Course Outline: Electronic Music Synthesis

Instructor: Mr. Spinelli

Maximum class size: 9

Eligibility: class is core and for AVPA Music students only

Text: none used

Electronic Music Synthesis is an applied music course involving fundamentals of MIDI and proceeding through more advanced concepts based on the general skill level of the students registered for the course.. That is, it will be designed to fit the individual needs of the students to whatever extent that is possible. Hands-on practice and the production of an original composition using the software MIDI program of Make Music’s Finale is the main objective of the course. The first three to four sessions involve an instructor-based presentation of the software, its capabilities, and the various methods and skills the student will be expected to develop over the course of the course. The remaining weeks will involves an all-hands-on environment with only sparse teacher intervention to answer questions or to solve problems with hardware, etc.


Due to the near constant hands-on nature of the course, it is mandatory that students have at least six months of piano studies prior to the course. All AVPA music students are prepared for the course in Class Piano (see Course Description for Class Piano).

Goals of the Course

The goals will proceed progressively from basics (launching the software, familiarization with main tool palette and simple note entry) and proceed to advanced concepts (layout of score, speedy entry, instrument assignment, dynamics and articulation markings, fundamentals of composition, fake sheet construction, guitar tablature).

Course Outline

Trimester I

Week 1: Introduction to the hardware and software. 

Week 2: Simple tool palette introduction, score templates, simple note entry Week 3: Score layout, instrument assignment, dynamics and articulation. Week Week 4: Editing techniques, and fundamentals of composition. 

Week 5-8: Independent work in composing, orchestrating, and refining (i.e., adding details in terms of phrasing, articulation, and dynamics). 

Week 9: In-class presentation of original compositions.

Trimester II

Week 1: Lyrics

Week 2: Percussion

Week 3: Harmonization of a given melody

Week 4-8  Independent work in composing, orchestrating, and refining (i.e., adding details in terms of phrasing, articulation, and dynamics).

Week 9: In-class presentation of original compositions.

Grading/Methods of Evaluation

Preparation: Come to class with all handouts and assignments completed to the best of your individual ability. Students who do not demonstrate adequate preparedness in this respect you will receive an "unprepared" (-3) mark for that session.

Participation: Every student is obviously expected to participate in all activities. You will be asked to demonstrate, perform and/or present your work. Team work skills are essential. Each and every student is expected to make a viable contribution. Any student refusing to participate in any way will receive a "non-participation" (-3) mark for that class session. Cutting class is equivalent to two non-participation marks (-6). Failure to participate in a performance/presentation is equivalent to three non-participation marks (-9).

Cooperation: Students are expected to cooperate with each other and maintain a positive attitude; especially in areas concerning safety, team work and mutual respect. Although these aspects cannot be measured objectively, negative displays of cooperation, attitude and safety are not acceptable in. When someone's consistent negative attitude, lack of safety, respect or cooperation affects other students or the progress of this course, the question of whether the student merits a passing grade becomes the issue, and an appointment with his/her program director and/or parents will be suggested.. This instructor works hard to ensure you a safe, respectful and encouraging environment.

Students will be evaluated for each project based on accuracy and proper layout.

A- = almost excellent (minor discrepencies in layout)
B+= Very good
B = Good
B- = Good with some problems
C+ = major problems with layout, submitted on time, and appearance

Grades below C+ are not given in this course unless serious problems develop which would facilitate instructor contacting the parents.

Final Project Grading Criteria

The final projects will be evaluated according to the following criteria, and scored 1-5,    5 being the highest grade.

Appropriate length 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Use of dynamics  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Use of articulations 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Use of ornamentation  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 (optional)

Layout: phrasing and text do not collide; staves are appropriately spaced

Composition is commensurate with composer's keyboard abilities  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5


___Done on time

___Name and trimester is on project: document labeled "[Name] - Final Proj"

___Appropriate title

___Trimester II: student chose different instrumentarium for second final project

___Blank measures at end deleted

___Saved on student desk top as AIF / mp3

Grade Weights: Tri I Projects I-IV, 15% each for a total of 60%

                                    Final Project: 40%

                        Tri II: Projects  V-VII, 20% each, total 60%

                                    Final Project: 40%


Students will develop compositional skills as they learn MIDI concepts. Students will become critical listeners and thinkers as they identify and solve problems in their original works.

Methods of Instruction

Each of the classes in the first four weeks entails the review of previously learned techniques, the introduction a new techniques, and time given for students to work independently on brief projects that reflect their comprehension. Handouts and charts on the workings of the software are made available on an as-needed basis, and students are expected to participate in discussions and demonstrations of the software techniques being presented. Four projects will be assigned to test the skills of each student.

Instructional Material

▪   Finale 2011 notation software.

▪   Finale 2011, selected tutorials

▪   "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" used for arranging and harmonization assignment.

▪   Weekly composition lessons/coaching on final project (no text).