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Unit of study_

MUSC1611: The Studio for Songwriters 1

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit explores the use of the studio from the viewpoint songwriter and is intended to prepare first year students in the Contemporary Music major for their recording projects throughout the degree. In addition, this unit will provide the fundamental critical listening skills which are built upon over the course of their studies, and into their future careers. In this unit, students will gain a thorough understanding of basic studio concepts to use when recording their creative work, with a focus entirely on contemporary music and recording techniques suited to this music. Students will work in small groups in tutorials to complete practical tasks such as file management, reverb techniques, panning, bussing, effects, EQ, microphone placement, basics of compression and limiting, grouping and mixing. However, the purpose of this course is not only to learn about recording techniques, but to understand how these techniques specifically work in support of the song.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MUSC1611
Academic unit
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

Students enrolling in this unit of study must have some experience with writing their own original songs in a contemporary music style.

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Jade O'Regan,
Tutor(s) Rainbow Chan,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Critical Listening Log
Submitted assignment.
35% Week 06
Due date: 16 Apr 2021 at 23:59
1500 Words
Outcomes assessed: LO3
Assignment group assignment “Show Your Working” Demo
Submitted recording.
15% Week 10
Due date: 14 May 2021 at 23:59
1-2 minutes recorded work.
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Assignment Producing with Stems
Submitted recording.
25% Week 13
Due date: 04 Jun 2021 at 23:59
3-5 minute recording.
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4
Participation In-class Tutorial Participation & Weekly Tasks
Weekly participation and engagement.
25% Weekly
Due date: 28 May 2021 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

In-class Tutorial Participation & Weekly Tasks – Students will be marked on their particpation and ability to work in their groups each week on tutorial tasks. 

Critical Listening Log – Students will select 3 of the songs provided and complete a critical listening log, describing the sounds and production elements throughout and detailing their wider context to the meaning and mood of the songs. 

“Show Your Working” Demo – Students will subnit the cover track they have worked on in class in their groups to show their ability to master the skills each week in the tutorials. 

Producing with Stems – Students will select 1 song from the stems provided and produce the track. Students will apply 8 different production techniques learned this semester and complete a listening notes document detailing creative process. 

Assessment criteria

Rubrics available on Canvas.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

University policy on late penalties applies.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 INTRODUCTION Welcome to unit, choosing a DAW, introduction to signal flow, caring for the space, DAW selection (Logic). Lecture (1 hr) LO1
TASKS 1) Drawing signal flow diagrams for the Con studio rooms. 2) File management exercise creating tracks, naming and markers. Fixing up a badly labelled session. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1
Week 02 DAW BASICS: This lecture will cover how to start a song from scratch, track types and windows, plug-ins and pitfalls, synths and samplers. Lecture (1 hr) LO1
TASKS 1) Creating a session from scratch, 2) Creating different track types 3) Setting a click track 4) Recording the start of a cover song. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1
Week 03 VOCALS & MICROPHONES This class will focus specifically on the use of microphones, their types, and how they’re used to record vocals. Also, polar patterns, phantom power. Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
TASK 1) Microphone shootout - learning what types go with what vocal sounds. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 VOCALS & PANNING: This class will explain how panning works in relation to vocals, creating space within a recording, and double-tracking. Lecture (1 hr) LO2
TASKS 1) Adding a vocal arrangement of a lead and backing vocals to your cover track 2) Using panning techniques to create space in the arrangement. Tutorial (1 hr) LO2
Week 05 REVERB PART 1 This class will cover the history of reverb, the different types we use, and analyse some important recordings that use reverb in interesting ways. Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
TASKS Applying and describing different kinds of reverb: 1) Plate reverb 2) Dry/ambient reverb 3) Impulse response 4) Spring 5) Hall 6) Room Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 06 EQ This class will cover a history of EQ and what it can do for your own tracks in terms of arrangement and mixing. Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
TASK 1) EQing vocals exercise - who’s the boss? Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 07 COMPRESSION & LIMITING This class will cover how compression works and how you can use it on your tracks - particularly vocals. Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
TASK 1) Applying compression and limiting to the vocal arrangement started in week 4. Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 08 REVERB CONTINUED + ECHO & DELAY This class will cover a history of delay, what it’s used for and specific types of delay used in contemporary records, and older methods like tape delay. Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
TASKS 1) Experimentation with echo and delay on your cover tracks. 2) Gated reverb Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 09 EFFECTS This class will cover the sounds of common effects like chorus, flanger, phaser, distortion and reversing, and how and why they are used. Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
TASKS 1) Critical listening task to key tracks using effects. 2) Adding effects/bussing effects on an original song. Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 11 GROUPING & MIXING This class will start to prepare students for finishing off their stems submission. This will cover how to group sounds together, how to “glue” tracks together, and basic mixing techniques. Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
TASK 1) Practicing grouping and mixing from given stems and sessions. Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 12 MIXING AND MASTERING This class will build from the previous class, with advice on final mixing and bouncing of files. There will also be some Q&A time for questions about the final assessment. Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
TASK 1) Working on your final assignment with feedback from your tutor. Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

There readings may be helpful to you during this class (and the rest of your degree). 

- Audio Production Prinicples: Practical Studio Applications by Stephane Elmosnino

- Your Mix Sucks by Marc Mozart. 

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Have an understanding of DAWs and their uses.
  • LO2. Understand and apply important studio concepts, like editing, EQ, compression, reverb, effects, panning, microphone techniques, grouping, bussing and mixing.
  • LO3. Critically listen to contemporary music recordings and reflect on their own creative process.
  • LO4. Confidently engage in future recording tasks in the Contemporary Music major.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

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