MUTC 170: Introduction to MIDI Composition

Dr. Mark Snyder
duPont 311
(540) 654-1959
Office Hours T 12:00-1:00 PM, TR 4:45 PM -5:45 PM, R 1 PM – 2 PM and by appointment.

Welcome to MUTC 170: Introduction to MIDI Composition. The course is divided into 3 sections. In section one, you’ll be introduced to songwriting, basic music analysis for the purpose of songwriting and recognizing production techniques, tracking, overdubs, MIDI, mixing, effects and the digital audio workstation, (DAW), Logic Pro. The second section continues covering the same material, but as it relates to the DAW Ableton Live. The third section covers live performance with Ableton Live. I teach the first section covering Logic Pro in great detail, but in section two, students are required to teach themselves the techniques they learned in Logic using Live. While it would be much easier for you now if I taught Live the same way I teach Logic, your ability in the future to work with any DAW would be truly hampered. You should understand that there are 4 songs you will create that will be critiqued by your fellow students and myself in class. If you don’t feel you can be publicly criticized for your work, this may not be the course for you. While all critiques should be respectful, honesty can hurt when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a piece of music you’ve created.

We will be using articles, videos and multiple books that are all online from the UMW library and will be linked in the schedule below. Additionally, there are many books that are great for further reading. I’ll make links to those throughout the semester. If you would like to purchase any or all of the books we use, the ISBN number is listed on the second or third page of each eBook.

Additional Materials

  • Memory Stick or Hard Drive for storing & backing up your projects.
  • Studio quality headphones. Pick a pair from the list below. They don’t need to be from Sweetwater.

Course Goals

Students will have:

  • Experience using Logic Pro and Ableton Live Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)
  • A basic introduction to music theory terminology (analysis)
  • Engage in song writing (creation)
  • An understanding of MIDI techniques (sampling, synthesized sound generation, computers, controllers)
  • Develop skills in audio production as it is used in composition, recording, editing and performance.


Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the role of MIDI in contemporary music applications.
  • Perform fundamental to intermediate tasks in a Digital Audio Workstation.
  • Apply MIDI controllers to appropriate software controls.
  • Use Ableton Live & Logic
  • Experiment with the creation of an idea, question, format or product by applying new, different, or divergent approaches to it.
  • Use the creative process to understand oneself and solve problems

Class Participation & Attendance

Education is partially experiential and therefore class attendance is critical.

Absences and Excuses

Each student is directly responsible for absences and for making up missed work.

Assignment Descriptions


In addition to the readings and lab work, there are 10 graded homework assignments for Introduction to MIDI composition. These consist of project drafts that demonstrate your progress on the project. You will post these on blog and your posts will include evidence and integration of course readings. You will also be required to comment on each others drafts and projects.


There are 3 Mini-Projects that will demonstrate what you have learned in Live & Logic. These will be completed and uploaded to the blog for grading and then published for class critique. A Final project will be created in Live or Logic and critiqued during the final exam time.


There are 2 tests that cover class lectures and the readings.


Students are expected to participate in the critiques of the projects that occur when these projects are played in class. Failure to do so will lower the grade of your project. Critiques are designed to offer insights, suggestions for improvement, support to encourage you to improve your work. Each of you will provide an affective grade for each of final projects that is averaged in with my affective grade and feedback.

In addition to the above requirements, participation will be measured against the following criteria:

  • Contribute original thoughts or ideas to the critiques.
  • Give relevant reasons to validate points.
  • Demonstrate openness to divergent points of view.
  • Be respectful of the perceptions of others.
  • Integrate material from previous units to formulate ideas and generate dialogue.


Mini-Projects and the Final Project will be graded by timeliness and the fulfillment of the requirements as well, but grades of A and B will be reserved for students going above and beyond the requirements and overall quality.


Students will be expected to spend an average of 6 hours per week in the lab working with the software and creating music in conjunction with the readings. All work will be completed and turned in on time. All readings in the schedule below will need to be completed before the first class meeting of the week and the lessons/scenes will need to be completed by the end of that week and before turning in your drafts/projects so you will be able to discuss how all of the readings informed your work for the week. Drafts are due on the course blog by Friday at 11:59 PM and comments on your classmates work is due by the following Tuesday at 11:59 PM so that you can turn your assignment in to canvas with comments on time.

Week 1 Introduction, Music TheorySong Structure, Start Listening!

Week 2 SongwritingLogic Lesson 1

Week 3 Basics of Digital Audio & Recording, Logic Lessons 2 & 3Loop Project Draft

Week 4 Recording Vocals & Instruments, Logic Lesson 4 & 5Loop Project due

Week 5 Polar Patterns & Stereo Mic Techniques, Logic Lessons 6,  7 & 8, start working on Logic Project.

Week 6 EQ, Compression, Logic Lesson 9 & 10, continue working on Logic Project.

Week 7 Mixing, Reverb 1, 2 & Delay, Review, Logic Draft Due.

Week 8 Logic Project due Test 1

Week 9 Computer as Instrument, Live Tutorials, Ableton Scenes 3 & 5, start working on Live Project

Week 10 MIDI and Electronic Music Technology, Ableton Scenes 6 & 7, continue working on Live Project.

Week 11 Live Vocal and Instrument Processing, Ableton Scenes 9 & 10 Live Draft Due.

Week 12 Review, Live Project Due

Unit 3:
Week 13 Effects 1, 2  , Ableton Scene 15, start working on final project.

Week 14 Review & Test 2 Final Project Draft Due.

Final Project Due Exam Time or Concert

***The above schedule is approximate. We may be ahead or behind a day or two. Check the Assignments on Canvas for due dates***

Homework    20%
Projects (3)    40%
Tests             20%
Final Project  20%

Disability Resources
The Office of Disability Services has been designated by the college as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through the Office of Disability Services and require accommodations for this class, make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.
If you have not made contact with the Office of Disability Services and have reasonable accommodation needs, (note taking assistance, extended time for tests, etc.), I will be happy to refer you. The office will require appropriate documentation of disability.

Honor Code
Please conduct yourself in accordance with the Mary Washington honor code for this class and write and sign the pledge, (or an abbreviation of it), on all written work. If you are unsure if what you are doing or want to do is a violation of the honor code, ask. Appropriate actions in accordance with the Honor code will be taken as warranted.


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