Discover the exciting world of electroacoustic music and learn to make music with sounds.

Exploration of Sounds

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You will develop your knowledge in listening, creating and transforming sounds.

Playing with sounds and sound transformation is one of the best ways to learn how sounds work. It will give you a feeling for how sounds function, and help you to make your own sounds that could be used in a later project.

Transforming Sounds

The Compose with Sounds software has a lot of great tools for transforming sounds. Some of the most important are: Reverse, Loop, Transpose and Pan.

There are many other tools which you can experiment with later on, but we will start by exploring these four.


FilterA filter changes the frequency makeup of a sound by making parts of it weaker. Filters allow you to focus on parts of a sound that are of interest to you, or to take away parts that you don't like.More infoFilter and SpliceTo cut up a sound file.More infoSplice are also really great tools. They are explored on the Soundscape Music page.


Playing a sound backwards is a really simple idea, but it makes radical changes to what we hear. What used to be at the end of the sound is now at the beginning, and what used to be at the beginning is now at the end.

Reverse Icon 2

Reverse Example One: Voice

The Original Voice Sound

Listen to this original sound, you can recognise the words.

Reversed Voice Sound

How is it different from the original sound?

Reverse Example Two: Ding

The Original Ding Sound

Listen to this original sound, think about its shape.

Reversed Ding Sound

How is it different from the original sound?


The shape of a sound’s envelope makes up a large part of the sound that we hear. By reversing a sound, we flip this EnvelopeThe shape of a sound over time.More infoenvelope.

Reverse transformations create entirely new sounds that do not exist naturally. This tool is really good for creating sounds that are mysterious or unrecognisable. You could reverse a whole soundscape and it would sound completely alien, or you could reverse only a few individual sounds within a normal soundscape – this might create a really mysterious, yet familiar soundscape.


Again, to loop a sound is one of the most simple transformations, but it can be one of the most effective.


When a sound is looped, we begin to forget the identity of the original source and start to hear the internal qualities of the sound.

Loop Example One: Bark

Original Bark Sound


Looped Bark Sound

Woof!Woof!Woof!Woof!Woof!Woof!Woof! ... Listen to how the looped sound is transformed by our hearing.

Loop Example Two: Train

Original Train Sound


Looped Train Sound

Clickety clack, clickety clack ... Listen to how the looped sound is transformed as we listen.


Both loop and reverse were early transformations that Pierre Schaeffer was very interested in. By experimenting and thinking about what was happening to sounds, they allowed him to discover and theorise how sounds worked.


The transposition tool allows us to change the pitch of sounds. We can make sounds higher in pitch (transpose up) or make sounds lower in pitch (transpose down).


Transposition can be used to create new sounds, and can also give the impression that the objects causing the sound are changing in size.

Transpose Example One: Voice

Original Voice

Compare the original pitch with the transposed sounds below.

Transposed UP

Did you compare the pitch of this sound with the original sound?

Transposed DOWN

Did you compare the pitch of this sound with the original sound?

Transpose Example Two: Pop

Original Pop

Listen to the pitch of this sound and compare it with the versions that have been transposed.

Transposed UP

This sound has been increased in pitch. It is now higher than the original sound.

Transposed DOWN

This sound has decreased in pitch. It is now lower than the original sound.


Larger objects generally produce lower sounds, while smaller objects generally produce higher sounds. For example, compare the sound of a football with the sound of a ping pong ball.

Experiment with transposition. Why not add multiple versions of the same sound, and then transpose each of them to a different extent?

Pan / Panning

Pan (also known as panning) tools allow you to position sounds from left to right. You can use panning to separate out individual sounds so that they do not sit on top of one another and clash.


The following examples will only work if you are listening on a pair of loudspeakers or to both earpieces of a pair of headphones.

Pan Left

To the Left

You should only hear sound coming from one loudspeaker.

Pan Centre

In the Centre

You should hear sounds coming equally from both loudspeakers.

Pan Right

To the Right

You should hear sound coming from the other loudspeaker only.


Pan is a shortened form of panorama – a wide surroundscape.

You can pan each sound individually. Sometimes, you might want all of the sounds to come from one place, other times you might want them to be spread out all over the place.

Experiment with using the pan tool to spread sounds out. Why not have alternate left and right sounds?

Composition Tip

When combined with automation, the pan tool can make sounds move from one side to the other.


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