MATRIXSYNTH: Sound Design Pt.1: Surf/Sea/Waves

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sound Design Pt.1: Surf/Sea/Waves

Published on Jul 16, 2018 Kris Lennox

"Quick introduction RE how to create the sound of surf/sea. Take note the principles can be applied to any decent programmable synth. This should prove useful to synth users/sound designers in general, and also those working in Foley etc. I'm very much of the opinion that seeing - and hearing - the process of sculpting a sound is far more useful than reading a book/article on patch settings. The article/patch approach - whist useful - is imitative, and more often than not doesn't really lead to an understanding of the 'how'. Hence I never upload patch settings for sounds I make. The 'how' is of more value, and is the freeing part of the process. And also allows for personal variation/input.

I assume it goes without saying to synth users that the function of a synth as a musical instrument is only one use of a synth, and using a synth as a sound design tool is in no way somehow a 'lesser' craft to that of playing on an instrument.

Good sound design is as much of a craft as good playing. If anything, it is actually easier to find a good player than a good sound designer. Walk into any music school with a difficult piano score and you'll find any number of pianists who could perform it. But the same couldn't be said if you asked someone in the same building to recreate a sound such as the one in this video.

Again, I'm sure the above goes without saying if you're a synth player/programmer, but I'm aware many do carry preconceptions of 'how' an instrument should be used.

RE this series of videos - I'll maybe do a sound design video every month or so. Lots can be learned from good SD - skills that are transferable to many other areas of sound manipulation/creation.

RE the specifics of this video - I live close to the beach, and go running along the beach most days. The sound of the sea is one I've lived with all my life. I've spent time in cities, but I miss not only the slower pace of smaller towns, but also the sound of the sea.

In the next week or so I'll go down the beach with the Tascam and record the sound, so those looking at this video can compare. Of course, if trying to exactly replicate the sound of the sea, I'd spend far more time on the programming. But understanding the approach is key. After this it is is simply refinement.

Take note I haven't included everything I'd do to recreate the sound. This vid should be viewed as a starter for ten/point in the right direction, rather than all-encompassing. And remember - never ask a chef for his secret sauce recipe :))

Not far from me is a small town called Dunure (I live on the West coast of Scotland). There are many rocky bays/coves at Dunure; I'll upload various recordings of the sea heard from these coves to illustrate the vast differences there can be, i.e. there isn't necessarily a single, archetypal sea 'sound'.

I'll likely do a seaside-themed sound deign set of videos i.e. sound of seagulls, foghorns etc. Could be interesting/unique.

OR: maybe I should abandon all this seaside nonsense and show folk how to do the Tripod sound from War of the Worlds :))

PS if re-recording this vid, I'd add a little more release. The cutoff is slightly too fast. But it works ok as a demo of the principle. Also: there was quite a lot to add RE using two frequencies for the sound, hence large chunks of text in the central section. If stuying sound design etc at uni, you'll likely be taught creating the sound with a single noise, rather than combining two. Explaining the principles (i.e. when at a beach we hear the low-pitched, distant waves as well as the ones we are standing nearest to) is important in understanding the concept.

PPS check out the movie 'Castaway' for good use of surf etc. It's been years since I've seen it, but I remember the foley for the sea being pretty good.

All best

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