Music Theory For Audio Producers


Spring 2021

04/05/2021 – 06/25/2021


Introductory course in music theory as applied to audio production, music technology and songwriting. Study elements of music, including melody, rhythm, chords and musical forms. Understand traditional music notation as applied to MIDI sequencers, Pro Tools and other Digital Audio Workstations (DAWS). Edit drum and percussion notation to program beats, MIDI sequencer Event Lists, and digital sample libraries.

Ear training exercises for audio engineers to make equalization and production decisions based on harmonic overtones, key signatures and chord progressions. Selected listening and analysis of famous composers and award-winning producers in a wide variety of styles. Study the Nashville number music notation shorthand system. Develop ability to quickly and effectively recognize chord changes and transpose to any key.

Learn to read, write and conduct orchestral scores used in commercial recording studios. Apply traditional music theory concepts to modern digital audio editing software, such as Melodyne, Autotune, Elastic Audio, and computer virtual instrument orchestration.


There are no prerequisites for this class. Some previous experience with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is highly recommended.


Not open to students with credit in MUS 81D.


Not Repeatable. 4 hours lecture, 1 hour laboratory. (60 hours total per quarter.)

Foothill College GE Area:

Non-GE Applicable


CSU (California State Universities)


Learning Objectives

1. Identify key signatures, scales, chord progressions
2. Accurately transcribe data into MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) sequencers and DAWS (Digital Audio Workstations)
3. Identify and correct pitch intonation discrepancies in mono and polyphonic digital audio files
4. Read and conduct musical scores as required in professional audio recording studios and movie sound stages
5. Hear and identify harmonic functions of chords as they relate to key signatures and map to MIDI control data
6. Analyze rhythmic performances of musical instrument and vocal recordings
7. Understand and convert traditional music notation into MIDI sequencer data
8. Manipulate parameters of pitch, rhythm and harmony with MIDI software
9. Identify song structure, create tempo maps, memory locations and chord symbols
10. Apply digital audio processing to time stretch musical recordings or transpose to a different key
11. Understand drum and percussion notation to program MIDI sequencer Event Lists, and digital sample libraries

Hybrid Online TBA Activities

This course includes three (3) hybrid hours per week conducted via the Internet and not in the face-to-face class session on campus. Listed as TBA in the Foothill College Course Schedule, these hours can be done anywhere with an Internet connection.

In order to fulfill the participation requirements for these hybrid hours, students are expected to complete various online activities each week which may include:

        • Instructor-facilitated Discussions
        • Private Messages
        • Live Chat or Instant Messaging
        • Lab Assignments, including student-created content
        • Web conferencing of lectures or discussions
        • Collaborative group work
        • Portfolio submissions with instructor feedback
        • Student peer-review postings
        • Quizzes with instructor feedback

Textbooks and Online Content

Basic Music Theory: How to Read, Write, and Understand Written Music, 4th Edition
Author: Jonathan Harnum
Kindle: $9.99
Publisher: Sol Ut Press; 4th edition (January 1, 2005)


Recommended Ear Training Courses

  1. Bruce Arnold – One Note Ear Training
  2. Rick Beato – Ear Training App
  3. David L Burge – Ear Training Course

LinkedIn Learning

  1. Music Theory for Songwriters: The Fundamentals
    • Author: Julian Velard
  2. Sibelius Ultimate 2019 Essential Training: The Basics
    • Author: Jenny Amaya
  3. Music Theory for Songwriters: Rhythm




Introduction to creating music with computers, keyboards, audio samples and beats using Pro Tools and other digital audio workstations.

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Mixing & mastering multitrack recordings using Pro Tools. EQ, compression, reverb, delays, tempo maps, harmonic distortion…

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Foothill College created one of the first music technology programs in the country, launching classes in 1997, and remains one of the nation’s top programs, offering outstanding instruction and professional-quality facilities.

Our program provides a very cost–efficient option for students considering public or private universities.

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