Syn­the­sis­ing sound­scapes

Computer Music - - Cinematic Atmospheres -

If you’ve ever done any sound­track work, you’ll know why sound­scapes and cinema go to­gether. Sound­tracks are meant to ac­com­pany and re­in­force a movie’s vi­su­als, not out­per­form them. This fact, cou­pled with a movie’s lack of any real de­fin­able tempo or time-based ar­range­ment, makes a bed of at­mo­spheric sound the per­fect part­ner to mov­ing pic­ture.

Sub­trac­tive syn­the­sis is per­haps the sim­plest method for de­sign­ing sounds, but de­spite its sim­plic­ity, it can be im­mensely pow­er­ful. What’s most im­por­tant is that the patch you cre­ate sounds deep, ex­pan­sive and in­ter­est­ing to the lis­tener.

Move­ment is a cru­cial com­po­nent of sound­scape cre­ation. Our brains eas­ily pick up on rep­e­ti­tion – as soon as we spot it, we tend to lose in­ter­est and the sound loses its magic. How­ever, we have a pow­er­ful weapon we can use to keep things chang­ing: mo­du­la­tion! LFOs and en­velopes change the sound over time, of course, and they’re ab­so­lutely vi­tal for fool­ing your ears into think­ing the sound is for­ever mov­ing. So don’t be afraid to go to town with sub­tle mo­du­la­tion across ev­ery facet of your synth patch as you pro­gram.

For mul­ti­lay­ered thick­ness, lay­er­ing os­cil­la­tors is a great way to cre­ate huge­sound­ing tex­tures, par­tic­u­larly by tun­ing them across sev­eral oc­taves. When cre­at­ing a patch, think about stack­ing your os­cil­la­tors from low to high pitch rather than us­ing the same oc­tave range, so the sound thick­ens up. If your synth al­lows, spread os­cil­la­tors around the stereo field (via uni­son spread or pan­ning) to sur­round the lis­tener within your sound­scape.

Fi­nally, let’s not over­look a key com­po­nent: pro­cess­ing! Ef­fects aren’t just the ic­ing on the cake, but an in­trin­sic part of the sound it­self. Re­verb and de­lay are used gen­er­ously to cre­ate a spa­cious, dreamy at­mos­phere; and mo­du­la­tion ef­fects like cho­rus, phasers and flangers will spread the sound across the stereo field. En­sure the ef­fects blend into the sound­scape, though – the aim is to en­hance the sound, not draw at­ten­tion to the pro­cess­ing!

Spa­tial ef­fects can be cou­pled with loads of mo­du­la­tion to cre­ate that evolv­ing, com­plex sound­scape feel

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