Monday, 30 May 2011

How to become a Sound Designer?

I guess if you are looking at this blog then you are interested in Sound Design and might be considering it as a career path.  So how do you become a sound designer?  Well in my experience most end up in this field almost by accident.  Until recently there was no way to study sound design academically.  This meant people either ended up sound designers from other associated fields or worked they way up through the industry.  For my own part, by accident, I have been able to turn my hobby into my primary career.  I never meant to end-up here it just sort of happened to me.  Having said that I'm very happy about my new career and very grateful to the happy coincidence that led me to my present location.

So what advice would I give someone that wants to get into sound design?  Well I think the step-by-step advice given by Andrew Diey ( says a lot of what I'd want to say.  In addition to this, if you are just starting out I think I'd offer the following advice.  First, study the science of sound, normally called acoustics.  You really need to understand how sound "works" if you are going to be able to replicate different audio effects and synthesis required sounds.  Second, in the early part of your career do not restrict yourself to one form of sound design.  As I have said before, sound design is a varied and multifaceted discipline and although you may have a greater interest in one area than another, you need to develop a wide range of skills to be viable.  Finally, train you ears - learn to dissect every sound.  What frequencies does the sound contain?  How does it change with time?  Does it have multiple layers?  What are the layers? Does it sound the same to both ears?  How do you perceiving the sound?  What sound components match the sound you are hearing?  This takes practice as it is not something most people don't do it instinctively?  There are tools (level metres, scopes, spectrum analysers, goniometers, etc.) you can use to help you with these questions, but there is not substitute for a good pair of ears.

Another thing to bear in mind, in this day and age you need to be technologically competent and this likely to be computer based.  It is not about learning one particular tool (DAW) over another, but rather about learning the underlying principles.  Then if you need to use a tool you're not familiar with you should be able to make the switch.  With this in mind, I would recommend that you learn one of the major DAWs (Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools).

What does all this add up to?  In short, all this adds up to learning your trade....

Thursday, 26 May 2011

What is Sound Design?

The phrase "sound design" means different things to different people.  As a result, I think it would be useful to clarify what I mean by the term and what this blog will be about.  To me, sound design is the generation, synthesis, recording (studio and location)  and manipulation of sound and I like to think of it as "sculpting" sound.  Therefore it means all to the following are different types of sound design: synthesizer programming, generating and recording found sounds, foley, applying effects during audio production, etc.  This covers an exceptionally wide range of skills and techniques, but to be successful in this arena you need to embrace every aspect of sound.  Sound design is required in many areas including: music production, soundscapes, film, television, theatre, computer/video games, live sound and sound art.  For me sound design for visual content is very rewarding as it gives you the opportunity to immerse the audience into the world defined by the visuals.  Whereas pure audio based sound design can be highly creative experience as there no constraints.  This can be a positive and a negative thing!  You need imagination.

So whose sound design do I have the most respect for?  In terms of sound design for visuals, I guess because of my age, the original Star Wars film stands out.  This film introduced me to sounds I'd never heard or even imagined before.  What's more the sounds were "just right" for the visuals so most people watching did not even think about them.  This is truly the essence of good sound design for visuals.  (If the audience consciously think about the audio content, invariably there is something wrong.)  If you're not familiar with this work you should really check it out, even if you're not into sci-fi (

In terms of music, it was around the same point in my life when music took, in my opinion a hugh leap in a magical new direction.  For me there were three tracks the ushered in a new era of music.  The first was "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer.  I think it was the first time I'd heard electronic sounds at the forefront of a track.  I loved the way the sounds evolved and changed as I was listening.  This was then complemented beautifully by the sweet sounding vocals.

The second was "Are 'friends' electric?" by Tubeway Army (Gary Numan).  I'd never heard such striking, in your face, electronic sounds before and the contrast of them to Numan's erie vocals was pure magic.

The final one was "Das Model" by Kraftwerk, a track of ONLY electronic sounds that were then set against ridged vocals in German.  In my opinion, this was the inspiration for the "electronic 80's" and paved the way for bands like The Human League and Depeche Mode.

These early sound experiences were so influential and to this day are the inspiration I aspire to.  (Having said that, this is the first time I have written down these thoughts and until now it was an informal jumble in my mind.)   As a result, I am never happier than when I'm sculpting sound in some way, shape or form.

So what is this blog about?  It is about all types of sound design and everything to do with it.  The content will probably be fairly random and likely to relate to whatever projects I'm currently working on.  It will probably have a strong link to the technology used in sound design, especially computer-based, as that is my background.

I final note:  I'm dyslexic so there are likely to be typos and grammatical errors in this blog. So in those famous words "This is a journey into sound...".