Creating an audio
As we’ve seen elsewhere in this feature, creating spatial treatments around the core parts of a mix by designing long, lush reverb treatments can be an extremely effective way to place sounds in space. However, sometimes it’s worth thinking about sound in a slightly different way. The only drawback with reverb is that no matter how much you manipulate a reverb’s parameters or seek to create something unusual, at the heart of that treatment, you’ll find the harmonic footprint of the sound(s) triggering it. As a result, the artistic brushstrokes of those reverb tails will be painted in the same colours as the sounds at their core.
What if you could think about textural treatments in another way, almost seeking to create a ‘canvas’ of sound made from one or more textural layers and then place the sounds central to your track in the foreground, on top of those? In one of the videos accompanying this feature, we’ve explored that very concept by using the ‘Ambient Designer’ patch within Vir2’s Apollo Cinematic Guitars library for Kontakt 5. This instrument takes an interesting approach to creating a pitched layer of textural sound by allowing you to draw on a series of loops, phrases and textures, all of which can matched to the key of your track.
Each sound group contains one or more textures and each is triggered from its own dedicated octave. Each sound can be auditioned via its own key press but the best way to build up a full layer of pitched ambience is to engage the Latch button, which acts as a kind of automatic looper for any new notes or phrases you wish to add. If you trigger something you don’t like, simply press that key again and the loop will disengage. Because all of the layers of sound were originally recorded from someone playing the guitar, nuance and ‘human performance’ are evident in each sound and this gives a wonderfully natural feel, even to some of the most processed textures.
Once you’ve built up a collection of sounds you like, you can turn Latch off. Apollo will remember the snapshot of settings which were active up to this moment and now, key C7 will trigger this collection from a single key, leaving you free to start and stop it whenever you like.
Apollo’s Ambient Designer can go further, providing you with a set of mixer functions for each sound layer, effects and plenty more besides, but you don’t need to buy this library to be inspired by its capabilities and to start thinking about ways to bring some of what it does so well to your own productions. Any pitched instrument will allow you to do something similar, if you’re patient at the post production phase to blur out the immediacy of sounds, to round off any sharp edges and to use space as a collection of layers around your source recordings. Record a violin phrase and then put a reverb on an effects insert in its channel, setting a 100% wet balance in the mix. Roll out the upper frequencies and add a wide stereo delay so that the reverberated signal is split into two separate, smudged channels. Then record some pizzicato from the same instrument, or gently bow a syncopated rhythmic pattern over the top. Find another collection of effects (which complement this new sound and are a good fit for the first one too) and place it in a different position in the stereo field.
There’s no end to how far you could take this process, slowly building up chords by introducing new notes, or new articulations to trigger very ambient or more percussive elements in your sequence. Taking time to design the ‘canvas’ sounds on which more foreground elements can be painted is just as rewarding as designing those big, standout sounds. And they’ll bring huge amounts of originality to your productions.
What if you could think about textural treatments in another way?