MUSC 281: Recording Techniques 1, Fall 2013
Course Meetings: monday 3:30-6:10
Center for the Arts, room 3092
This course is a lower-division elective in the Department of Music. Prerequisites: consent of instrutor
Instructor: Thomas Ciufo
Email: tciufo at towson dot edu
Office: CA 3098, Phone: 410.704.2820
office hours: mon 2:30-3:30 / wed 1:00-2:00 / by appointment
Through reading, discussion, listening sessions, independent research, technical tutorials and hands-on projects, we will examine the theory, techniques and practices surrounding audio recording. While lecture and demonstration will be a central component of the class, you will be expected to develop your own critical / personal approach to the subject and conduct independent research and analysis. There will be in-class tech labs and tutorials that will contribute to the development of core technical skills. Several class meetings will consist of recording sessions in the Music Department recording studio, room 3086.
* To master the fundamentals of sound recording with a focus on small ensemble music sessions.
* To develop technical skills and gain practical experience with a range of audio recording technologies and techniques.
* To understand recording hardware and software, including microphones, mixers / control surfaces, audio interfaces, outboard processors / audio plugins, and monitor systems.
* To develop critical listening skills, covering both aesthetic and technical aspects, while exploring how certain technologies influence the composition and production process.
* To think critically and creatively about the role and use of technology in music practice, and in society in general.
Required Texts and Materials
Regular access to the following text is required.
Huber, M 2009. Modern Recording Techniques, 7th Edition, Focal Press.
This book is available for free as a multiuser eBook from the Cook Library. This will sever as our central text for the course, so you will need regular access to this book. It is also available for rent as a Kindle book, readable on nearly all computers, tablets, and eReaders. If you are more comfortable with print format, you can purchase the book from any number of book sellers.
All other required reading materials, as well as supporting resources will be available online from the course web site. You are expected to read carefully all assigned materials prior to class, and be prepared to ask questions, engage in discussion and offer insights. Taking notes or highlighting the reading assignments is strongly encouraged.
This course requires basic computer literacy, access to a computer with an internet connection, the ability to listen to sounds on this computer (high quality headphones are recommended), and the ability to regularly check your Towson University email account. University computers, in the music department lab, library and elsewhere, are available for students without direct computer access. You are required to own or have access to headphones. Storage of digital files are your responsibility and should be handled carefully. You may want to bring a portable hard drive to class, or use a flash drive or cloud-based storage option.
Online Materials and Posting
This course will have little or no printed materials - all information regarding the course will be distributed on the course web site or directly through email. It is your responsibility to stay connected to these sources of information. Use of a Towson University email addresses is required. All class assignments will be submitted digitally. Technical information regarding how to submit or post files will be on the course web site. This class moves quickly and all assignments are due on time as listed in the online course schedule. Late assignments will receive a 5% grade reduction per day and will not be accepted more than one week after the due date.
Critical listening modules will be distributed throughout the semester and will consist of various readings, practices, and exercises designed to help you improve your listening skills. We will use a range of ear training approaches, including selections from the text, Audio Production and Critical Listening by Jason Corey. Additional details about the critical listening modules will be on the course web site.
You will use your critical listening skills to carefully analyze and describe selected audio recordings and post these descriptions to our course blog. You will dissect the given recording, identifying individual sound elements, their level and stereo location in the mix, as well as particular production elements. Three of these reports must be posted to the course blog during the semester as detailed in the course schedule. Each report must be from a unique recording and come from a different genre, which will be specified with the due date. Example analyses will be demonstrated in class.
A microphone report will be submitted by each student and will be posted to the course web site to serve as a useful reference. Specific microphones (most in use in our studio) will be assigned to each student. This research report will identify and describe the microphones basic features, provide detailed technical aspects and operational characteristics, as well as identifying practical uses and applications.
