Discover your sound.

Introduction to Computer Music Creation

In this course we introduce the concept of using your computer as a full fledged music studio. We primarily use the free web browser based application Soundation as a means to get your feet wet in the world of computer music creation. Even if you already own another DAW you will find that nearly everything covered in this course will remain applicable in your digital audio workstation of choice.

However, we still require you use Soundation or Audiotool for your final project.

Community is a big part of what we do here at the Sormena Project. If you already have a lot of experience creating computer music please consider completing the final project (in this case it's just making a song) and submitting your creation. In the arts there is no such thing as too "easy" or too "advanced" so just because you may prefer working in a more "full-featured" DAW it cannot hurt to stretch your creative legs and challenge yourself with limited tools.

If you come across any mistakes (either with video content, video edits, descriptions, broken links, etc) please contact us so we can correct them.

Introduction to Computer Music Creation

In this course we introduce the concept of using your computer as a full fledged music studio. We primarily use the free browser application Soundation as a means to give you a sampling of what computer music creation is all about.


Instructor: Brian Bollman

Total Duration: 07:36:35


  1. Welcome to the Course 00:09:04
    Welcome to the Course

    An introduction to the Sormena Project and this course. We lay the groundwork for everything that is to come in the next four weeks.

    Duration: 00:09:04

Section 1

  1. Audio In Audio Out 00:09:04
    Audio In Audio Out

    Getting audio into and out of Soundation is the most basic of tasks, but also the most essential. We walk through this process and even do a bit of recording.

    Duration: 00:09:04

  2. Safe Recording Levels and Latency 00:06:16
    Safe Recording Levels and Latency

    We take what we learned in the last video and add to it. Understanding how to set your record level properly will save you hours of headaches and revisions in the future.

    Duration: 00:06:16

  3. The Transport Bar 00:10:01
    The Transport Bar

    Every digital audio workstation will have some form of a transport bar. In this video we talk about it's various functions. We also discuss the limited metering options inside of Soundation and where to find them. (hint: it's near the transport bar).

    Duration: 00:10:01

  4. Browsing for Samples 00:08:48
    Browsing for Samples

    It's time to start building a loop. We explore the sound library, see how it's organized, and talk about ways to save sounds you like within your project.

    Duration: 00:08:48

  5. Track Organization and Duplication 00:04:30
    Track Organization and Duplication

    The importance of organization, color coding, and track duplication in the world of computer music creation.

    Duration: 00:04:30

  6. Selector and Scissor Tools 00:10:08
    Selector and Scissor Tools

    Time to finally start manipulating audio. We use the select tool and scissor tools to start chopping sounds up and moving them around.

    Duration: 00:10:08

  7. Stretching and Repitching 00:07:01
    Stretching and Repitching

    Stretching and repitching our audio clips makes the scissors tool look like child's play. These tools can be used for very practical or very creative purposes.

    Duration: 00:07:01

  8. Week One Wrap Up 00:01:25
    Week One Wrap Up

    The end of week 1. In week two we will spice our audio clips up with a variety of effects that will take our parts in totally new sonic directions.

    Duration: 00:01:25

Section 2

  1. Audio FX and Signal Flow 00:04:11
    Audio FX and Signal Flow

    When working in the computer static loops and clips get pretty boring pretty fast. That's where audio FX come in. Even with just a handful of FX we we have a plethora of options to manipulate and change our sounds.

    Duration: 00:04:11

  2. Time Based Effects 00:13:48
    Time Based Effects

    We explore the first category of audio effects, time. In this lesson we look at the delay, reverb, and tremolo.

    Duration: 00:13:48

  3. Amplitude Based Effects 00:12:08
    Amplitude Based Effects

    Moving right along to amplitude based FX. The fakie, compressor, and limiter are all covered in this lesson. Please be aware that an effect like compression takes years to master and so if your not hearing what it does do not use it.

    Duration: 00:12:08

  4. Frequency/Timbre Based Effects 00:10:25
    Frequency/Timbre Based Effects

    Finally frequency/timbre based FX. Almost every FX influences the tonal balance of a sound in one way or another but these FX can be used to significantly alter the frequency spectrum of our sounds.

    Duration: 00:10:25

  5. Week Two Wrap Up 00:02:21
    Week Two Wrap Up

    Let's see how far we can take our basic loop using audio FX. Remember you can go as crazy or as subtle as you want. In week 3 we get into using instrument tracks and the instruments bundled within Soundation.

