Tech behind the tunes

By Ivy Hillman ’12
October 25, 2011

When it comes to non-traditional methods of learning, Bradley’s music technology courses hit the highest notes. The two courses offered by the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts are open to students of all majors who are interested in learning about music production. 

“There is currently a big push in the Music Educator’s National Conference for music teachers to start considering the larger population in a school who are not in traditional music courses like band, chorus, or orchestra, but are deeply interested in music,” said John Larson, affiliate instructor of music technology at Bradley.

Larson believes the “iPod generation,” those 25 years old and younger, is where musical interest is the highest. Yet students who aren’t considering a career in music often don’t have opportunities to take music courses.

“Currently, traditional ensemble-based music education involves about 18 percent of a student population at a high school level. That means 82 percent are not being given any type of music education at the secondary level,” Larson said.

Intro to Music Technology (MUS 250) is a survey course that explores the mechanics behind digital music.

“We learn three of the basic software packages that allow anyone to compose, arrange, create mixes, and even produce their own CD of original works. The course revolves around the Garage Band program that is found on nearly every Mac computer as well as a PC-based equivalent,” Larson said.

Adam Windish, who is double-majoring in math and music, chose to take the course to learn more about a hobby he loves.

“I have always had an interest in home recording. I chose it as one of my music electives because I thought it would be fun, and it was practical,” Windish said.

Windish is unsure if he will pursue a career in music, but knows he’ll be glad he took the course, either way.

“If I choose to pursue a career in music, the skills I leaned in this course will be helpful, if not vital to my career. As far as hobbies go, the skills from this class will be very handy,” Windish said.

The second course, Intermediate Music Technology (MUS 350), builds on MUS 250 but focuses more on the ProTools program. This course is based largely on projects.

“We also take current contemporary pop songs and analyze them to see how a pop song is constructed. This helps us recognize the technical and compositional techniques used in those works,” Larson said.

Jacob Vizcarra, a music business major, used these two music technology courses to help get a registered student organization off the ground. He created Brave Sounds Entertainment, which is similar to a record label.

“In the future I will have a better and more technical understanding of how to record music using ProTools 8. On top of that, the knowledge that I’m getting will help me in the development of Brave Sounds Entertainment,” Vizcarra said.

Whether taking just one of these courses or both, learning more about music technology is beneficial for everyone from casual fans of pop music to those planning careers in the music industry.