To help broaden your understanding of various recording techniques, you will each do a short research paper and presentation about a specific recording, using at least three high quality references. The main goal is to research and analyze the particular recording, attempting to figure out where and how the recording was made, what equipment and techniques were used, and how this all lead to the sonic outcome of the recording. You will try to discover something about the larger context of the recording - were there important additional (non-technical) factors that influenced or shaped the project? Did the recording break new ground, refine existing techniques, or otherwise impact the musical landscape? In addition to the written report, you will also present a brief summary of your research in class.
We will have tech labs during class as needed. These will be brief demonstrations or tutorials on a given hardware or software tool or technique, and will be followed by hands-on labs or short recording sessions in the studio. There will be at least one audio mixing project based on recording session conducted during class. All projects will be discussed and demonstrated in class and information will be posted on the course schedule. We will devote some class time to project work, but substantial time outside of class will be required to complete your projects.
Throughout the semester there will be occasional in-class quizzes. These quizzes will require short written responses and will pose questions about materials presented in lecture, readings, demonstrations or labs. If a quiz is missed, it is the student's responsibility to take the quiz at the beginning of the next (and only the next) class meeting. In addition to the in-class quizzes, there will be a midterm and final exam. Computers, notes, and other aids are not permitted during exams. These exams will focus on the concepts, techniques, practices and technologies related to audio recording, and will not emphasis low-level memorization. The dates for the exams are listed in the online course schedule, and key word study guides will be provided. Please read the schedule carefully as no make up tests will be offered.
Attendance and active participation are absolutely necessary for this class to function. Unexcused absences will directly impact your grade, as well as indirectly affecting the quality of your work. Allowances will only be made for official excused absences presented to me before the absence or for documented emergencies. Students are permitted one unexcused absences without a grade penalty. Beginning with the second unexcused absence, the final course grade will be reduced 3% for each additional absence. Since all assignments are submitted digitally, assignment deadlines remain regardless of attendance. If a class is missed, it is the student's responsibility to contact me and request make-up assignments. Three instances of excessively late attendance will constitute one absence.
The final course grade will be made up of the following required elements:
10% ear training modules
10% recording analysis (3)
10% microphone report
10% recording research paper / presentation: 2+ pages
15% midterm exam
15% final exam
The grading scale is as follows: A (93-100) A- (90-92) B+ (88-89) B (83-87) B- (80-82) C+ (78-79) C (70-77) D+ (68-69) D (60-67) F (0-59).
F Unsatisfactory overall performance; indication of lack of commitment, lacking critical engagement; incomplete submissions.
D Unsatisfactory overall performance; minimal commitment, lacking critical engagement; partially incomplete submissions.
C Satisfactory; consistent effort and on-time completion; meets basic requirements and shows some progress.
B Good to excellent; indication of progress; creative and critical engagement with fundamental issues; good technique / execution.
A Excellent to outstanding; work displays significant effort and progress; developed and insightful; creative and surprising solutions to assignments; excellent technique, clear communication and good presentation.
Any questions regarding grading must be raised within one week of receiving the grade.
Academic Integrity, Courtesy and Respect
While general collaboration and exchange is encouraged, each student is responsible for their own work. Towson University has a defined Student Academic Integrity Policy, which will be followed in this course.
This class will include discussion and differences of opinions. While critical and thought provoking exchange is expected, courtesy, respect and civility are essential. We are part of a learning community where open mindedness, curiosity, and a wide range of opinions are encouraged. Out of respect for our shared time together and to maintain engagement in the classroom, the use of cell phones, text messaging, facebooking or e-mail is not allowed. Laptops maybe used, but only if they are directly relevance to the classwork at hand. You are also expected to follow the COFAC civility code.
If you have any unique or special needs, please talk them over with me. I will make every effort to make this course as accessible as possible. Students with disabilities should register with Disability Support Services. Students with University-certified disabilities, in the event that their disability prevents completion of a course requirement, may be offered alternative assignments. Students with University-certified disabilities are required to discuss accommodations with me at the beginning of the semester.