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Introduction to Digital Audio Recording, Editing and Mixing [MUSC 156]

MUSC 156/3.0 Introduction to Digital Audio Recording, Editing and Mixing


Basics of digital audio recording, with a focus on free/open-source software tools. Through assignments oriented towards mastering basics necessary for podcast or music recording/mixing, you will gain experience with digital audio workstation software for multitrack production, and tools such as EQ, compression, and limiting.


This course will introduce you to the basics of digital audio, with a focus on software tools which are free or open-source, and production techniques which are generally applicable. Through assignments oriented towards mastering basics necessary for podcast or music recording and mixing, you will gain experience with digital audio workstation software for multitrack production, and essential tools such as EQ, compression, and limiting.

The course includes four three-week modules, which focus on building basic skills through weekly exercises, assignments and quizzes, and applying them to production of a podcast-type production which combines elements of voice recording, MIDI recording using virtual instruments, and sound effects.

Intended learning outcomes

To complete this course, students will:

1. Demonstrate working knowledge of basic digital audio recording technologies, both hardware and software.

2. Demonstrate working knowledge of digital audio recording terminology.

3. Assess the acoustic characteristics of a home recording environment, and apply simple treatments to improve recording quality.

4. Record and edit good quality spoken word and sound effects at home using a microphone and computer.

5. Record, edit and orchestrate MIDI instrument recordings at home using open-source or freeware virtual instruments.

6. Create a podcast-type multi-track audio production combining spoken word, MIDI composition for virtual instruments, and sound effects.

Required equipment

  • Computer (Windows or Mac)
  • Microphone (USB microphone suggested, for ease of connecting to computer)
  • Audio interface (if microphone cannot be directly connected to computer)
  • USB MIDI keyboard (a small, inexpensive one will be adequate)
  • REAPER digital audio workstation software ($60 license fee paid at the user’s discretion; evaluation use of software does not require payment)
  • Good quality speakers and/or headphones


For this course, each student needs to have their own computer, microphone, MIDI keyboard and monitoring system (external speakers and/or headphones).

Your computer may be Windows or Mac, as the software we will be using runs on both. You will need to be able to connect two USB devices, a microphone and a MIDI keyboard, and monitor what you are working on using good quality headphones or external speakers.

The USB microphones listed below are highly recommended. There are many very inexpensive microphones on the market, and unfortunately most of them have poor sound quality. It will save you a lot of frustration if you obtain a good sounding microphone to start with.

Please also see the links below for inexpensive MIDI keyboards and headphones which will work well for this course. The instructor suggests avoiding any unknown brands, making sure to read reviews of the product before buying, and purchasing from major vendors who have a 100% return policy.


Blue Yeti USB microphone link

Blue Yeti Nano USB microphone link

Audio-Technica AT2020 USB microphone link

Samson QU2 USB microphone link


Akai MPK mini USB MIDI keyboard link

Korg Nanokey USB MIDI keyboard link

M-Audio Keystation mini USB MIDI keyboard link


Sony MDR-7506 headphones link

Presonus HD7 headphones link

Required software

The core software resource for the course will be the REAPER digital audio workstation (DAW) app, which is free indefinitely for evaluation use: a $60 license fee requested after 30 days. Techniques explored in REAPER are easily transferable to other popular DAWs such as Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools, etc.

Required texts

1. REAPER Manual, available for free at www.reaper.fm

2. REAPER Effects Summary Guide, available for free at www.reaper.fm

3. Reading packet containing selected chapters from Owsinski, Bobby. Audio Recording: The Hands-On Survival Manual for Musicians (Alfred Music Publishing).

Additional online material

Additional readings will be assigned based on freely available online articles.

Reference will be made to three series of instructional videos on lynda.com, which are freely accessible to you through Queen’s Library:

Grading scheme


  • Audio editing challenge (5%)
  • Three-track MIDI composition with virtual instruments and drum loops (5%)
  • Four variations on a MIDI sequence (5%)
  • Sampled-piano virtual instrument design and use (5%)
  • One-minute spoken word recording exercise, with EQ (5%)
  • Employing automation in the REAPER DAW (5%)
  • Podcast script (5%)
  • Spoken word edit for podcast (5%)
  • Finished multitrack podcast with detailed technical description (35%)


  • Quiz: Digital audio concepts (5%)
  • Quiz: MIDI concepts and usage (5%)
  • Quiz: terminology and concepts relating to the spectrum of hearing, EQ, and dynamics processors (5%)


  • Terminology and concepts from Weeks 1-6 (10%)


INSTRUCTOR: Matt Rogalsky