    Duration: 00:02:21

Section 3

  1. Virtual Instruments 00:04:17
    Virtual Instruments

    Audio loops and clips are great but limited in flexibility. You can't write in your own melody, fundamentally change the rhythm of a drum loop, or turn that bass loop into a beautiful string pad. With virtual instruments you can do exactly that.

    Duration: 00:04:17

  2. External MIDI Keyboard 00:05:23
    External MIDI Keyboard

    MIDI keyboards are quite popular with computer musicians. They let you take your hands off the keyboard and onto something perhaps a bit more creative. In this lesson we hook one up.

    Duration: 00:05:23

  3. Editing Note Clips Part 1 00:07:40
    Editing Note Clips Part 1

    MIDI is a control language not a sound generator. In this lesson we look and listen to how MIDI notes work and how to get them where we want on the grid.

    Duration: 00:07:40

  4. Editing Note Clips Part 2 00:06:58
    Editing Note Clips Part 2

    Digging deeper into the note clips we find a loop clip option, adding notes with a pen tool, and velocity modifications.

    Duration: 00:06:58

  5. The Drum Machine 00:04:44
    The Drum Machine

    The Drum Machine is Soundation's basic electronic drum instrument. You'll find kits modeled after some of the classic machines from history.

    Duration: 00:04:44

  6. The SPC and "Swing" 00:12:59
    The SPC and "Swing"

    The SPC has an interface akin to the very famous MPC line of drum machines and midi controllers. We dig deep into this instrument and talk about how you can add some swing to your drum parts.

    Duration: 00:12:59

  7. Samplers 00:07:16

    Almost all virtual instruments use some of form of sampling to produce sound. Inside of Soundation we look at two instruments that use multiple samples to try and emulate real world instruments.

    Duration: 00:07:16

  8. Subtractive Synthesis and "The Simple" 00:19:01
    Subtractive Synthesis and "The Simple"

    We get into the basics of subtractive synthesis. When you break it down and think about what you are doing and really listen you'll find that it's not so difficult after all.

    Duration: 00:19:01

  9. More Subtractive Synths 00:10:07
    More Subtractive Synths

    Once you wrap your head around "The Simple" the rest of the subtractive based synths should be no problem for you. We take a look at their unique features in this lesson.

    Duration: 00:10:07

  10. The "Wub" Machine 00:13:35
    The "Wub" Machine

    The Wub Machine has a really cool looking interface but it's still just a subtractive synth at its core. The only new feature in this instrument is the LFO which we will dig into in this lesson.

    Duration: 00:13:35

Section 4

  1. Automation 00:11:13

    Automation gives you the ability to program (draw in) movement on virtually any control within Soundation. This can be done for practical reasons (a fade out) or for some truly crazy sonic manipulation.

    Duration: 00:11:13

  2. Moving Audio Regions with Automation 00:03:18
    Moving Audio Regions with Automation

    Since automation is locked to the musical grid/timeline (not audio regions themselves) what happens to the automation data when you start moving clips around? In this lesson we answer that question.

    Duration: 00:03:18

  3. Final Project Instructions 00:04:10
    Final Project Instructions

    That's it we've pretty much covered everything in Soundation. Now it's your time to shine by making a track of your own.

    Duration: 00:04:10

  4. Music Theory THE BASICS 00:20:39
    Music Theory THE BASICS

    We cover some music theory basics if you are brand new to making music. Topics include the octave, pitch collections (modes), and basic harmony (triads).

    Duration: 00:20:39

  5. Getting the Composition Started 00:14:55
    Getting the Composition Started

    Some really basic ideas and trouble shooting methods to getting a track started. This is all opinion, not fact. Everyone's artistic process is unique and personal.

    Duration: 00:14:55

  6. Composition Review 1: Genre 00:18:08
    Composition Review 1: Genre

    In this lesson we analyze and discuss an EDM style track created by Sormena co-founder Paul van Hemmen.

    Duration: 00:18:08

  7. Composition Review 2: Genre Based 00:12:03
    Composition Review 2: Genre Based

    In this lesson we analyze a track that takes it's inspiration from a particular genre of music. As in the genre is the starting point but the end point is something that strays off the path a bit.

    Duration: 00:12:03

  8. Composition Review 3: Experimental 00:17:30
    Composition Review 3: Experimental

    In this lesson we go to the dark side...purely experimental music. We talk about the tenants of experimental music and some of the benefits to having a go at making it yourself.

