Your Guide to Berklee Online’s Most Popular Courses

From voice, guitar, and songwriting classes to music theory and production, here are some options for making good use of your time at home.

April 16, 2020

As the longer-term reality of social distancing sets in, many have begun to look for new opportunities to use their homebound time well. Some are brushing up on languages, others are learning to bake, or painting, or writing novels. But if you’ve begun to eye that guitar in the corner of your living room, or that microphone, or those recordings you’re not sure how to finish or to distribute, or you’re entertaining any other musical aspirations these days, this overview of some of Berklee Online’s most popular courses is for you. If you’re safe at home and suddenly in possession of more free time, perhaps it’s the right time to make some space in your life for music.

Ableton Live Fundamentals

What you’ll learn: Ableton Live has become one of the most versatile and indispensable pieces of music software on the market. Yes, you can use the program to record, compose, arrange, and mix music, but it’s also a powerful tool for live performance. This course serves as a great jumping-off point for anyone who wants to learn to make music in Ableton, from novices to experienced producers, DJs, or live performers looking to add digital tools to their repertoire.

Go deeper: Round out your training with Performing with Ableton Live and Ableton Live Techniques: Sampling to earn a professional certificate in Ableton Live. 

Music Production 101

What you’ll learn: This course offers a great starting point for anybody interested in producing music. You’ll learn all the basics, from setting up audio interfaces and microphones to working with digital audio workstations (DAWs), MIDI instruments, and drum machines. The course covers the whole production cycle of a piece of electronic music, from the moment you plug in to mastering and distributing your track.

Go deeper: If you’re already versed in the basics of electronic music production, check out Berklee Online’s courses in specific DAWs including Logic, Pro Tools, and Ableton Live, or our class on Sound Design for the Electronic Musician.

Music Theory 101

What you’ll learn: If you’ve ever wanted a firmer grasp of the fundamental building blocks of music, this class is for you. Following a tried-and-true syllabus designed by long-time Berklee professor Paul Schmeling, the interactive weekly lessons cover rhythm, pitch, scales, intervals, chords, harmony, and more.

Go deeper: You can follow the increasing complexities of music theory all the way up to Music Theory 301: Advanced Melody, Harmony, Rhythm. (Take all three music theory courses—101, 201, and 301—and you’ll earn a professional certificate.)

Lyric Writing: Writing Lyrics to Music

What you’ll learn: Become a more natural lyricist and collaborator through a clear understanding of various song forms and songwriting elements. You’ll explore the interactions between the music and the words—how things like time signature and melody can influence lyrical tone and phrasing—while also working to write new songs of your own.

Go deeper: In addition to more courses geared specifically toward lyrics, such as Lyric Writing: Tools and Strategies or Lyric Writing: Writing from the Title, you can also explore songwriting courses on harmony, melody, and writing hit songs.

Basic Ear Training

What you’ll learn: Basic ear training is at the heart of interacting with other musicians and understanding how a piece of music is put together. In this class you’ll learn to identify rhythms, time and key signatures, tonal and harmonic relationships, and other musical features in contemporary popular songs, and you’ll be able to apply those lessons to your own playing.

Go deeper: If you’re interested in building on your ear training, you can pursue a five-course Advanced Professional Certificate in Theory, Harmony, and Ear Training.

Music Marketing 101

What you’ll learn: For independent artists or entrepreneurs, here’s a crash course in how to build an audience and turn a profit in the music business. Students create their own personalized marketing plan and timeline during the class—so if you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get serious about breaking into the music industry, this could be a great first step.

Go deeper: Get to know the industry on a deeper, structural level, and learn where it might be headed in the future in Music Business Trends and Strategies.

Guitar Chords 101

What you’ll learn: Maybe you know some guitar chords—maybe you’re even a skilled player—but do you really know how chords work? In this class you’ll learn how chords are built and how they can be moved around the fretboard, and you’ll put those skills into practice in your own playing, expanding your versatility and expressiveness as a guitarist. 

Go deeper: Berklee Online offers plenty of other guitar courses from Guitar Scales 101 all the way to Advanced Jazz Guitar Improvisation and Steve Vai Guitar Techniques. Berklee Online was even the first institution to offer an online bachelor’s degree in guitar.

Music Production Analysis

What you’ll learn: Hear what seasoned record producers hear when they listen to music. You’ll learn to identify and analyze every aspect of a song, including the form and instrumentation, the emotional timeline, the groove, and the mix, and come to understand how these elements come together to create a well-crafted record.

Go deeper: If you want to hone your producer’s ear even further, Critical Listening 1 zeroes in on the features of a well-balanced professional mix.

Voice Technique 101

What you’ll learn: Your voice is an instrument, just like any other. That means that good practice, technique, maintenance, and instruction can make a significant difference in the power, range, and expression of your singing. This class provides an introduction to the key principles of using your voice as an instrument, including breath management, developing a vocal sound, singing melody and harmony, and vocal training.

Go deeper: Berklee Online also offers genre-specific voice courses in pop and rock, jazz, and R&B.

Berklee Online offers courses for all ability levels in subjects ranging from improvisation to film score analysis.