Do your homeschooled kids dream of making their own music? Maybe they’ve floated the idea of turning their bedroom into a professional home-based music studio. After all, a huge draw of homeschooling is that kids get to pursue their own passions, right? Well, music production has been a long-time favorite hobby in our household and with Mr D Math’s new Digital Music Production course, we’re getting a chance to try all new kinds of music-making this semester.
I was compensated for my time writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Our Family’s History with Music Production
A few years before I started homeschooling my first two children, I had a vision of what I thought homeschooling might look like for our family. I’d long dreamt of becoming a music producer and opening my own music studio in a backyard office. (At that time, we had neither a backyard nor a backyard office, but in the vision, they were there).
I imagined the space would be divided into two: one part would be where musicians would come in and play and the other part would have my mixing board and a couple of desks where my little girls could do a bit of work while learning all about making music.
The vision wasn’t entirely out of the ballpark; I’d recently completed an audio engineering program at a local college and had the basic skills needed to start pursuing said career. Unfortunately, life took its own course as it tends to do.
In those first ten years of our homeschool journey, we didn’t have the means to set up a recording studio and our finances required me to do work that paid a somewhat more stable income than trying to make it in the music industry (those of you in the blogging world will understand that that’s a very relative statement!)
Also, to get good enough at something like music production to take it to the next level, you need to commit tons of time to gaining hands-on experience and it just wasn’t in the cards for us at that time.
Over the years, however, my kids did develop an interest in writing and recording music as well as putting on musical theater camps featuring their original songs. They would write songs and we would record them in the sanctuary of our church, using basic software to mix and master the songs at home.
We didn’t use the most professional production techniques but we got the job done.
As we move into the next season of our homeschool journey, though, I find there is a deeper desire within a few of our family members to further develop our songwriting and music production skills. And, while I do have the base knowledge from the program I completed, I’m still eons away from being a professional producer.
Not only have my skills gotten rusty, but the technology of music production has also developed a lot further since then and there are many new things for me to learn.
That’s why the recently released Digital Music Production course from Mr D Math came along at exactly the right time.
What Do Kids Learn in this Audio Production Course?
First, let me start by pointing out that while this course is designed for students in grades four and up, it’s just as suitable for a middle schooler as it is for an adult. Anyone who has a keen interest in the music production process and wants to develop their creative and technical skills will benefit from this course.
While I have been a long-time devotee of Mr D Math’s math courses, it was a bit strange to see that he’s come out with a digital music course. However, once I started taking the course and saw the teacher he’d partnered with, my fears were immediately relieved.
Taught by Brent Daniels, an award-winning music producer, composer, sound designer, songwriter, and singer with over twenty-five years of teaching experience, Mr D Math’s Digital Musical Production course goes way beyond the fundamentals of audio recording.
In this course, students learn to compose, arrange, and mix a variety of elements into a cohesive musical piece. Students who complete this course can apply their skills to create movie trailers like Brent Daniels does, or they may take their music production journey in a completely different direction, creating pieces such as film scores, video game soundtracks, and podcasts.
The course content includes:
- Working with a digital audio workstation (DAW)
- Recording, editing, and programming MIDI data
- Using synthesizers to add virtual instruments to tracks
- Adding effects and EQ to tracks
- Playing with delay and reverb
- Understanding track structure and automation
By the end of this course, students will feel comfortable composing, mixing, and producing a full track from scratch.
Digital Tools Required for Producing Music at Home
When many of us picture a recording studio, the image in our minds is probably similar to what I fantasized about all those years ago—a relatively spacious environment with at least two rooms, a huge mixing board, and tons of instruments and microphones.
What’s surprising—and relieving—to know is that today’s digital recording studios can be set up with very minimal equipment. That’s why independent artists are now able to make professional-sounding music at home: the barriers to doing so have fallen significantly.
