I am thinking of having my niece and nephew ( middle school age ) learn to how to start designing sound. Both are huge music fans, and want to learn how to make the electronic based pop music they listen to.

Would like to start with the first principals approach of designing the audio, rather than building out tracks with pre-made samples.

For all you parents or teachers out there, how have you started kids off learning sound design? Any recommendations/approaches are welcome. I have both hardware synths and DAW/VSTs ( software synths ).

1 Answer 1


I'm neither teacher nor parent, so I've little handle on educational methods.

I started (40 years ago) with nothing more than a Wasp & worked up from there - Mini Moog, then each new synth type/generation as it was released through the 80s - Chroma, Prophet, Jupiter 8, Emulator, PPG, DX7, etc etc.
I'm not sure if that's the way to teach in a structured fashion, but that's all we had back then. VSTs were a long, long way off.

In similar fashion, I learned to handle a 4-track tape machine & simple desk long before 8 or 16-track, leading to full-blown state of the art at the time 24-track with a desk the size of a football field - Neve, SSL, Harrison etc. I'm pretty sure that would have scared me half to death without the first few years of smaller home studio stuff first, then getting to watch the pros use them while I watched & learned.

My "DAW" in the 80s was of course Midi only, running on an Atari. It would be the mid 90s before I was recording audio directly to a computer & another decade before VSTs were starting to become the norm.

Drum machines too - first the press a sound, press a rest, another sound, then two rests… for several hours. Later we got to tap along to a click & the machine would remember, 2 bars or a whole song... long before we could see all this graphically in an on-screen editor.

The fact that all this is now available on an iPad is where I'm lost as to where to start in structuring this for someone not born when it was all coming at us fresh, first time ever.
It would seem prudent to start small, though, & work up - rather than straight into either high-end hugely powerful synthesis in VSTs or the dumbed-down, instant gratification of something like GarageBand*. I'm sure it's going to be easier to explain squares & sawtooths, ADSRs & filters on a simple subtractive synth to start with, even if they can't produce all the noises of modern, highly-produced pop songs.

*I do imagine that the temptation towards instant gratification will be strong. It is almost a ubiquitous cultural paradigm-shift from the attitudes of 50 years ago.

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