Berklee Announces ‘Electronic Digital Instrument’ Majors

The Berklee College of Music today announced that laptop musicians can now apply to the school and declare ‘Electronics Digital Instrument’ (EDI) as their primary instrument, alongside more traditional orchestral instruments.

The College describes the electronic digital instrument as a system based on three components: a computing device; user-configured software; and performance controllers. It’s an expansive definition that opens the door to musicians with a wide range of instrument preferences.

Students will not ‘major in EDI’ per se, but can choose from majors like Composition, Electronic Production & Design and Film Scoring, with EDI as their primary instrument.

Students will study a curriculum designed to expand their electronic music making skills, but also designed to make them balanced musicians. Electronic-focused coursework includes:

  • ENEL-221: Electronic Improvisation
  • ENEL-403: Techno/Rave Ensemble
  • ENEL-404: Turntable Ensemble
  • ENRB-405: Techno/DJ Sampling Ensemble
  • ENRB-403: Hip-Hop Ensemble
  • ENPN-261: Synth Techniques for Live Performance Ensemble
  • ENFF-326: Improvisation on 21st-Century Grooves
  • ILEN-333: Turntable Technique
  • ISEL-111: Performance Controller Studies
  • ISEL-P112: Grid Controller Studies

Time to go back to school? You can check out the details at the Berklee site.

30 thoughts on “Berklee Announces ‘Electronic Digital Instrument’ Majors

    1. Your perspective seems really uninformed.

      Cats like BT, who has a DJ career, a production career, and a film scoring career, get where they are by having rigorous schooling in things like composition, music theory, and orchestration – in addition to knowing their software inside and out.

      People that skip learning the basics end up being the dudes making fart noises on YouTube.

      If you want to make beats or play keyboards in a band, that’s a different story, a different level of skills needed, and not really what a classical education is designed to prepare you for.

  1. A lot in this story is total bullshit imo. For example the amount of (electronic) ´adds´ didnt result in an increase of great songs. A lot of todays music is for the most copy over copy. Full with sounds generated by the computer. All with same stupid often childish noises inside. What i hear general on the radio is what i call noise and sounds…not a lot of nice or great songs.
    Talentshows didnt add either much to music in general. Because people do often copying others.

    Young people in general develop a horrible taste for music because they don´t know better. They should investigate music from other eras. Like classical music, salsa and other latin music types, country and western, jazz, jazz-rock…etc etc.

    I’m not saying everything is worthless. But harder to find.This vid is only a commercial.

    1. Hi Paul,

      While I do agree with some of what you say to an extent, your comments remind me of what people often say about music forms they aren’t very familiar with and just don’t care for. 😉 It’s often older people when introduced to newer forms they aren’t familiar with but not always. FYI I’m almost 60 and if I had to pick a continuous 5 year period of my most favorite music I would definitely pick 1969 through 1973! 🙂

      For some examples, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused a violent riot at its premiere, jazz was called the devil’s music, and it’s said that Frank Sinatra had this to say about rock ‘n roll 😉

      “It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiterations and sly, lewd—in plain fact dirty—lyrics, and as I said before, it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth.”

      Sometimes you just have to be in the right mood and exposed to the right piece of music to find something you you can appreciate in a style you initially dislike.

      1. It’s not hard to recognize that a lot of people (young and old) are developing a bad taste for music. What was adopted as music for the lower educated class in my country is suddenly very populair among people from different classes. I hate saying class and education…but that’s easiest way of expressing.
        1 Word for their taste: shallow…

        People are bombarded with commercials and certain music. When a person is only listening to what other people serve them… that person will never develop a more sophisticated taste. And that is what happening to a lot of people. They allow others to arrange their taste for music.

