Category Archives: music production

Music Production

Do Industry Certifications Matter?

I teach in the Music Technology program at Foothill College, and I really enjoy the duality of teaching both academic and vocational courses. It gives me a flexibility in course creation that simply wouldn’t exist at a four-year university where career training (if it even exists) takes a backseat to ivory tower academic pursuits.

Many of our vocational courses are focused on software training for a number of important audio applications including Avid’s Pro Tools, Apple’s Logic Pro, and Ableton Live. These are some of our most popular courses at Foothill, and in the case of the Pro Tools courses they are even required for the degree and certificate in Music Tech.

One of the questions I frequently get from the students in my vocational classes is, “Do Industry Certifications Matter?” Unfortunately, my response is often something like, “Well, that depends…” And it does depend on a lot of factors. For someone who already has credits in the industry, an industry certification (IC) is somewhat meaningless; there’s no question that real-world credits trump theoretical expertise every time. I often joke with my students that you won’t find many Grammy winners with a bunch of certificates posted next to the gold records on their studio wall. (The fact that many famous producers and engineers often work in a manner that is anything but efficient is a topic for another time…)

On the other hand, for someone looking to make a career change, the IC can provide a clear training path resulting in significant expertise in an industry-standard application. For example, I often have older students that are successful in a field such as video editing, but wish to add sound design or audio mixing to their CV. In this case, the certificate can impart the necessary confidence to present themselves as an expert in the adjacent field.

Finally, for students with no industry experience, the IC can help to differentiate them from other job candidates applying for internships or entry-level positions. I’ve worked in several organizations where ICs where required to make it through the first phase of job application screening for an internship. While it is true that creative industry ICs like ours are not valued as highly as something like a CISCO or MSCE certification in the IT industry, they do have significant value. Many creative organizations build their entire workflow around one software application (like Pro Tools or Adobe Creative Suite) and our certified students can typically demonstrate much deeper expertise in that application than a senior designer. Does this mean they can do the job better than that person? Absolutely not. But junior personnel in creative fields are often EXPECTED to possess deep knowledge of applications so that they can impart that knowledge to more established colleagues who simply don’t have the time to stay on top of every new feature. Sharing this knowledge in a humble, un-selfish fashion has been a key to advancement in our industry for decades.

New Year, New Start

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Sometimes, the only way to actually “finish” a project is to be faced with a deadline.  I know I’m not the only one who has a huge backlog of Pro Tools and Ableton Live sessions waiting to be completed “some day.”

This year I’ve decided to do something about it.  I’m planning to participate in two different groups that aim to help composers stay motivated:  Disquiet Junto and Weekly Beats.  They both have the same goal, which is to inspire participants to complete one new composition for each week of 2014!

Disquiet Junto is the brainchild of Marc Weidenbaum, aka Disquiet.  Junto is a Spanish word meaning “a club for mutual improvement.”  Here’s how it works:  each Thursday a new Junto project is announced. The project gives general guidelines or restrictions that act as a spring board for a new composition.  Participants are expected to upload their completed tracks to the group by the following Monday.  Here’s my track for the first project of 2014:

Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it.

While Disquiet Junto seems to lend itself to more experimental work, Weekly Beats is a popular group for electronic music producers (or even songwriters) looking for the same kind of motivation.

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There aren’t any guidelines for each week’s project, the task is simply to produce a new track every week. I’m planning to use this as an outlet for combining my experimental tendencies with more typical EDM beats. Here’s my first track for Weekly Beats:

I’m curious to see if I’ll be able to keep up with the weekly projects for both groups. Here’s to a productive 2014!