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Debbie and Friends Remix Contest Site

Berkleemusic is THE place to learn about what’s happening in the music industry and how to effectively leverage the tools available to today’s musician to market music both online and via traditional outlets. We have courses on the Future of Music and the Music Business with Dave Kusek, Online Music Marketing with Mike King, Concert Touring with Jeff Dorenfeld and John Czajkowski, Music Industry Entrepreneurship with George Howard, and the list goes on and on.

I often say that in addition to being the dean of continuing education at Berkleemusic, I am also a student. I’ve learned so much from the curricula and instructors listed above, and I’ve have the good fortune to be able to apply this knowledge to my own kids/family music project, Debbie and Friends.

The most recent outgrowth of my music business education with Berkleemusic is a fan-engaging remix contest for kids and families. As our courses teach, visionary artist managers such as Terry McBride of Nettwerk have been doing this kind of things for years with mainstream artists. I’m hoping it will be successful for kids/family music and with our fan families who want to engage in musical activities beyond listening. My producer, Michael Carrera, prepared a GarageBand version of one of our new songs that was originally produced in Logic. There are a lot less tracks than the original version, but we wanted to make the GarageBand file manageable for our young producers. The contest is now live and can be found here.

The contest just launched and already we’ve been able to monitor interest and excitement from our fan families and people in the Remix world. Remix Comps not only embraced the idea that’s outside of their genre, they also made a special effort to convey this is a contest geared towards kids/family music.

It will be interesting to see how the contest unfolds. I’ll report back on April 5, to announce the winner and share the experience.

What kind of fan-engaging ideas have you been able to try with your music as a result of your studies with Berkleemusic?

Berkleemusic has so many incredibly talented, dedicated instructors including LA producer, Erik Hawkins. Recently, Erik was interviewed by Mix Magazine on his work with Berkleemusic. The following excerpt didn’t make it into the piece but is filled with some great information, so I thought I’d share it with the Berkleemusic community.

Erik Hawkins

What courses do you teach for Berkleemusic?
EH: Music production courses. For example, Pro Tools 110, Producing Music with Reason, and Remixing with Pro Tools and Reason. I’m the course author and instructor of Producing Music with Reason and Remixing with Pro Tools and Reason. 

What are some of the ways you approach designing an online curriculum?
EH: As an online course author, I strive to keep the class content both accessible and interesting to all levels of students. It’s exciting that in one class there can be students at a variety of skill levels all working on the same lesson. So, in order to accommodate these different skill levels and keep things challenging for everybody, I offer a variety of ways to learn the material. Students who are new to music production can jump in at the basic level with videos and interactive Flash workshops, while more advanced students can dive into discussion questions at more length and tackle the extra challenge portion of a weekly assignment. There’s something for every level and you can pick and choose the materials within a lesson that best suit your personal goals for the topics presented.

Can you give me an example of how the scope of an assignment might address different levels?

EH: In the courses that I’ve developed for Berkleemusic, I spend the first few weeks making sure that everybody understands the basics of the music software programs that we’ll be working with. This frees up the remaining weeks for getting creative, using the new production techniques introduced in each weekly lesson for actually producing music. For example, beginning in week eight of the Producing Music with Reason course, students start writing and producing their own song that I expect them to have completed, mixed and mastered, by the end of week twelve of the course. And, in my Remixing with Pro Tools and Reason course, students complete three remix sketches as a warm up for producing a full length remix beginning in week seven.

It’s an intense ride but there’s no better way to hone your music production chops than to apply the production techniques that I’m teaching in the lessons to actual projects. And, throughout this process students receive feedback from myself and their fellow classmates. It’s really an amazing learning environment.

How have you seen the Berkleemusic program evolve during your tenure there?

EH: From my perspective, the Berkleemusic team is continually pushing forward and never content to simply rest on their laurels. They’re constantly improving the online tools for teaching and reaching students, and they seem to be steadily rolling out exciting new courses. I myself have participated in much beta testing for new course material, Web site and chat tools. And, I am personally responsible for keeping my own course material fresh and up to date. So, yes, I think it’s safe to say that we are continually evolving to both improve upon the online college, to meet our student’s needs, and, in my case, to keep up with cutting edge music production techniques.

