Sound Essentials



This course is an introduction to thinking and working with sound. It covers acoustics, digital audio properties, production techniques, and listening practices. We will record, edit, synthesize, and organize sound, and explore its relationship to music, screens, vancouver, and video games. Short projects provide opportunities to practice a variety of common and experimental techniques. No experience in sound or music is necessary, just open ears.

By the end of the semester, you will…

  • understand the basics of acoustics and audio
    what is sound? how is it recorded? how is it synthesized?
  • record, edit, and produce sound for a variety of contexts.
    wait for it…
  • try different musical techniques and audio programs
    technologies <–> musical ideas
  • create original pieces exploring sound as a medium
    projects, yay
  • think about sound in culture and culture through sound
    music is a technology too, no?

We meet on Wednesdays for ~3 hours. Each session will include a short break.


Class Materials

Each week there will be a set of materials to engage with before class. Materials might be short readings, links, tutorials, and/or examples (videos, sounds, games, etc) and everything will be available through the course website (you’re already here!). By Tuesday at midnight, add questions and thoughts for discussion based on the materials, posted as comments to that week’s page. (example comment section below)

I expect that the weekly materials, including comments, will take around 2 hours each week.


Weekly Exercises

Most weeks, you will complete a short project or exercise outside of class time. Read each exercise description carefully before you start so you know what is expected, including when and how it is due. As the course progresses, projects will become less constrained, letting you push towards work that you find personally resonant.

I encourage you to engage constructively with each project’s chosen constraints and expectations. Often, interesting discoveries occur at points of friction, when there is something to contend with or push against. Constraints also provide common reference points during discussion and critique.

In general, you should expect to spend between 3-4 hours on each exercise (a very fuzzy guideline). Sometimes things come together fast, and you are always allowed to spend more time on something. Do be careful. Sound is addicting.


Lessons & Workshops

Most sessions, half of our time will sound like a lesson or workshop related to the week’s topic. These times are opportunities to try different ways of working and they require an open mind. If you have experience in a particular area, push yourself and try a new angle. If you are having difficulty with something, don’t worry — no one approach is for everyone.

Try to stay focused. Ask lots of questions.

I get really excited about sound, and sometimes I talk too fast or use not-quite-words. Please stop me and ask me to repeat things.


Listening Session

Most sessions, we will set aside some time for listening. I will curate a few of the listening sessions, but i’m interested in what you want to hear as well. The comments section of this very page will be our record crate. Add a link to soundcloud, or youtube, or bandcamp, or a random mp3 that you found on a forum — whatever. One of your assignments for next week is to start by adding one link to the bottom of this page.



A note about new technology

This course engages with technologies for working with sound. While our latest electronic and digital tools give us access to seemingly infinite possibilities, they can also become overwhelming and can distract from making meaningful work. Attend to the feedback loops between your tools and your ideas. Consider the ways in which the techniques you employ affect the work you produce.

We’ll be working with a few different software programs over the course of the semester. All of the software we are using is available in our lab. While I encourage you to make use of the labs, you’ll likely be working on your laptops as well. All of the software we’ll be using has a trial period and is relatively inexpensive with an academic discount.

  • Reaper (evaluate forever or until you want to buy for $60:)
  • Audition (adobe collection, in our labs and free for students)
  • Live (30-day trial, intro version CAD 119, student version 323)
  • Max/MSP (30-day demo and then ~12/month or ~120/year)  .



Required readings will be available as pdf files or links on this here course website. There are a bunch of highly recommended additional reading materials — books, articles, and excerpts — on the resources page. There are also links to online tutorials, free / inexpensive plugins, and an ever-evolving list of experimental audio tools.


Be sure to bring these things to every class…

  • personal flash storage drive bigger that 8gb
  • SD Card with more than 8gb storage
  • over-the-ear closed-capsule headphones
    (buy a pair, but they are also available at Media Resources)



Participation (50%)

Each week, you receive 5 points for being present, prepared, and engaged, for a total of 5×11=55 points out of 50 (the first day doesn’t count). As you can see, you can miss one day without penalty. Engagement with online resources outside of class time is part of your participation grade.

