Sound design is an exciting form of sonic art. It breathes life into imaginary monsters in the movies and makes people dance to revolutionary dance floor bangers at festivals and parties. It is a fine art and also a skill which you can learn and become better at over time.
Becoming really good at sound design means being able to imagine exciting new sounds and having the skills to turn those figments of your imagination into a finished sound design product. I asked five expert sound designers to share some of their own secret sound design techniques with BPB readers and here’s what they had to say!
1) Non-linear time stretching explained by Navi Retlav (Navi Retlav Studio):
“One of the techniques that I commonly use in both sound design and my personal productions, is nonlinear time stretching. It’s really hard to find tool specifically designed to this task, but every modern DAW with time stretching can do this trick. After trying multiple DAWs I found that Reason 7 time stretching algorithms are perfect for my needs.
The biggest benefits of nonlinear time stretching individual samples, is that you can preserve the original attack and natural feel of the sample, and make it interesting at the end. Or if you prefer, you can slow down it at beginning only and then gradually return to the original sample speed. The creative options for this trick are limitless, especially if you want to create a nice pad out of vocal vowels or extend the length of the trumpet hit sample. Mix this technique with reversing sample, delays and reverse reverbs and you will dive into another dimension of creative sound design. From technical point of view it’s really simple, all what I do is a simple sample import directly into sequencer time line, and then I just write the tempo automation and export the sample to my main project. You can import multiple samples at the same time to speed up your workflow.
Automation can go from original up to 1bpm at some point, and it doesn’t even have to be the end of beginning of the sample. You can also chose a different time stretching algorithm than default or even use Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch which does allow the nonlinear stretching and it’s best for ultra long sample manipulations.”
See also: Navi Retlav Studio has recently launched the Navi Retlav Studio RE & ReFill Giveaway Contest with 40 prizes worth over $1,500.00 USD in total!
2) Sound substitution explained by Manuel Senfft (Tagirijus):
“The most important things to me regarding overall sound design are mindfulness and the ability to recognize potential sound substitution. I would say that the sound designer in me never stops “working”. In every mundane routine I notice new sounds. When it comes to a project in which I have to create such new sounds, I recall those that I noticed and use them. Even if it’s just moving a huge flower pot across the floor for example – it could be more than just a huge moving flower pot. The sounds you hear in movies, games and other mediums aren’t necessarily what you see on the screen. Here are some examples:
- Try recording some soil dripping onto a dry leaf laying on the ground. With just a few digital tweaks it can already sound like a huge landslide.
- You need a sound of smoking a cigarette? Try squeezing your hair between your fingers and move them.
- You don’t want to splatter fruit all over the place for getting nice bloody gore sounds? A wet washrag will also do the job.
Try to be more mindful regarding your everyday sounds and also try to think of substitutions for the ones you want to record!
See also: Manuel is currently gathering funds for a unique free fighting sound library titled “FIGHT!”. Learn more about the project and support the release via Startnext.
3) Experimenting with convolution reverbs is recommended by Rasmus Fors (ForceSampling):
“You know convolutions reverbs? Most people use them for emulating a virtual space, But you can also use it for crazy and unique sound design. Instead of using boring room impulses, try to use recordings of guitars, drums etc. as impulses. This can result in some very unique “quasi-acoustic” type of sounds!”
See also: ForceSampling has recently released a huge 5.1 GB sound library for NI Kontakt titled Afterlife. A free version of the library is also available for download on their site.
4) Adrain Jimenez (ZenSound) often uses a sub oscillator to fatten up sounds:
“Wherever possible I tend to use a sub oscillator to make a sound more solid and deep. I also prefer using modular and semi-modular synthesizers, as they allow more space to experiment and be creative while you work. It’s also important to leave subtractive synthesis behind and try to take new roads if you want to make interesting and innovative sounds. And the most important thing is to take some fresh air after you’ve finished working on a new patch!”
ZenSound has created numerous high quality sound banks for virtual instruments such as Bazille and Alchemy. They also have a fantastic free sound bank for Tyrell N6.
5) Steve Foulds (ADSR) talks about getting the best out of NI Massive:
“Use the randomize feature in NI Massive: More than just a fun way of generating kooky sounds, randomisation is a hugely overlooked feature of Massive that you can use to develop all sorts of wonderful variation in your sounds you might never have stumbled upon. Importantly, you can actually control the amount of randomisation made in Massive and choose exactly what to apply the randomize to (or not).
Remove the sterility in NI Massive: Massive can have quite a cold and sterile sound, however there are a few things you can do to bring those sounds to life. The character we all love from older analog synths are possibly the bugs, flaws and sonic inaccuracies – so how can you introduce those into your sound design? Using the modulators with extreme settings in Massive, you can introduce subtle pitch shifts which can sound very pleasant – applying similar settings to your filters can make them behave less than perfectly – exactly like you might find on the classic synths!”
See also: ADSR has just launched their first ever sound design challenge! Create the best 3 second sonic logo and win a copy of the new Native Instruments Komplete 10!