I know you’ve been teaching online for a few years. How has the way you teach online evolved since you started out?
EH: Much like the Berkleemusic development team, I’m continually refining how I teach online in an effort to improve upon my lessons and to offer students more quality material. For example, I realized very early on that everybody learns differently, so I’m always working on ways to deliver a lesson topic in a variety of forms. I’ll explain the same production technique in a detailed description, with screen shots, a video, a step-by-step exercise, and an interactive Flash quiz. I’m counting on one of these ways clicking with the student. And, if the student still has questions, I’m available for further explanation through private messaging, text chatting, and, more recently, video chats with screen sharing.

When you think about it, there’s really no end to what we can accomplish online as Internet technologies and access improves around the world. It’s pretty astounding. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
EH: I can’t even begin to tell you what a blast it is to work with aspiring music producers all over the world. In one class I might have a high school senior in Michigan, an attorney in Alaska, a recording studio manager in Japan, and a US serviceperson stationed in the Middle East. Everybody has come together online, at Berkleemusic, to learn and to collaborate on music. Consequently, the energy in our online courses is great, very positive and nurturing. It’s really wonderful to be a part of this and to help foster this sort of energy in my classes.

Finally, I’d be leaving an important piece of the puzzle out if I didn’t mention that I get to do all this from the comfort of my own home studio here in Los Angeles. I think that because I’m also a working composer and music producer here in LA that I’m able to offer a unique perspective on the business to my students who may be, geographically, very distant. I’m a happy camper composing and producing tracks here in LA and sharing my experiences and knowledge with my students online and I think that this positive energy comes through in my classes and online interactions. I don’t think there’s any substitute for this sort of genuine enthusiasm and real-world experience. A couple of other working pros here in LA that also teach for Berkleemusic include, composer Ben Newhouse, author of Orchestration 1 and 2, and producer/engineer David Franz, author of Producing with Pro Tools and Recording and Producing in the Home Studio.

It’s an exciting time to be a musician. There are so many new channels of distribution, new formats, and new delivery options that can help you expose your music to potential fans. I have found animated music videos to be an excellent platform for reaching new fans and reconnecting with existing ones.

The three main ingredients needed to produce an animated music video are:

1. A fully produced song that lends itself to visual representation. Although the example that follows is for children/family music, animation can work for any genre or age demographic.

2. A graphic designer to create compelling characters and imagery.

3. An animator who can storyboard the project and create the animation.

The entire process can take 6 to 12 weeks.

Start with a Song
All Debbie and Friends’ animated music videos are based on the original songs that we perform from our CD, Story Songs and Sing Alongs. The final mastered version of the song is used for preproduction planning purposes only. The audio mix is somewhat different in the animated feature to best support the visuals.

Our most recent animated music video was based on our “Jack and the Beanstalk” story song.

Jack and the Beanstalk by DebbieandFriends

Main Character Design
A creative brief is sent to the designer, Robert Heath at Barkley Studios who designs the main characters and elements of the story.

“Jack and the Beanstalk” main characters by Rob Heath.

Backgrounds and Scenes
Next, the designers and animators at Planet Sunday create backgrounds and scenes to support the characters and the overall storyline.

Jack and the cow.
The Giant taking a nap.

Storyboard Sketch
Once the characters and background scenes are developed, a storyboard movie is created putting rough action sketches to music. We typically do two or three iterations of the storyboard movie before locking it down and going into production on the final movie.

“Easter Eggs”
Al Hirschfeld, the visual artist best known for his cartoon-like line renditions of musicians and actors, always hid his daughter’s name “Nina” in his artwork. Along this line, all Debbie and Friends’ music videos have a “Spider” that drops down and makes a brief cameo at some point during our cartoons. It’s become a fun activity for our fan families to “find the spider” and write to tell me where it is. This is another example of how the music videos help us stay connected with our fans.

Final Movie
The finished movie is uploaded to our You Tube channel and related children’s music video sites such as jitterbug.tv and totlol.com. They are promoted to our fan families via our Debbie and Friends email newsletter, Facebook posts, and blog posts, etc.

