Prices will vary depending on which company you work with, but you can make cassettes as low as $1-2 and you can also buy them in small runs. So instead of spending thousands on one album’s production and having tons of CDs lying around for the next 2 years waiting to be sold or given away, you can make as many or as few cassettes as you want.

Sometimes the solution is obvious. Maybe the student has a clear goal in mind, and they just don’t know how to get there. Maybe they wanted to make a bumping club track, and the beats are weak — beginner producers usually don’t know how to layer or mix drums. A lot of the time, there are some good ideas but they’re strung together without any particular structure. That’s understandable; structure is hard! Or maybe there was a misguided attempt at “realism.” Every semester, someone takes a piece they composed or arranged and outputs audio straight from their notation software. The result consistently sounds like garbage. I want them to think of the sound coming out of the speakers as the “real” music, not a placeholder for an eventual performance by humans — nothing against live performance, but my class is about making music in the box. Rather than settling for terrible fake strings or brass, we try to figure out what software instruments might sound unapologetically cool.

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