Survey of Music Technology

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Course Date: 06 October 2014 to 17 November 2014 (6 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

Learn to make music with digital audio workstation software, understand the theory and history behind music production tools, and write your own computer programs to make new music and sounds.

Estimated Workload: 5-7 hours/week

Course Instructors

Jason Freeman

Jason Freeman is an associate professor in the School of Music, one of five schools in the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech, where he teaches in the graduate program in music technology. As a composer and computer musician, Freeman uses technology to create collaborative musical experiences in live concert performances and in online musical environments, utilizing his research in mobile music, dynamic music notation, and networked music to develop new interfaces for collaborative creativity. His music has been presented at major festivals and venues, including the Adrienne Arsht Center (Miami), Carnegie Hall (New York), the Lincoln Center Festival (New York), Transmediale (Berlin), and Sonar (Barcelona), and it has been covered in the New York Times, on National Public Radio, and in Wired and Billboard. Freeman received his BA in music from Yale University and his MA and DMA in composition from Columbia University.

Course Description

How can we use computers to create expressive, compelling music? And how can we write computer software to help us create and organize sounds in new ways? This course provides a hands-on introduction to the field of music technology as both a creative musical practice and an interdisciplinary technical research pursuit. Through the exploration of topics such as acoustics, psychoacoustics, digital sound, digital signal processing, audio synthesis, spectral analysis, algorithmic composition, and music information retrieval, we will explore the deep relationships between art and science, between theory and practice, and between experimental and popular electronic music.

We will learn about these topics in the context of digital audio workstation (DAW) software, the multi-track editing paradigm that has been dominant in music production since the 1980s. As we learn about the foundations behind such software, we will use this knowledge to more effectively create music with it, and we will also write a series of short software programs that extend the software’s ability to manipulate, transform, and analyze sound.

Grading Policy:

There will be a quiz at the end of each module (except module 0) for a total of 6 quizzes. Quizzes consist of multiple-choice and short-response questions and cover lecture material from the module.

There are two hands-on projects in the course, due at the end of module 3 and at the end of module 5. These projects will be graded through a peer assessment system.

The grade breakdown is as follows:

  • 60% - quizzes
  • 40% - projects

In order to receive a statement of accomplishment, you must get 70% or higher for the course. In order to receive a statement of accomplishment with distinction, you must get 90% or higher for the course.


Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

Certificate of Completion will be provided by Georgia Tech C21U    

What resources will I need for this class?

You need a Mac or Windows computer and a reasonably good pair of headphones or speakers. A computer microphone is optional. We will provide you download links for the software you need to complete projects for the course:

  • Cockos, Inc.’s Reaper, a full-featured digital audio workstation (DAW) program. Reaper is free to use for the duration of the course. You can purchase Reaper directly from Cockos if you wish to continue using it beyond the end of the course.
  • The Python programming language (free).
  • A text editor. You may use any text editor but we will provide download links for Komodo (free).
  • EarSketch, a Python programming environment for Reaper developed at Georgia Tech (free).

What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

How to make a computer listen.


Module 1: The Basics of Sound
acoustics, psychoacoustics, timbre, digital representation of sound, spectral representation of sound

Module 2: Digital Audio Workstations
DAW history and key features, music representation, recording and editing audio in a DAW, effects and automations, aesthetic context

Module 3: Working with MIDI
MIDI specification (history, structure, limitations), real and virtual MIDI devices, MIDI sequencing in the DAW

Module 4: Synthesis and Signal Processing
additive, subtractive, modulation, and granular techniques, programming synthesis and signal processing with EarSketch, Python, and Reaper

Module 5: Algorithmic Composition
key API functions in EarSketch, stochastic composition, chance music, process music,  modeling, history and practice of algorithmic composition

Module 6: Future directions
music information retrieval, live coding, machine musicianship, new musical interfaces, mobile music, networked music


The class will consist of six modules, each one week in length. Each module will include several lecture videos (approximately 10 minutes each) with accompanying quiz questions and a project. The projects involve composing music with a digital audio workstation (DAW) software program, writing a short computer program in Python, or (sometimes) both.

Suggested Reading

The class is designed to be self-contained, but students wishing to expand their knowledge beyond the scope of this course are encouraged to consult these texts:

Nick Collins: Introduction to Computer Music (Wiley, 2010).

Curtis Roads: The Computer Music Tutorial (MIT Press, 1996).

Phil Burk, Larry Polansky, Douglas Repetto, Mary Roberts, and Dan Rockmore: Music and Computers: A Theoretical and Historical Approach. Online at:

Miller Puckette: Theory and Techniques of Electronic Music. Online at:

Course Workload

5-7 hours/week

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