums, and guitar using the SSL4000.

Production and Arranging (PNA100) 24 hours 

We’ll build on concepts from MHT100 and SNC100 while focusing on arrangement, instrumentation, and production techniques used in various musical genres. The course prepares students to function in the role of Producer by pairing them with artists and requiring them to complete a polished recording of an original song. The course also explores the role that labels, engineers, writers, and performers play in the music industry and discusses efficiency, budgeting, and project delivery in music production.

Genre Specific Mixing (GSM100) 30 hours

Further building on concepts from MIX100, this course provides an in-depth look at mixing appropriately for different genres of music. The class incorporates hands-on mixing exercises in different studio environments and with different workflows and equipment. Student mixes are critiqued by instructors and details such as processing chains and listening strategies are discussed. 

Live Sound Reinforcement (LSR100) 30 hours 

This course introduces students to the practical skills needed for a career in live sound. The course emphasizes hands-on learning, preparing students to work with a variety of live sound equipment and operate sound reinforcement systems in small to medium-sized venues. Students also explore live recording and mixing on analogue and digital mixers, comparing and differentiating these practices from in-studio audio practices.

Portfolio Development I (SWS103) 6 hours, +30 hours of studio time

We’ll provide students with directions and guidance for their Capstone projects which are to be completed and presented at the end of the Diploma Program. In quarter 3, Studios A, B, and C, are all available for student use and students are encouraged to start compiling a portfolio of work that demonstrates their growing knowledge and experience in media production. Students’ Capstones showcase the best songs, recordings, mixes, and videos they have made throughout the Diploma program.

fourth Quarter (237 hours)

Digital Audio Workstations IV (DAW210) 60 Hours 

This course continues Avid’s Pro Tools curriculum and covers specific techniques for working with Avid Pro Tools software in professional music production and audio post-production environments.

Digital Video II (DIV110) 51 hours 

We’ll build on concepts introduced in DIV100 and challenges students to produce and shoot their own short documentaries. Shooting schedules, media organization, and project delivery are among the topics addressed in this course.

Audio Recording Techniques for Post-Production (ART100P) 30 Hours 

Students will be provided with a working knowledge of recording and editing techniques used specifically in audio-for-video and film post-production. Students learn the fundamentals of integrating video into their workstations, designing, spotting, and mixing sound to picture, and working with and delivering stereo stem mixes that sync to picture. Students also learn the fundamental principles of recording, looping, and editing dialogue, creating extensive sound design soundscapes, and recording and editing Foley to picture. 

Career Planning and Development (CPD100) 30 Hours 

Students are coached to assess their skills and interests as they relate to the labor market and opportunities in their chosen field. The course also assists students in developing a resume and cover letter and building the confidence and training needed when interviewing for a job. In addition, this course helps students understand how to most effectively use social media as a tool for job hunting. Students will build a website to host their resumes and samples of their work. 

Audio Distribution Technologies (ADT100) 12 hours

We’ll present an overview of recent developments in digital audio technology and distribution. In addition to discussing streaming technologies and delivery standards, the course also focuses on facility-installed audio systems and networks, exploring devices that utilize the Dante protocol.

Psychoacoustics (PSY100) 9 hours 

Students will examine how we perceive the physical world of sound and how it can relate to audio production. Topics include a description of the auditory system, limitations of human hearing, principles of acoustics, loudness perception, sound localization, Gestalt principles, audio illusions, tinnitus, frisson, and speech and music perception. Numerous audiovisual demonstrations are used to reinforce the theoretical material presented. 

Portfolio Development II (SWS104) 6 hours, +39 hours of studio time

This class meets semi-quarterly to review progress in the planning and execution of student projects and discuss students’ experiences working in the studios and outside of class. Special emphasis is placed in quarter 4 on aiding students in facilitating the completion of their portfolios and final Capstone Presentations, which are reviewed by a committee of instructors and professionals at the conclusion of the program.

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