If your kids are interested in producing digital music at home, there are a few tools they will need to get started. You can get basic versions at the outset and upgrade them later if your kids decide to take their hoppy more seriously.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A digital audio workstation is used to record, process, and mix sounds on our computers. They typically consist of a computer, a sound card or other audio interface, audio editing software, and at least one user input device for adding or modifying data. This could be as simple as a mouse and keyboard or as sophisticated as a piano-style MIDI controller keyboard or automated audio control surface for mixing track volumes.
Students will need to have access to these components in order to participate in the music production course.
An analog-to-digital converter takes signals from microphones and electronic instruments and converts them into sound files we can use on the computer. It converts electrical signals into digital information.
Laptops and cell phones have these converters built into them. For the purposes of this course, kids can use those microphones and converters to get the signals into their editing software.
However, at a professional level, we would want to use higher-quality mics and converters to ensure optimal sound quality, especially if they want to add vocals to their songs. This would typically involve an audio interface with multiple input/output ports or a mixer with a built-in converter.
Again, these are not required for taking the course but would be worth investing in if your child dreams of working with industry professionals one day.
Headphones or Speakers
When recording, students will need to use headphones, not monitors (speakers) so they don’t get feedback. Brent recommends wired headphones as wireless/Bluetooth headphones will introduce latency. Laptop speakers will also be inadequate as they are too small to reproduce bass frequencies accurately.
A pair of proper speakers could be useful, but wired headphones are adequate on their own.
USB Keyboard Controller
A USB keyboard controller is helpful but not necessary. It allows electronic music producers to use pads to create rhythmic sounds and accomplish tasks much faster than they would using just their alphanumeric keyboards for input. These can be purchased for as little as $50.
The Benefits of Learning Music Production Online at Home
Although I initially chose to study music production in person—at the time, online classes were still a pretty new thing—I am mostly sold on the idea of learning these fun skills via an online learning platform. While you do miss out on the benefit of having a live teacher giving you feedback in real time, there are several benefits to studying online.
One thing I’ve found with courses like digital musical production is that every student is starting from a different point and everybody learns at their own pace. Students who come in with less foundational knowledge (as I did!) or who pick up on the concepts slower can take away from the learning experience of the more advanced students and vice versa.
When I studied audio engineering, I was a complete beginner and I really struggled to keep up. I felt bad asking too many questions so many things just went right over my head.
The benefit of a self-paced online class is that students can go as slow as they need to to grasp the concepts. They can listen to a video lesson three times. They can spend several hours on one assignment if that’s what they need to master the skill being taught. There’s nobody to keep up with and no fear of holding others back or feeling like you look stupid. This makes for a more relaxing and positive learning experience.
It Leaves Room for Play
One of the things I love about producing music is that it’s so much fun. The way I was first introduced to it was when I was in high school and I found out about loop mixing programs that allowed you to take some musical samples and turn them into songs. I was instantly hooked and wanted to spend hours after school every day making songs.
The best online music production courses will honor this aspect of music creation—at its heart, it should be fun. Yes, there are music theory and technical skills that need to be learned but the creative process is best served by allowing kids to be, well, creative.
The assignments in the Mr D Math Music Production course encourage exploration. Students get to sample samples, play with synths, and test out effects. This experimentation process helps them find sounds they like and develop a positive attitude toward their music education course.
Music production courses are notorious for being expensive. Many of the best music production courses cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. While these are professional-level classes that include a lot of hands-on experience in live recording, their depth makes them inaccessible for the majority of homeschool families.
A course like this offers high school-level education that allows kids to get a solid foundation in music production without laying out thousands of dollars. It’s low cost and low barriers meaning kids can try it out without risking too much.
What I love about that is that it gives a wide range of kids a chance to get their feet wet with music production and see if it suits them before making too big of a commitment. That in turn will lead to more homeschoolers making more awesome music at home, which is something well worth celebrating.
Get Started with Digital Musical Production Today
If your homeschooler has an interest in learning more about digital musical production, I highly recommend checking out this fun and comprehensive digital music production course from Mr D Math and Brent Daniels. Not only will they learn some new skills (and hopefully earn some high school credits along the way too), but they’ll have a great time and create some high-quality music along the way too.