Category Archives: Sound Design

Life In Pieces

Here’s a new piece of music I wrote this evening, using only sounds from the Fragments Kontakt Library, created by Sound Aesthetics Sampling.

You may also have noticed it isn’t released under my usual ScarKord moniker, but rather my own name. I’m just having a play at being a ‘serious’ composer for a bit, so anything vaguely filmic will be posted to that Soundcloud account, leaving ScarKord for remixes and more typical electronica.

Out From The Cold

Day three of Ableton‘s #loopathome and it was a strange one. The challenge this time was to follow a list of instructions and see what the end result would be.

Following instructions

The first line of instructions read… “Go to the kitchen and listen to the sound of the refrigerator…”. I really wasn’t sure what to expect after that start, but I thought I’d go with it.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Unfortunately, our fridge is really quiet so I had to resort to the freezer instead. After struggling to try and synthesise it’s noise, I decided to do an impersonation of the humming sound which turned out to be a stroke of luck as it also provided the source material for the melody lines too.

Where is this going?

By the time I got to step three of the instructions, I was contemplating giving up as I just couldn’t see how a piece of music would emerge from this. But I decided to stick with it and duly followed instructions by sampling the sound of a can of beer, a glass and some of my recently delivered graze snacks. (Or at least, that’s how I interpreted it)

Suitably refreshed, I set about editing the raw sounds and came up with some great ring-pull percussion, fizzy hi hats and a lovely bell like sound from the beer glass handle. Slamming the (empty) glass on the desk gave me the kick drum.

Once I had a basic beat laid down, it was time to add some melody lines. Taking the humming sound as my starting point, I managed to coax some beautiful glassy noises from my voice.

For the interweaving melodies, the technique I used here was to play the same note progression three times, but each time an octave higher and at an increasing tempo.

Even if I do say so myself, I was really happy with the finished track and it gave me goosebumps the first time I played it through.

So, here is ‘Out from the cold’.

What a great weekend of experimentation! And I might even have beaten the writers block I’ve been (silently) suffering with for the last couple of years. Thanks Ableton!

Gizmophone

Today was day one of Ableton‘s #LoopAtHome and they set a challenge to build and record your own ‘Gizmophone’ instrument. Unfortunately, I had urgent gardening to attend to (?) so only managed to hack something together at the last minute, using whatever scrap items I could find. This included an offcut of windowsill, a metal Ikea leg and some old wire I found at the end of the garden. And this is the result…

I did manage to include a Piezo condenser mic too, but it had terrible background hum, so only really worked for short percussive noises which I combined into an Ableton drum kit. I also dialled in a smattering of the Corpus effect to make the sounds ring a little more, but only at 5.5% wet.

Some sounds were actually Ok!

The revelation though was the metal Ikea leg. When tapped with a spanner, it made a high pitched bell tone that was (almost) in tune. I created a patch using Ableton’s sampler instrument, sorted out the tuning then duplicated it with slightly different filter settings before panning each version slightly left and right.

Another technique that worked really well was swirling and scraping the spanner inside the wire springs, which created a lovely rhythmic texture which I layered behind the main percussion sounds. Lots of editing of warp markers in that one, as well as some Beat Repeat to add variation, but really pleased with the end result.

I created a quick demo of my ‘instrument’ so you can hear what it sounds like. Some additional kick, snare and synth bass was added to fill the sound out.

And if you fancy having a look ‘under the bonnet’, I’ve even zipped up the Ableton project folder too!

Gizmophone Project

It only uses stock Ableton plugins, so should work fine (have tested on my Microsoft surface and iMac) – Ozone Elements is on the master channel, but you can just ignore that if you don’t have it installed yourself.