Advantages Very in-depth, interesting and rewarding course.
Disadvantages Home project kit a bit of a disappointment
|General Standard of Tuition|
|Quality of Lectures|
|Structure of Course|
TA212 - Music Technology
Passing this course is counted as 60 Points at Level 2 towards either a BA or BSc Open University degree. Please note this a review of the TA212 course in 2008 so there may be some slight differences. In 2008 (and hence also in my review) there were 7 TMAs but the 2009 course only has 6 for example, other than that I should the subject matter is very similar if not exactly the same. A full description, as well as the cost and study dates, of the current course can be found here:
COURSE CONTENTS (BOOKS)
The course was split into 5 Blocks as follows:
Block 1 - Prelude (1 TMA)
This block acts as an introduction to the basics needed to pass this course, it's a good introduction/refresher and eases you nicely into the course. Even if you're already familiar with music and/or maths there will be a few useful points worth learning here plus the chance for a good first TMA mark.
Part 1 - Deals with how to read music, musical notes and scales.
Part 2 - Looks at learning to listen to music in the analytical and critical sense with some discussion of common flaws that occur in recordings.
Part 3 - Introduces the mathematical aspects you will need to learn for the course.
2:2 Part 1 - Talks about reverberation and the acoustic properties of different environments.
2:2 Part 2 - Examines the difference between listening and hearing and how the biology of the ear and our brain affects how we hear sounds.
2:2 Part 3 - Looks at sound capture and recreation by examining loudspeakers, microphones and pick-ups work. There is also an introduction to how analogue sounds are stored digitally.
3:2 Part 1 - Percussion such as drums, cymbals and xylophones.
3:2 Part 2 - Keyboard instruments like the piano, harpsichord and organs.
3:2 Part 3 - The human voice and how we make sounds is covered here so there is an element of biology involved.
3:2 Part 4 - Finally, electronic instruments such as electric guitars and synthesisers are discussed.
4:2 Part 1 - Music distribution talks about how music is stored on CDs, tapes and mini-disc as well as the methods used to create MP3s and other digital formats.
4:2 Part 2 - Talks about the history of the music business and key innovations along the way (from Edison cylinder to iPod) with some additional discussion concerning copyright and similar issues.
7 Audio CDs
COURSE CONTENTS (MEDIA)
This course comes with a great deal of multimedia, which includes:
6 CDs containing software, examples and other media.
During the course there are many exercises and examples which refer you to media you have installed on your PC. These are generally very helpful for illustrating points that don't come to life on paper very well, a picture may paint 1000 words but a moving media clip really shows you what's going on! The real bonus is in some of the commercial software you're given to carry out audio analysis and recording exercises with, such as Adobe Audition and Cubase LE, which are both quite useful programs even after you've finished the course. If you are interested in dipping your toe into basic home studio recording this is a good way to save paying out for any software to get you started and even though it's an earlier version of Cubase LE it's still a decent little program.
COURSE CONTENTS (PROJECT KIT)
This contains physical items that are necessary more for people without any musical equipment of their own. There's a small computer type microphone, a pair of Sennheiser headphones, a Yamaha recorder and some small tubes for use in one of the Block experiments. This is the very basic equipment you will need for the course if you don't already own an instrument or any recording equipment. If you already do, however, there's nothing of much use to you here. The headphones would be good except the cable on them is only about 2' long so you have to be right next to what you're listening through them on. I swore I'd never own a recorder again since school and even though this is a cool (as cool as a recorder can be that is!) transparent blue Yamaha one I'd still really have done without it. In fact, personally I'd have preferred to have done without the whole kit and had a few quid knocked off the course instead but it's a minor moan.
I found this to be a really rewarding and interesting course but it's obviously only going to appeal more to people with a sincere interest in music, home recording and/or musical instruments. Even if you are one of those people TA212 can still occasionally get a bit heavy going but the content of the block sections is quite varied so you don't often feel bogged down.
The TMAs aren't too difficult as all (or nearly all) the information you need is in the course materials provided. The project was quite demanding and required both an in-depth written study of a specific instrument (of your choosing) as well as a sound engineering project.
Having been away from the OU since 1998 I also noticed they have updated several aspects of studying with them. You now receive a username and password for their website which allows you to check on your progress, access course materials and other useful student information. TMAs can now also be submitted using an online electronic TMA system, which I found very useful and worked well throughout the course, as well as not having to worry about your TMA getting lost in the post or arriving late.
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