The animated music video becomes a viral marketing tool as our fan families share the links and embed codes with their friends. The videos have proven to be great market research tools as well. We are receiving lots of requests to turn the music videos into a DVD product that can be played at home or in the car. Individual music video downloads can be made available to purchase as well. And, the animated music videos can serve as licensing vehicles for film and TV placements.

Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be a musician!

As many of you know, I have a children/family music project called Debbie and Friends. It’s a fun, creative, musical project that allows me to try all of the wonderful things we teach online in music production, songwriting, arranging, and music business, while making connections with families through music.

For the past eight months, we’ve been recording our second CD, More Story Songs and Sing Alongs, and finding many teachable moments for families with young kids throughout the process. The following post takes apart a rhythm section recording of our new song “So So Happy,” and allows kids to listen to each track individually. I originally posted this on my kid’s and family music blog, Kids Music Matters. The response has been so positive that I thought I’d share it here as well, for those of you who may want to explore the recording process with your kids.

In the Recording Studio with Debbie and Friends!

First, let’s listen to the whole song. Then we’ll listen to the individual parts (or tracks) we recorded.
So So Happy – in production by Debbie and Friends

With our producer Mike Carrera guiding the way, we recorded the rhythm section tracks for “So, So, Happy” (drums, bass, guitar, and piano). Let’s listen to each individual rhythm section instrument we recorded for “So, So, Happy,” and meet the players. (Some you may recognize as your Berkleemusic instructors.)

Drums with Bill D’Agostino.

Bill D’Agostino on drums.

Drums – So, So Happy by Debbie and Friends

Bass with Danny “Mo” Morris.

Danny Mo
Danno Mo on bass.

Bass – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Guitar with Kevin Belz.

Kevin Belz on guitar.

Guitar – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Keyboard with Dave Limina.

Dave Limina on piano (also plays organ).

Keyboard – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Now that you’ve heard the different parts, challenge each other to listen for the individual instrument parts when they are all mixed together. I hope you and your family enjoyed exploring the recording process. It’s fun to do this with other recordings you listen to together as well.

We just added a new Audio Mastering course to the Berkleemusic catalog, and it seems to be just what the world has been waiting for! Students are enrolling fast and furiously! The authors, Jonathan Wyner and Marc-Dieter Einstmann, are both world-class audio-mastering engineers, and we’re excited to have them join the Berkleemusic faculty.

This new course contains some amazing cutting-edge, interactive learning tools. I’d like to give you a sneak preview. The first lesson is all about “monitoring.” Students go through interactive ear training drills to learn to identify frequencies. They study loudspeakers, calibration, graphic EQs, sound wave properties, room treatments, and more. Along the way, students can take interactive, virtual tours of two first-rate mastering studios. The tours are embedded below for you to enjoy. (Be sure to navigate all the way into the control room on the first one… that’s where things get very interesting!)

I hope you enjoy this sneak preview into our new online Mastering Course. Click the images below to launch the tours.

Virtual Tour 1: M-WORKS Studio in Boston, MA USA

M-Works Tour

Virtual Tour 2: MASTERLAB Studios in Berlin, Germany

Masterlab Tour

I’m delighted to announce the new Berkleemusic online learning environment will be unveiled this Fall term. Our new learning platform has been tested in a number of courses over the past few semesters with great success. The feedback from students and faculty has been extremely positive, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with the rest of our student body this Fall term.

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The new Berkleemusic learning environment makes its debut this Fall 2009 term.

The new learning environment will contain an enhanced feature set with many of the tools our students have been asking for, including:

- a real-time “Web Conferencing Tool” that allows for text, audio, and video-based meetings.

- the addition of “RSS” feeds.

- enhanced communication features including a student “Quick Nav.”

- a “Polling Tool” to help establish weekly chat times and to weigh in on course-related topics.

- a “Calendar Tool” to assist with planning and scheduling of both course-related and personal dates.

- a “Flash-based Recording Tool” to record and submit assignments, and for instructors to provide audio feedback.

