Read our golden advice for pro-quality soundtracking
From 1980s film scores by John Carpenter and Vangelis through to synth-heavy soundtracks in films such as Drive, The Social Network and blockbusters like The Dark Knight, synthesis and sound design have taken more and more of a starring role on the big screen over the past few decades, with electronic sounds creating immersive sonic backdrops to the on-screen action.
Possibly the most famous composer around today is Hans Zimmer, who has single-handedly redefined movie music with his one-note “blaaah” horn stabs for Inception. Thankfully though, modern tools make it possible to create Zimmerstyle cinematic atmospheres at home, without needing access to the London Philharmonic Orchestra or a Hollywood production budget!
Throughout this feature, we’re going to delve into the world of cinematic synth design and create those stunning atmospheres you hear at the movies. We’ll create lush, expansive soundscapes and classic cinematic synth leads with fairly common synthesis techniques. These all follow key concepts that we’ll examine and put into practice with our tutorials. Once you get these techniques down, you’ll be a master of atmosphere in no time at all.
Of course, even if you wouldn’t call your productions ‘cinematic’, you can be sure they’d benefit from a sprinkling of movie-style atmosphere to lure the listener in. Genres such as house, techno, EDM and drum ‘n’ bass all incorporate melancholic drones, rousing horns, evolving pads and lustrous atmospheres to maximum effect.
In our tutorials, we’ll show you exactly how to design movie-quality synth sounds from scratch – but we’ll also discuss the vital music theory concepts behind the sounds, so you have a better understanding of how to evoke the sonic emotion of cinema.
So, time to grab your popcorn and flick over the page… it’s lights, camera, action!