    Duration: 00:17:30

  9. Export, Normalize, and Compress Your Final Track 00:09:17
    Export, Normalize, and Compress Your Final Track

    In this lesson we export our final track out of Soundation, clean it up, and compress it to an mp3 file ready to share with the world.

    Duration: 00:09:17

  10. Course Wrap Up 00:06:17
    Course Wrap Up

    Some final thoughts from the course. Thank you for learning with us. We wish you the best with your creative endeavors and hope you consider learning and engaging with the Sormena community in the future.

    Duration: 00:06:17

Bonus Audiotool

  1. Audiotool and the Bonus Video Approach 00:01:46
    Audiotool and the Bonus Video Approach

    Since we're giving you the choice between Soundation and Audiotool for your final project it seems only fitting that we explore Audiotool in the bonus section.

    Duration: 00:01:46

  2. Downloading, Cleaning, and Importing Samples 00:15:01
    Downloading, Cleaning, and Importing Samples

    With Audiotool we have the ability to load in our own samples. We talk about finding samples, cleaning them up, and importing them into a project.

    Duration: 00:15:01

  3. Working with Audio Clips and Loops 00:09:07
    Working with Audio Clips and Loops

    Working with audio clips and loops in Audiotool is a totally different process to what we saw before. Be patient and you'll be able to do whatever you want (within reason) with your audio.

    Duration: 00:09:07

  4. Time Stretching and Modular Signal Flow 00:10:36
    Time Stretching and Modular Signal Flow

    In most DAWs we take signal flow for granted. In Audiotool signal flow is a little more hands on (old school). Just like in the real studio we'll need to patch together our effects using cables (virtual cables that is).

    Duration: 00:10:36

  5. Mixing, Splitting, and Combining Signals 00:07:10
    Mixing, Splitting, and Combining Signals

    We look at different ways to route and mix audio signals. From a basic crossfader to a 16 channel mixer with EQ there are a lot of options.

    Duration: 00:07:10

  6. Drum Machines 00:13:07
    Drum Machines

    There are three different drum machines within Audiotool. Two emulate classic hardware devices and one is more of a classic sampler.

    Duration: 00:13:07

  7. Drum Patterns and Note Tracks 00:11:01
    Drum Patterns and Note Tracks

    Back into the timeline to lay down some drum pattern and note tracks. We also do a little automation and see how that all works in Audiotool.

    Duration: 00:11:01

  8. Crafting a Breakdown 00:13:18
    Crafting a Breakdown

    I continue to work in the timeline and create a bit of a breakdown to change up the loop. This video is totally optional and I only included it as an example if you are struggling with your own arrangements.

    Duration: 00:13:18

  9. Bass Line Synth 00:10:18
    Bass Line Synth

    A simple 303 Bass Line emulation. The original hardware device is extremely popular in dance music. Let's check out the emulation.

    Duration: 00:10:18

  10. Subtractive Virtual Analog Synth (Pulverisateur) 00:08:43
    Subtractive Virtual Analog Synth (Pulverisateur)

    Pulverisateur is Audiotool's subtractive analog synthesizer emulation. After working in Soundation you should have a good idea on how to make noise with this one.

    Duration: 00:08:43

  11. Phase/Frequency Modulation Synth (Heisenberg) 00:18:02
    Phase/Frequency Modulation Synth (Heisenberg)

    Maybe the most powerful free synthesizer today. We talk about using Heisenberg as a subtractive synth and then move into the wild world of phase/frequency modulation.

    Duration: 00:18:02

  12. Recording Automation 00:03:29
    Recording Automation

    Inside of Audiotool you can record the automation of any parameter in real time. This is a really fun feature when you get the recording right. When you get it wrong editing can be almost impossible.

    Duration: 00:03:29

  13. Sharing/Exporting Your Track 00:11:31
    Sharing/Exporting Your Track

    Time to bring up the level and export our little arrangement.

    Duration: 00:11:31

  14. Starting Template Idea 00:03:34
    Starting Template Idea

    For organization sake it is a good idea to set up a little bit of a template before you begin work on a full track. Here is one simple example.

    Duration: 00:03:34

  15. Full Track Example 00:01:12
    Full Track Example

    Here is a look at a full track I made in a few hours. As you can tell it is a lot more organized than what we did in these bonus videos.

    Duration: 00:01:12