Sound Design

This is the third in a series of music production tips. Sound design is the process of recording, acquiring, manipulating or generating audio elements. I’ll be using FL Studio 20.6, but everything I do in my Digital Audio Workstation you can do in any DAW. There are 2 main methods of Sound Design. In the first article, we talked about capturing and manipulating audio. Today we will discuss sampling. For sampling, we will be using Edison and Slicex. Both of which come with FL Studio.

I went all digital with this. I searched youtube for some violin music. Here is what I found:

I made sure it was completely Copywrite and royalty-free. After downloading, I dropped it in FL to search for sections I wanted to chop up. I choose three sections for their unique instrumentation.

I’m going to chop up the last 2 sections in Edison. The first I will chop in Slicex. I will begin with Edison.

Sampling in Edison

Edison is a fully integrated audio editing and recording tool. It has a variety of functions. All of which are highly useful for different reasons. The first step is getting the audio you want to chop into Edison. Next use “page up” to zoom in very close to the sound clip. We will be looking to sample individual sounds. We are not creating loops here, just taking samples. Once you found a particular sound you like, highlight it. In the top right corner, you will see an icon that looks like a paper with a folded corner and an arrow. Use this to “copy” the selected sound. Left-click on the button and drag that sample into the playlist. There is a button below it that does a similar task, but it will replace the file currently in Edison.

This gives us samples we can further edit and add into “Buh”. Here are the chops I chose:

The next step is to make each chop unique. Then create a library we can access from our DAW.

Now we have all our chops in an external folder. They are ready to reintegrate into our DAW.

Now each individual chop we made is accessible in our DAW’s library browser. We can now move on to more sound design aspects.

Further editing Edison clips

I selected a total of 8 samples from the 2 selected chunks of audio. They are still raw in my opinion. I now have the opportunity to reshape and design them to be what I want them to be. Sampling with Edison can be a bit more tedious. The versatility of having these individual samples is great.

Some start harsh or end abruptly. This can and will be rectified with the power of sound design. I load each sample into the Fruity Granulizer, and send to my channel rack. Fruity Granulizer is a sample-based plugin that utilizes the granular synthesis. Granular synthesis splits a wave sample into many small pieces (grains) that are looped/played-back according to the settings of the generator. The length and spacing of the grains can also be altered to achieve different tonal effects. Granular synthesis can be used to stretch a wave without altering its pitch or create interesting and complex audio effects. As all of the parameters are automatable, you can even start with normal playback and then morph to complete audio chaos.

You can access other tools and the ADSR envelope from the grainulizer. It appears with the same menu options as the sampler itself.

This is where the real in-depth aspects of sound design can be used to alter the samples. Take a listen to the patterns I’ve created for our project:

The possibilities are literally endless.

Slicex Sampling

This method can be a lot faster. When you load a sample into Slicex it will pre-slice the transients. A transient is a short-duration signal that represents a nonharmonic attack phase of a sound. It is typically visualized in a DAW as waveforms. Slicex uses advanced beat detection algorithms to slice song/percussion samples into pieces. This makes them independently playable from the Piano roll or controller. What we want to do is erase the current markers and create our own. In a very similar manner to Edison, we will zoom in (page up button on my comp) and select. We will create markers and give them names, as opposed to the dragging and dropping in Edison.

This is the marker Icon

In this drop-down menu, you will be able to delete all set markers. After deleting the markers, the next step would be to create your own. Simply highlight the section you want to use, click the “region” icon, select add marker. This adds a single marker at the start of the selected region. This can be dragged to a new position by the square handle at the top of the marker. This will place your chops in specific sections of the “piano roll”. If you own a midi controller you can play the samples how you wish. I feel this gives a lot more humanized creativity to a track.

I own an Akai Fire. This is the first controller made for FL studio. It has a “Slicex” mode where I can effectively play out my samples how I wish in real-time. This majorly adds to my workflow. I’ve got a lot of projects that are literally based on sampling.

Chop it up

Once you have selected individual samples and created marked regions, open up your piano roll. You will see each chop lined up in different notes. Each note corresponds to a specific region. If you push a key it will trigger that assigned region.

Piano roll chops from slicex

So I broke out my Akai Fire, set it to Slicex mode, then played out the samples. Heres what I got:

The above chops are wet. I did a little EQing and added effects to spice it up a bit. This way when I played it out on my controller it sounded how I wanted it to. Although you still have many options for altering the specific samples, there is not as much as Edison. The playability and quickness of this method Is why I really enjoy it. The mixer in your DAW is your best friend. Don’t forget to Eq your chops!

EQ those chops!

As you can see in the picture above, I added reverb and delay along with the equalizer. Convolver is a reverb effect that comes with FL Studio. Fruity Convolver is a real-time Convolution plugin that can be used to add reverberation, create special effects, apply an acoustic impulse (audio signature) captured from audio equipment/plugins or perform as a linear phase equalizer. When convolving, Fruity Convolver applies the sonic character of one sound to another by convolution of the input audio with an impulse response. Fruity Delay 3 is an advanced ‘analog’ style delay plugin where its time can be automated and that can perform tempo-synced delay when the project BPM is changing. It includes filtering and distortion options for the delay echoes and can be driven into self-oscillation (feedback) for special effects.

Play it out!

Recording myself playing samples over some drums is always a good time. Kind of brings back that old school “something from nothing” vibe. That’s what we have been doing since the first sound design lesson. We have effectively created our own sounds. First by sampling “buh” and altering it to become percussive. Then taking basic sound waves and designing a bass. Today we chopped samples up in 2 different VST’s.

When I recorded the Slicex from my Akai Fire I played right over the faux drums we created from a single vocal. Heres what it sounded like:

As you can see it is in need of mixing and mastering. Those are totally separate lessons! I will touch on that in the future. The sound file above is exactly how I played the chops in slicex from my controller. If you do not have a controller, you can actually play chops from your computer keyboard.

The continuing journey of Buh

This has been quite the journey indeed. Going back and forth between creating and typing out what I’m doing is completely new to me. It’s like I am learning as I teach, lol. These types of articles require a lot of patience. As complicating and frustrating as it can be, it is twice as rewarding! Lets take a look at Buh now.

We have certainly come along way! The next question I must ask myself is “where to go from here?”. Let us take a listen to Buh with all our samples. Please keep in mind that this is still very raw and in no ways complete. There has been very minimal mixing and no mastering. Here is Buh as it is now:

What do you think? Feel free to ask questions or request lessons on any sound design or music production tips. At Earworm Entertainment we strive to be supportive to creators and artists of all types. Eventually, the files associated with these lessons will be made free for your use.

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Canna CDK

Fantastic read!

Canna CDK

See! Women have been using those massagers all wrong!