        (sorry for my limited english but i think most people will understand what i mean)

        1. Paul, I don’t think you really understand electronic music. You posted a while back on an Elektron RYTM post in a sort of rant about pushing buttons isn’t making music etc. Instead of attacking it (electronic music) all the time, maybe you should try and find out more about it. The music presented in this video is simply generic pop music. Marketed to reach the widest audience possible where massive sales equate to quality, which of course isn’t the case. You won’t hear anything pushing boundaries on the radio. Have a look at or Bandcamp. You will find plenty of young people making interesting music of all genres. Coming across with an ‘I’m older, I know best’ attitude really isn’t going to make anyone warm to your opinion.

        2. I think what you are describing is called Pop. Its been around for a long time and its what the masses listen too because they are programmed to. There will always be people looking out for different types of music and exploring genres in depth.

        3. You’re ranting about the kids these days and their musical tastes, aka ‘Get off my lawn’, which has nothing to do with Berklee’s programs.

    2. Paul, while I agree that the music presented here is just generic (marketed) pop music. There is so much more to electronic music than this. Check out It’s like an indie/electronic iTunes. Or Bandcamp. Loads of artists just making music of all genres. You will find that many young people are making some really interesting electronic music and not just dance music. Most of which you will never hear on the radio. The mainstream will always be the mainstream. It’s marketed music to appeal to the largest widest audience. To shift units where the mentality is massive sales equates to quality. Mainstream radio is not where you’re going to hear anything that’s pushing boundaries.

  2. I’m ok with this as a program. But I think anyone who drops a quarter million on a Berklee degree is crazy, unless your parents are rich or you’ve got serious scholarship money (not loans).

  3. Hi Paul,
    Your thoughts are as valid as anyones.

    My thoughts:

    Not everyone need to have a sophisticated taste. And first of all, what is sophisticated taste? If I listen to classical music, jazz, old style country? Well, “sophisticated” is kind of subjective due to cultural background and taste isn’t it? My personal taste tells me for instance that some classical music is rather unsophisticated and boring… while some can be very interesting.

    Another thing is that having these courses would most likely mean that the EDI students will come in contact with a lot of genres and other students. So the chances of getting “sophisticated” is probably rather high.

    And frankly, the chances for you and I ever having to listen to anyone of the outcome of these studies is rather small due to competitive facts.

  4. This is a well reputed institute and I have no doubt their program is of the highest quality. However, I would greatly caution anyone considering going into immense debt to attend a music study program to think carefully about the likely consequences. No one is going to hire you because of the degree, it’s useless as an academic credential. Whether you’re successful as a professional touring musician, film composer, or studio session player will depend on your contacts, your track record of previous commercial success, and your actual skills. All of these things you can get without going into debt for classes by simply attempting to live off of your music and see how that works out. College programs in these subjects are for most students a way of putting off that day of reckoning while living in a fantasy bubble. If your parents are paying for it and you have some sort of trust fund set up so you never have to work then go right ahead.

    When I went to college I studied things that had marketable value. I hung out though with the music grad students. An interesting thing about my experience is that I was working and making money from my own music during school and subsequent to graduation. On the other hand, the music grad students I knew did not earn money from their music work. Instead they had to pay large sums of money for the privilege of performing at sparsely attended concerts featuring weird sounds that always sounded identical to the music their specific PhD advisor himself composed and performed. You could tell which advisor any student had simply by listening to a minute or two of any one of the student’s compositions. None of these people went on to careers in writing or performing music once they acquired their PhD. However one friend did go on to become a private guitar teacher where he a very modest income, and another became a piano teacher who teaches a few hours a week but is totally financially dependent on her husband who is an engineer and who had to pay off all her student loans to get that fancy doctorate at a top school. The others I kept up with all went into jobs totally unrelated to music, where they worked hard for many years struggling to pay off their student loan debt.

    All the skills you need to be a professional musician can be acquired through personal study including countless hours of practice and performance, solo and with friends in groups, combined with pay as you go private lessons with an adept teacher as needed, particularly in the area of performance refinements for one’s primary acoustic instruments which greatly benefit from one on one mentorship.

