The last installment is our week-long look at building more interesting and complex Trance pads is something you may not have expected all, and that’s a good thing! It means that it may just change the way you see sound design in general!
[aside title="Think Outside the Synth!"] We are all surround by sounds, and grabbing a few here and there to transform into instruments is something everyone should try![/aside]
I tend to chose the path less taken, and I have a reputation of “less is more” when it comes to my approach to music production and composition for film and other commercial endeavors. I wanted to take a few minutes and share some of the more unique tactics I employ to not only create some very original and unique sounds, but how you can actually begin working on your own signature sounds in a way you may not have ever considered before. The idea came to me one day when I was thinking about foley, and the art of making well known sounds out of audio samples that are nothing even close to those sounds. Like I said, it’s an art.
I believe that a good pad has textures, movements, well thought out modulation and above all, subtlety. Whether you are trying to create an uplifting trance pad or an epic and sweeping soundscape the same exact ideas and concepts are applicable. Let’s begin with looking at how something as simple as the shape of an LFO wave can make all the difference in how a sound is delivered and how it develops over time. The default waveform for most programs’ LFOs is a basic Sine wave.
Now compare that to this generic Noise waveform.
You can easily see how if a parameter being modulated by this noise wave it could quickly be dismissed by most as just that, noise. But what if you slowed it down the rate of modulation. I mean by a LOT. Now you have a seemingly random modulation scheme. You can also crossfade between two different waveforms in many programs these days, which just gives you even more variation and control.
But what about stepping away from designing synths entirely when making a layer for a pad. How is this even possible you may ask? Well, you just need to think about creating instruments a little differently, that’s all. You can take advantage of the internet and the countless communities built up around sound sharing, like the popular and very cool service called FreeSounds.org. I use them all the time and constantly talk about them with all of my audiophile friends. You can find just about anything there. Which is good, because you can use just about anything for this next step. Just like the concept of using a fraction of a second of any sound to create percussive instruments like drums, but I invert the process. I find an interesting sound, download it, import it into my project and them begin stretching it out across time, pitch or whatever attribute that I feel may make it more usable for whatever I am trying to achieve.
So to give you an example of a good sound for a pad layer, vocal samples do quite well. Specifically spoken words, like speeches, rather than singing. There are a lot of really interesting things that make up a voice, and you can expose many of them by simply stretching out the audio sample by 2, 3, 4… even 20 times the original length. This transforms the sound into something entirely different. Now all you need to do is select a section that will make for a good sample and load it into a sampler to use as an instrument. And this same technique can be used with any found sound you can imagine. I prefer to use a sampler like Kontakt because of all the built-in effects and tools to further manipulate my sounds/instruments.
Here is a very short sample of a female saying a few words. I am only interested in the very first word, which is breath.
Now if I take this sample and stretch it out many times, it actually sounds a lot like a lion or other big wild cat giving a low growl and reach. Interesting, because if I shorten that stretch by half I can get something much more useable for a nice pad layer. Add an envelope to extend the attack and release, and you’re more than half way to a pad element!
One more tip I would like to share with you is the idea of secondary sound design and processing. Let’s say you make a nice pad element from scratch in your favorite synth. Now you can take this sound and actually begin treating it like a different instrument entirely! Run it through a guitar amp, and then add some chorus, delay and introduce a touch of phasing. Toss in some reverb and a little EQ shaping and you now have something completely different. Combine a pad you have created into a sampler layered with another sound and see what they do with each other. Run your pad through a granular synth as an audio file and see what you can expose in those smallest of sound molecules. I guarantee that you will surprise yourself in what you are capable of once you begin to free yourself from the preconceived applications of the tools you use everyday to create your sounds.
I hope you have found some of these ideas helpful, and even insightful. I have intentionally left out the audio samples I prepared in hopes that you will go seek out your own sounds and begin experimenting without an auditory ideas being imprinted upon you before hand. If you have questions, requests for future posts or just want to say hello, send us a message now and let us know. Thanks for stopping by!