An Introduction to Compression: Basic Compression - A Free Guide from Audio Masterclass

An Introduction to Equalization - A Free Guide from Audio Masterclass

Equipping Your Home Recording Studio - A Free Guide from Audio Masterclass

The syllabus of the Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course.

Course information from Audio Masterclass
Information checked and updated Monday July 15, 2019


The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course starts with studio setup and a basic recording of speech. It continues through microphone selection and placement, through equalization, compression and effects, all the way to final mix and master. The course concludes with making an industry-standard CD or DVD showreel, or online video, to promote your professional career. All of your practical assignment projects are assessed leading to an Audio Masterclass certificate on successful completion.


Module 1: Analog & digital audio

Analog audio: signals, frequency response, noise, distortion, wow & flutter, clicks and interference. Digital audio: analog-to-digital conversion, sampling, quantization, dither, digital-to-analog conversion. Sound isolation: sound isolation methods, practical sound isolation techniques for home and small recording studios, vocal booths. Acoustic treatment: background to room acoustics, acoustic treatment, porous absorption. membrane and panel absorbers, diffusion. Recording studio configuration: recording room, control room. Introduction to essential audio electronics.

Assignment 1: Diagnostic recording of speech

It may seem straightforward to make a simple recording of speech, but actually speech is the most difficult sound to record well. It shows up every possible fault and flaw of recording technique, and any background noise or excessive ambience shows up painfully in the gaps between words. We will give you detailed advice, let you hear both good and bad examples, then when we hear your work we will pinpoint any problems and advise you how to eliminate them from your future recordings.

Module 2: Microphones

Principle of operation: dynamic, capacitor, piezo, ribbon, electret. Polar patterns: omnidirectional, cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid, figure-of-eight. Interference tube microphone. Parabolic reflector microphone. Multipattern microphone. Phantom power, pad, high-pass filter. Microphone techniques: microphone selection, positioning, stereo microphone techniques, coincident crossed pair, near-coincident crossed pair, ORTF, spaced omni.

Assignment 2: Recording instruments

Make a clean, professionally-finished recording of three instruments or sound sources. Compare two or more microphones, or - if you only have one microphone - compare microphone positions. We want to hear crystal-clear recordings that demonstrate your microphones well and show a professional polish. This assignment will help you understand which microphone to use for any voice or instrument, and why.

Module 3: Microphone preamplifiers

The need for microphone preamplification, microphone input, line input, instrument input, principle of operation, transistors, vacuum tubes, the need for balancing, transformer balancing, electronic balancing, working with balanced and unbalanced lines, preamplifier operation, gain, output level, phantom power, phase, pad, high-pass filter.

Assignment 3: Polar patterns and stereo configurations

Every recording engineer should carry out this test, but few ever do. All microphones have a 'polar pattern' which defines their sensitivity and frequency balance in different directions around the mic. There are also several different important configurations for recording stereo with two microphones. According to how many mics you have available, we will ask for a polished, professional demonstration of your mic's polar pattern, or the most important stereo configurations.

Module 4: Equalization

Types of equalizer, graphic EQ, parametric EQ, console-style EQ, filters, low-pass filter, high-pass filter, band-pass filter, all-pass filter, notch filter, filter parameters: cut-off frequency, slope, equalizer parameters: frequency, gain, bell/shelf, Q/bandwidth.

Assignment 4: Listening and equalization

Just as a musician needs a fine sense of pitch, a recording engineer or producer needs a highly-developed sense of EQ. Skill with equalization doesn't come naturally - it has to be learned. Being able to identify EQ problems is a vital skill, and also being able to enhance voices and instruments with EQ, and help them blend together in the mix. This assignment will help your ears learn to recognize, understand, correct and enhance the frequency balance of a recording.

Module 5: Compression

The need for compression. Dynamic range control. Subjective enhancement. Compression parameters: ratio, threshold, attack, release, knee, stereo link. Operating principles: variable-mu, FET, diode bridge, optical, VCA. Side chain principles and operation: de-essing.

Assignment 5: Demonstrations of compression

Compression is used to control dynamic range, and also to give a recording presence and 'sparkle'. In this assignment we will ask you to demonstrate your skills with compression on female and male vocal, a full drum set and individual drum instruments, a full mixed recording, and a full orchestral recording with severe dynamic range problems. In your finished work we will expect a professional standard of presentation.

Module 6: Recording Software

Disk recording principles. The disk recording medium: rotational speed, seek time, fragmentation, input/output assignment. Recording, editing and crossfade editing, gain change and normalization, mixing, inserts, auxiliary sends, auxiliary tracks, busses, faders and master fader, levels, decibels, dB and dBFS, headroom.

Assignment 6: Creation of a drum track

We will ask you either to make an interesting and creative drum track from samples, and give it the characteristic texture of sampled and looped drums. Alternatively, if you have a high-quality drum virtual instrument available, we will ask you to recreate some actual professional drum playing. That's a challenge!