    1. It is a privilege, but if you can afford it, and you know that you would appreciate the opportunity to study all this stuff in detail, then perhaps it is OK to give it a try, even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to a career. You only live once and might as well enjoy your life. But sure, you should go into it with your eyes open about the future.

    2. If one wants to make money avoiding music could be a good first step. But not everyone does though, not everyone wants to have marketable skills. If you ever met a “true artist” most definetely you will have recognised a very specific characteristic. The necessity, urgency to create as if everything else is a dead alley. No school will ever give you that, that’s for sure, you either have it or not but it could help you widen your horizons, perhaps even recognize within those strange sounds that seem ,random meaning and music 🙂

    1. Yea, but they would know how to chop that loop up and then using a complex Markov chain algorithm spit it back out all glitchy and shit… And then they could resample it in Live and play it back using one of those really cool elbows out filter sweeps. Right before they get to show off what they learn’t in their Making Heart Shapes With Your Hands 301 course they last spring.

  5. Most people visiting this website understand that the learning curve for this kind of work–understanding the hardware, integrating it with software, collaborating with other electronic and acoustic performers, etc. etc.– is steep. If you’re able to learn with professionals and take advantage of the resources that Berklee has to offer, then why not?

    1. I agree with your statement @thisdeadlyhouse. There is a steep learning curve with DAWs, computers, VSTs,and the new technologies out there. If Berklee has a well rounded program, it will put a student way ahead of the game. A structured program to give a student knowledge and experience in all aspects of electronic music is very much needed. If you are under a deadline to learn, you will learn much faster than getting your experience and learning piece-meal, here a little and there a little. The majority of electronic music musicians out there learn a few basics and won’t learn any further. They have a extremely limited knowledge, refuse to read a manual, complain about everything, and say it is too difficult and interferes in their creative process. when in reality if they would just learn the gear inside and out, their work flow would become second nature and become effortless. Thanks Berklee for this program.

    2. I took electronic music classes when in college (in the 90s) – it was actually a huge thing, the differences between noodling on a computer at home and being able to work on a wall sized serge and racks of instruments is pretty big – also having someone to bounce ideas off of and hand tips and tricks as well as just general synthesis types is great when you are more finding your footing and starting out.

      1. Me too. It was an MUPF course where you still had a primary instruments (piano) but tagged on recording arts and electronics and music. However I had a different experience. I knew more than the people their teaching. Looking back it was ok but that aspect of it was a total waste of money. The best part was being able to touch some gear you had access to .. such as the Dyaxis (world’s first DAW), SSL 4000G’s, AMS RMX16’s, Lexicon 480’s and other great outboard, various synths etc..

        This Berkley course leaves mixed feelings. At it’s core I call total BS. BUT.. it’s still based on fundamental music theory where ‘electronic digital’ is your instrument. Still valuable, more valuable than a lot of other college majors…

  6. Colleges and universities are BIG business. That is all. This is what they have become. A bachelors degree has the same value as a HS diploma of 30 years ago. You “should” have one, but so does everyone else so its mostly worthless. Its about MONEY. Ever see a poor professor? It only makes sense that Berkeley would be all over this, as lets face it, one thing never changes.. everyone wants to be a star. Unfortunately that now means being able to stack loops on a laptop, and maybe singing over it. I’m surprised they don’t have a ukulele major. As someone pointed out, for $250K we welcome MacBook owners running Garageband. hahahah…. This makes a degree in broadcast journalism look like a safe bet for future employment. btw, I have absolutely nothing against using computers for music, we all do it, but come on…

  7. Le academy sono il mainstream della pop art . Le vere rivoluzioni artistiche non sono mai uscite dalle accademie: futurismo, dadaismo ecc. Quando le Academy accettano una tecnologia, nel tempo, questa è ormai già consolidata. Questo indica che queste tecnologie stanno diventando a loro volta mainstream elettronico. Il confine della vera arte sperimentale è andato più lontano. Ogni rivoluzione diventa a sua volta, conservazione.