If you spend time on the weekly materials, add thoughtful comments and/or questions, and are an active participant in class discussions and workshops, you will receive 5 points each week. If you really don’t like talking in class, let me know and work to contribute more to the website discussion.

Texting, talking over people, being disrespectful, and a clear lack of engagement will negatively affect your participation grade.

Exercises/Projects (50%)

There will be 5 exercises/projects over the course of the semester — about one every other week. Each exercise is worth 10 points. The exercise descriptions will have details about how to receive full credit for the project. While we will occasionally listen to projects as a class, we will not have formal critiques. This class is about learning to experiment with sound, and we are more concerned with taking risks and developing working processes than a polished output.

You can earn a total of 105 points in this course.

A+ ≥ 100, A=90-100, B=80-89, C=70-79, D=60-69, < 60 = F

University Policies

Note that the Emily Carr policies still apply, including the attendance policy which states that “more than three unexcused absences in a class will result in failure of the course.”



Accessibility & Learning Environment

I am committed to making course materials and assignments as accessible as possible. If you have particular concerns or needs regarding course materials or assignments, do not hesitate to reach out to me at any point during the semester.

Additionally, being marginalized based on gender, sexuality, race, class, nationality, or religion can negatively impact students’ learning. In order to facilitate the learning of all students, we will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism, or any other form of discrimination against groups or peers. I recognize that we are all learning and will make mistakes. If you make a mistake, please do not get defensive if you are corrected. If I make a mistake, please tell me so that I can address it immediately. We are all learning and discomfort at the gaps in our knowledge and our lack of insight into others’ experiences will at times be part of that. What should not be part of learning is producing, advancing, or tolerating harmful biases, stereotypes, or assumptions about each other.


This schedule is listed on the left. This is a new version of this course, expect that the schedule will shift a bit as we move through the semester.



Download (pdf)  |   Continue to Schedule

34 thoughts on “Sound Essentials”

    Here is a short clip of a guitarist playing his guitar – however, it is recorded through the inside of his guitar.
    I cannot remember the original Instagrammer who is specifically famous for placing a camera inside his guitar and recording music, but it seems like it is a category which has arisen.
    It is very fascinating to see the vibrations of the guitars strings in relation to the music. The visuals also create a very soothing and relaxing effect.


    Here is a video from inside a building during a Tornado outbreak. A camera was setup to record the scene. Nobody was hurt of course. I got interested with the sound of a tornado because I’m curious as to what happens during a tornado outbreak aside from destruction and people hiding down in the shelters. It turns out tornadoes create a loud roaring sound and the sound of heaving pouring rain.

    For this second video, it is a song from the DDR games series called Saber Wing Akira Headshot Mix. To be honest, I have been thinking about posting here links to one or two of my favourite ddr songs but I wasn’t sure until only now I found confidence. Anyways, this is one of my favourite songs of the DDR games. I wanted to get deeper into the song by listening to it. I discovered, “wow, this song is catchy and fast.” DDR creates interesting songs which is no wonder why I try listening to DDR songs on Youtube when I get the chance. At the same time, It got me thinking, how did the developers of the Dance Dance Revolution games think of these interesting songs and how to create them in the exact beat they have now? The idea makes me feel I want to see their process. How it all began before the final product.


    This may or may not be disturbing/disgusting to some people due to the loud eating noise. Eating ASMR is one of the most popular contents on social media, hence why I chose one! I thought it was interesting to listen to without watching the video because of how the cotton candies sounded when they were separating. To me it sounded as if it were a fruit such as an apple, or not something edible at all since the sound of the cottons by the end where she just squishes and rips them sounded.

  4. The Elephant’s Garden:
    Short film created by Felix Colgrave, who is a film director/animator who is known for creating very imaginative out of this world trippy projects. The original sound track can be found here:

    I just love how weird Colgrave’s work is and I find the sound design for his film fits so well with how out there his over all story is that he is trying to convey. The sound goes all over the place the same way the film does, yet still remains to have the same hallucinogenic qualities which makes the overall product of the film that much more captivating. It is guilty pleasure content, it is just too weird to click off.

    He also did the animation for Fever The Ghost’s music video “SOURCE”.

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