- a brand new “Look and Feel” for the learning environment that has been designed and tested for readability and ease of use.

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Funk/R&B Guitar topic in the new Berkleemusic learning environment

All of us at Berkleemusic are incredibly excited about the new learning environment and look forward to sharing it with our students this Fall Term beginning September 28!

Album back2
Marty Gold conducting.

My grandfather, Marty Gold is a pioneer in music and music technology and has always been a true inspiration to me. He is the reason I became a musician. As a child, I loved listening to him play piano. I was intrigued watching him write orchestral arrangements on a stack table by the pool, and I loved playing in family jam sessions with him over the years.

Conducting the family band.

Marty Gold has enjoyed a diverse career in music. He toured with the Korn Kobblers as an arranger/pianist in the 1940s. The 18-piece swing band was all the rage and their best-selling records played on 175 radio stations daily in their heyday. The Korn Kobblers had some of the very first music videos on record.

Marty Gold left life on the road and soon became an A&R man for RCA Records in NYC. He arranged and produced such artists as Sarah Vaughn, Peter Nero, Lena Horne, and Marian McPartland. He also led The Marty Gold Orchestra and arranged, conducted, and recorded dozens of records for RCA, Decca, and others. Some of those recordings were among the first to be in “Stereo.”

A few Marty Gold Orchestra records.

This became a theme for Marty Gold: always on the cutting edge of music technology. At the age of 70 he got a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. He learned to use Finale music notation software at the age of 80. And now, well into his 90s, he continues to use the tools of technology in music.

When he retired from RCA, Marty Gold wrote arrangements for school orchestra and band for Warner Bros. Publications, Alfred Publishing, Carl Fischer and others. Some of the highlights in my own career have been where our musical paths have crossed. In the early 1990s, I was a music education editor for Warner Bros. Publications and as we were developing a series of Song/Activity books for Shari Lewis I was able to bring my Grandfather in to write all of the piano arrangements. Shari was thrilled to work with Marty again (he produced her records many years prior). For me, it was so exciting to be working with my grandfather professionally. Now, 15 years later we’re still working on projects together and it continues to mean the world to me.

With Father’s Day approaching, I want to thank my Grandfather, Marty Gold, for being such an inspiration to me. I am thankful for the career I enjoy in music and am thankful he modeled such an inspiring life in music when I was a child.

Marty Gold and me in 2006.

Who inspired your decision to pursue a career in music? Please share your stories.


In the spirit of sharing music-making opportunities to a global community… I have a gift to share with all of you iPhone users out there.

The Smule Ocarina Holiday Songbook

As of this writing, Smule’s free Holiday Songbook has been downloaded by 28k iPhone Ocarina enthusiasts. The book contains eight songs with lyrics for sing alongs and some music theory information throughout.

Download the PDF songbook here.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Smule Ocarina is a $1.99 app, and the first true musical instrument created for the iPhone. For more information, visit Smule.

Enjoy! Happy Holidays!


As they saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words! The same is true for distance learning. It can take a lot of words to describe what a simple look “under the hood” will readily convey. Enter Berkleemusic Sample courses!

There are four sample courses currently available including Guitar Scales, Concert Touring, Music Theory 101, and Orchestration, and more coming soon.

To access Berkleemusic’s sample courses, click here.

Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Wolfgang’s Vault is an incredible resource of concert recordings from every artist you can imagine (seriously). It’s a treasure trove of recordings that can be streamed and shared in many elegant ways. I highly recommend this resource!

My post today, is dedicated to my Fall 2008 online Music Theory class.
Shout Out to Section 8!

They are doing a great job learning about rhythms and time signatures in this, the second week of Music Theory 101 online.

I thought it would be fun to find concert recordings with songs that represent some of the time signatures they are studying. There are lots of examples in 4/4 time, a common meter in rock music. But, there are also some more obscure time signatures present throughout the Vault’s recordings. Here is one of the most famous songs in 7/4 time, “Money” by Pink Floyd.

What other interesting time signatures can you find in the concert recordings of Wolfgang’s Vault? Anyone? Anyone? ; ) Please post them here.