Creating new sounds

Listening to loads of old Grime instrumentals made me realise that the majority of them focus on one sound, then building the rest of the track around it. Dj Mondie - Straight, Dread D - Invade, Pulse X etc…

I’m not the best at sound design and have spent many hours just literally playing around with software synths but I just can’t get a sick noise, every time I use random buttons also I just end up with horrible ear screeching sounds…

Has anyone got any tips/tricks to help me in the right direction to making my own “signature” sound?

Large up!

No magical answer here i’m afraid. Just comes down to lots and lots of experimentation, and cultivating sounds that sound good to your ears. Which only you can determine. Some things to consider:

  • IMO it’s far easier to get something that sounds sick by combining and layering multiple sounds. For example, a lot of those old grime sounds are pretty shit by themselves, but it’s the interaction between all the elements that makes it work. Layering two differing synth sounds that work together in a unique way will almost always give more interesting results than just one synth alone.

  • Try producing different genres. If you have no idea what you’re doing you’ll almost undoubtedly stumble upon using techniques you maybe haven’t thought of or tried before. This can help break the monotony of the processes you’re used to (that may be yielding unfavorable results).

  • Try new plugins. Not sure what DAW you use, but in ableton for example, the MIDI effects are a godsend for experimentation. Throwing a gate that’s sidechained to yr main drums can give some interesting rhythmic patterns no matter what the source may be. Try stringing together different effects chains.

  • Mess around with slowing samples down/granular synthesis/etc. Resample sounds you dig.

  • Follow your ears, again it’s all about finding stuff that sounds unique to YOU. this could be everything from using weird atypical sounds for drums, to sampling super obscure shit that maybe hasn’t been sampled before. Stuff you would never think of trying. Just experiment, trust your ears, and roll with sounds you like.

Hope it helps, keep us posted!

1 BigUp

All previously mentioned advice is good but as a beginner I would keep simplicity and minimalism in mind. If your sounds are harsh it’s usually because your doing to much. This is especially true with FM. May I ask what synthesis methods you have been using?

Oh and it’s usually never a good idea to just randomly play with synths. Start with a clean oscillator, find a waveshape you like and add post processing one at a time.

Large up yourself bro!

Running Logic so mostly the EFM1 and ES2, have Massive but rarely use it :confused:

When I first started I used presets years ago, and most of the other stuff was poorly done like super loud hihats, just one pad and shit, then I started using the preset as a template and began experimenting with that and seeing how they built the sound and changing stuff around to create a different sound…whilst now I can go in and create synths and pads…so the advice is…patience and experiment…or look up youtube tutorials.

Try taking a patch you do like, then ‘deconstructing’ it back to the default/empty patch, so you can hear what each change to the parameters does and how it affects the sound.

1 BigUp

That’s actually a solid idea :wink:

Get better at using the random button. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

1 BigUp

Snails always comes to mind when I hear people wanting to get a signature sound because I think he is a good example of what is really important. His weird phaser saw wave thing isn’t too complicated but he owns it hard. It isn’t so much about the patch but I think what is most important is applying a unique sound in a way that works towards a theme. With Snails I always think…thats a lame sound…but a snail is kind of lame…so it works…I picture that sound being what a large mutant snail would sound like so naturally…he owns it!

On the technical standpoint, you have to have your sound design ducks in a row so you can pull it off and make it all come together. Learn how to recreate sounds and what makes a sound interesting and good and then you will be able to go into uncharted waters, find something unique, and know how to make it work.

And, it doesn’t mater how it sounds on his own. All that matters is how it sounds in context with the other elements.

someone on here recommended me four tet’s future music (ninja edit?)

in it he said he always pitches samples up and down like +/-20 to see what he can get out of them, you can find some really cool stuff without bothering to get new samples

I some times just like to load up any sound in serum or fm8 and play around with. Some times I will take 2 formants and just modulate them 0-100 and maybe what ever else I am feeling. Here are some steps I take when making a new sound.

1.) Start with a good wave table in serum or make something in fm8

2.) Modulate WT position and intensity maybe pitch

3.) go through a list of plug ins like Vocodex, Valhalla plugins, ott, wow filter, compression (Your effects are the most important part in my opinion)

4.) Do some quick mastering with izotope ozone 6

Here is a little FM bass I have been working on

I would say going through presets is really key - It’s probably the quickest way to learn how a synthesizer works.

Recently I was working on a trap song with a friend and I programmed a rhythm in a range that I wanted and just scrolled through a couple presets. I ended up using a some patch that was meant to be a bass but sounded sounded pretty w o n k up high. I think you could do the same for some wobs. Take some presets that are meant to be played up high and bring them down low in a rhythm you like. In a video with trap producer Aryay he explained how he made the lead synth for his tune “Sad Gurlz”. He just put a kick patch on portamento and played it up high and then processed the hell out of it.


You got any specific examples in mind?

Original grime was cobbled together by presets and stock samples. None of em were pioneer synth designers, but were able to create a new sound simply be how they used em. Wiley used E-Mu Proteus and Plugsounds. Dizzee distorted bass kicks. Danny Weed cello/violin presets.

There some shared techniques, detuned squarewaves, envelope pitches, driven kicks. Long attacks and no release.

Best best is to try as many synths and presets as you can until you find something you like then deconstruct it. What’s being modulated? What’s the waveform? Remove each element and see what effect it has on the sound.

Build up a library of samples and synths with shared identity, then just mess about with those untli something clicks.

Just relating the idea of creating new sounds, one of the things I like to do is just record audio constantly, like through a hand-held recorder, walk around with it and record things that sound cool. I take those sounds, loop them or cycle them really really fast, turning them into synthesizers. You always end up with something new. It doesn’t always sound great, but you get really unique sounds you wouldn’t get otherwise. I’m personally moving away from utilizing VSTs and using only samplers and I think I like the sounds I get through this method more.

Yeah, I agree with this, I dont remember the last time i even opened up a vst synth tbh haha

Yeah this is good to bring up. I get the feeling that we are going to see a rise in sample based sounds now that there are so many tools to process a waveform into some unrecognizable thing…cough Serum cough cough.

^ Along these lines - I almost hesitate to share this, but there’s a new iOS universal app called Fieldscaper that exemplifies this perfectly. Shit’s crazy - I’m still fuckin’ with the presets, they sound so good…

That is pretty interesting. What have you made so far? Too bad it isn’t a DAW plugin.