Module 7: Effects & plug-ins

Delay, single echo, spin echo, spin echo with positive feedback, reverberation, acoustic and electro-acoustic reverberation: chamber, spring, plate, tape, digital, algorithmic reverberation, convolution reverberation, phasing, flanging, chorusing, pitch change and correction, harmonic generation and aural enhancement, comparison between manual effects, hardware effects and plug-ins.

Assignment 7: Natural Reverberation Chamber

In this assignment you will set up a loudspeaker and a microphone in a reverberant space, perhaps your bathroom or stairwell, and send a dry signal to it. The microphone will pick up the reverberation of the space. Using this technique you can create reverberation that is far more natural and interesting than any plug-in. What's more it's unique because no-one else has access to the same reverberant space as you.

Module 8: Synthesis & sampling

Types of synthesis: additive, subtractive, FM, wavetable, physical modeling. Subtractive synthesis components: voltage-controlled oscillator, voltage-controlled filter, voltage-controlled amplifier, envelope generator. Sampling: looping, multisampling, phrase sampling, key groups, velocity layers, mute groups.

Assignment 8: Technical creativity

In this amazing project you will create a piece of music using only a sine wave and white noise as source material. This is a real challenge of both technical and musical creativity. We want to hear sounds that we couldn't possibly have expected - and a great original piece of music. If you are more technical than musical, we'll ask you to create an imaginative non-musical soundscape. That's a challenge too.

Module 9: Recording techniques

Vocals: microphone selection, microphone positioning, acoustic screens and vocal booths, foldback, headphone types, use of headphone amplification, loudspeaker foldback, how the engineer monitors foldback. Drums: drum set up for recording, microphone selection for drums and cymbals, single microphone technique, twin microphone technique for basic stereo, the 'Recorderman' doubly-equidistant two-microphone configuration, the 'Glyn Johns' method, full individual miking with overheads. Acoustic guitar: microphone selection and positioning. Electric guitar, piano, string instruments, wind instruments, percussion instruments, small groups and ensembles, orchestral recording. Session management for ensembles, orchestras and choirs. Multitrack recording. Studio setup, foldback, monitoring. Compilation, punch-in. Production techniques for vocalists and instrumental performers.

Assignment 9: Voice or instrument production

In this assignment you will be given a female vocal recorded in Abbey Road Studio 3 and a skeleton backing track. We will ask you to devise an instrumental accompaniment and record it. More than a just simple, clear recording, we will ask you to create an imaginative 'produced' sound using whatever software or equipment you have available. We want to be amazed by what you do.

Mpdule 10: Mixing

Analog mixing consoles: overview, channels, groups and sub-groups, master section, VCA faders. Console monitoring: split, inline, all-input. Foldback, communications, external inputs. Channel functions: mic inputs, line inputs, insert point, equalization, dynamics, auxiliary sends, pan, mute and mute groups, PFL/AFL/solo, fader. Mixing console automation. Digital mixing consoles. Comparison between digital and analog consoles. Assignable consoles .Automation and recall. Mixing procedures and techniques.

Assignment 10: Mixing

This is your chance to try your hand at being a mix engineer. You will be given a complete multitrack recording, in a separate file for each track, for you to load into your digital audio workstation and mix. You will be working in exactly the same way as a professional mix engineer. We will give you lots of advice and tips for this one, because it is a real challenge to get a professional-sounding result. But in your finished work, we will want to hear a stereo mix of equivalent quality to a commercial release.

Module 11: Mastering

The need for mastering. Correction of faults. Mastering for vinyl. Improvement of stereo mixes. Matching tracks for albums and compilations. Subjective loudness and the 'loudness war'. Equalization. Compression. Limiters and look-ahead limiters. Multi-band compression. Intersample peaks.

Assignment 11: Mastering

For this assignment we have a professionally-produced finished master, and also the original unmastered mix, for you to listen to. Then we will ask you to create your own master from the basic mix. The assignment includes detailed advice on all of the processes of mastering such as fault correction, topping and tailing, equalization, compression, harmonic generation, limiting and protection against intersample peaks.

Module 12: Marketing your music and recording services

Industry roles: record producer, recording engineer, A&R; manager, studio manager, session musician, arranger, programmer. Industries: music, recording, record labels, broadcasting, radio, television, film, events, the Internet. Pitching and promoting your services as an artist, engineer or producer. Showreel guidance.

Assignment 12: Your industry-standard showreel

In this assignment you will create your own 'showreel'. Every industry professional has a showreel that they use to demonstrate what they can do to potential clients. At the end of this module, you will have your own showreel that looks and feels like that of a top pro. You can create a CD or DVD, YouTube video or SoundCloud playlist. You can even create an entire website if you wish. But however you choose to demonstrate your abilities, we will demand total professionalism, so that for anyone who listens your showreel it is indistinguishable from that of a seasoned industry insider.