Our guide to music technology
Alistair Stafford

Our guide to music technology

First published date April 25 2014 Amended date April 28 2014

Whether it’s from the speakers in the shop where you get your breakfast, the perfectly planned playlist on your phone to get you through the commute to work or in the adverts you see on the TV while watching your favourite show, a day doesn’t go by without us hearing music. It’s likely you won’t appreciate just how many people are involved behind the scenes producing those tracks, but a music technology course will help explain how it’s all put together.


What to expect

Most music technology courses will introduce you to some of the key elements of music production, such as getting used to working in a studio and starting to learn some of the basic uses of its software. Many programmes give you plenty of hands on practice creating your own music performances, working with a wide variety of genres, while others also spend time analysing how music and cultural trends have changed through different generations.

For those interested in working in music management and using music technology to develop the next talented performer, there are programmes in music business which will show get you started. There are also specific training courses available that focus in particular areas of music technology, such as for those keen to learn more about MIDI programming or more about audio editing software like Logic Pro and Cubase.


A long open road

You may think that a music technology course just limits you to a very specific career path, but the skills gained can actually be used as a starting point to work in a wide range of areas across the music industry. Understanding how music technology works is essential for anyone considering becoming a sound technician or sound engineer, so gives you a great chance of finding employment in a music production studio. Not only that, but if you’re a budding musician then understanding the technology behind recording tracks will allow you to create your own music!


Music to your ears

Technology has made a big difference to not just how music is produced, but also how we listen to it. The days of going to your local music shop to buy the latest CD (or vinyl for the more senior readers) have all but disappeared, with over 98% of music purchases now being made online. Those downloads can then be heard on the go via your Smartphone or MP3 player, leaving no need for the clunky walkman’s or portable CD players. With streaming websites and music channels giving you access to millions of tracks at your fingertips, listening to the radio to source the latest music is now a thing of the past.


Technology timeline

We all know how quickly technology changes, but you may be surprised to know just how long some of our regularly used ways of accessing music have been available:

1982 – The first Compact Disc (CD) produced - The first single released on CD in the UK was ‘Brothers in Arms’ by Dire Straits, three years later.

1999 – The beginning of P2P sharing – When Napster launched, it allowed computer users the chance to share and send music, sparking the start of online downloading.

2001 – The first iPod released – yes, they really are over a decade old!

2006 – Spotify launched – With millions of hits at the click of the button, over 4.5 billion hours of music was listened to via the streaming site during 2013.

2007 – The end of cassette tapes – They had been in decline since the late 80s due to the rise in CD’s and online, but sales finally ended in this particular year.


The next step

Although a music technology course will have given you a good grounding in how music is produced, many decide to take a national diploma in music technology , so that they can attain a recognised BTEC or NVQ qualification.  For those looking to progress further in a music technology, then an undergraduate degree will enable you to get even more practice to prepare for a career working in a production studio. A lot of university courses integrate elements of music technology with music production and music management modules, so that students have a more rounded knowledge that adapts them to almost any area within the music industry. 


Need more motivation?

Many of the music technology courses are run by former musicians who have decades of industry experience, which is invaluable not just when it comes to what you’ll learn, but also the potential career contacts you may get as a result. Just one of those to switch from performer in Here & Now to music tutor is 70s psychedelic rocker Jose Gross, who told us what students can learn by taking one of his music technology courses. If you’re still uncertain if a music technology course is for you, then perhaps reading the thoughts of a student who has already completed a music technology course will help you realise the benefits a course can bring. 

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