  8. Dude…. how to make a sound, sound like you want on a synthesizer should be a class… seriously… they want to teach you useless wannabe rave music composition and turntables but not how to “make a pad” or ” make a brass sound with vibrato”… that program is literally for wanna be sophistocates with money to blow…. the 80s style of music production was in during my generation, I suppose the 90s are the next retro hipster movement and the classes want to profit from it by exploiting what people were doing music wise back then.

  9. Interesting to see that actually both sides seem to have a hard time accepting each other here – classically trained musicians having a hard time accepting electronic intruments as academic endeavour, but also electronic (self-made?) musicians and producers accepting electronic instruments as a valuable academic pursuit.

    Here’s why I think we should give Berklee the benefit of the doubt – neither the people speaking in this trailer, nor the music playing in the background of the video can be taken at face value.

    The trailer looks just like a thrown together thing to convince people to embark on a complex journey (like 4 years or so of studies) that hasn’t yet taken place even once.

    What I’m saying is, all the people making vague statements in the video have actually not studied this. The students, however, will hopefully take what they have learned and hopefully make it their own – just as diverse in attitude as all those as studying jazz and pop instruments right now.

    So who knows what they’ll come up with, and whether or not they’ll think their studies had any part in the music they’ll make, and whether you or me will like or dislike it.

    I for one would be interested to see what they can come up with over the course of their studies.

  10. I got a B.Mus. in Jazz Studies. Did it land me a job no. It did give me a skill set of improvisation, composition, theory, interpersonal collaboration, and a rounded outlook on life, art, and learning. The transcription skills helped me a ton on a research assistant gig that paid for my MFA. I got to create a data set and generative system for AI computer music composition research. I also used controllers extensively in my MFA thesis project and eventually landed a decent paying instrument prototyping job based on my experience. Music school has done me well so far, but it doesn’t work for all and for me it’s about pursuing interests that lead to the opportunities. From this video though, I don’t really understand the “digital instruments” as your instrument major logic. I majored on trombone, with classes in voice and keys. To me controllers are a means of controlling the software. I’d totally take a couple of these courses if they were offered back then especially turntables. Myself, and many of my keyboard, and percussive friends use controllers as an extension of our performance practices, but I’m not sure a major in this is so much different than keyboard playing or percussion. I’m not trying to come off as an elitist academic musician or anything, but I don’t think post-secondary music school is for everyone, especially at a certain price-tag. In order to do music research, teaching, session playing etc. it sure is useful, but I think those that choose this as an instrument may be faced with a bit of isolation and elitism from the Jazz and Classical players. This video claims “symphonic players” and “jazz players” use controllers and will be jamming with you, but they leave out that their other instrument majors are probably much more involved and intense. It doesn’t show the fact that many traditional musicians in large music schools have to: audition to get in, complete a music theory test, have to compete for placement in ensembles, have a make-or-break jury/recital exam in front of professors every semester, afford tuition, and sometimes resent all pop music, the list goes on. So it seems like Berklee wants to attract more students to join programs that require you to study an instrument. I’m just not sure how other students will see it as a major when they probably also use controllers and understand you can quantize hits, map chords etc. Not to say that those techniques aren’t interesting and useful in an experimental or pop sense, but trained student keyboard players or drummers may take issue with those things. Faculty aside, most music schools also don’t really care what you do after your degree. They take your money, let you do your thing, then send you along. If you want to do it, go for it, but there are no guarantees you’ll finish or continue with music after. I went into my music degrees to expand my musical mind, meet people, learn how to play better, learn how to do music research, and try out new ideas. My journey so far has been an interesting surprise and not a wasted education, but many can also pursue a life in music without the student debt, possible resentment, and still controller it up with like minded friends.

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