Exploring Electronic Sounds
Electronic sounds begin as very pure soundwaves, but can soon be combined and transformed to make more complex sounds.
Use the ‘Electronic Sounds’ sound pack to explore electronic sounds in the creation of a short piece.
Use the transformations available within the Compose with Sounds software to modify the original sound files, and then gradually piece them together layer by layer to make more complex soundscapes.
It might be useful for you to make a plan or sketch before you begin. Draw some shapes onto a paper and then try to reproduce the patterns in sound.
Sound Card Pack
Click the following image to download a pack of sound cards and load them into the Compose with Sounds software.
This sound pack contains lots of different sound types: noisy sounds, pitched sounds and short impulse sounds.
We asked a composer to describe how they might go about completing this assignment. They composed an example submission and set out their four-stage process, which you can view by clicking on the link below.
Click here to view the example
This is an example of a possible working method that you might like to try.
1. Imagine a pattern of electronic sounds and sketch them out on paper.
The composer says: “I started by imagining pitched sounds and came up with a few simple patterns that I sketched out on paper. I used a straight line to represent a pitched sound.”
2. Think of a second (and possibly even a third or fourth) pattern which might play alongside the first. Each pattern should be an individual layer, which can later be combined to make a complex soundscape.
The composer says: “I wanted my second and third sound layers to be different from the first so that the listener didn’t get bored and so that the different layers wouldn’t clash.
So, I decided to use different sound types. The second sound layer needed to be halfway between a pitch and an impulse (I used a round blob shape to indicate the rounded nature of the sound). And the third layer uses a very dry impulse click sound (I used vertical lines to show how short the sounds are, and made them taller/larger to show where these sounds should get louder).
Because the layers were going to be combined, I didn’t need to make them complicated.”
3. With the plan (score) set out on paper, load up Compose with Sounds and begin to create your composition.
The composer says: “The first thing to do was find the correct sound for each of my layers. The sound pack ‘Electronic Sounds’, already had a good pitch tone (sine) for my first layer and a good click sound (impulse click) for my third layer.”
A pitched sound that was used for layer one. I used transposition and montage to create sounds of many different pitches, and combined them following the pattern I had sketched out.
A short clicking sound that was used for layer three. I used the gain control to change the loudness of the clicks, following the pattern that I drew in the score.
The composer says: “I just needed to find a good intermediate sound for the second layer. I needed a rounded sound, one that fell half way between the pitched sounds of layer one and the clicks of layer three. So, after listening to the sounds in the sound pack, I chose to use ‘Impulse 3′.”
This has both a click and a short tone sound, and therefore has a sound quality somewhere between that of layer one and layer three. I set this sound looping so that it repeated for the required duration, and slowly increased the pitch over time to follow my sketch.
4. Build each layer separately and then combine them.
The composer says: “Just like in my original sketch, I created each of the three layers separately (making sure that they were all the correct length). Once I was happy with each layer, I clicked to export it and then brought the three final layers together in a new session.”
In the image above, you can see how the pattern of sound files within the Compose with Sounds software matches that of the original sketch. This layer was made by multiplying and transposing many different pitched sine tones.
This layer was created by duplicating the sound file twice, and then using the automation tool to change the pitch over time. The pitch gradually increased over time.
This layer was created by duplicating the original sound file, and by using gain automation to control the loudness of the sound file over time.
Combining the Layers
The composer says: “The three layers were each individually exported, and then imported into a final mix session. Working with complete layers (as opposed to all of the individual bits of the layers) made it much easier for me to move the files and to create the final mix.”
Here are all of the individual layers combined into a final mix. This is a much more complex sound than any of the individual sections which make it up.
Final notes from the composer: “I hope that this introduction will prove useful to you. Don’t feel that you have to copy exactly what I have done. Enjoy creating your own pieces and experimenting with the different possibilities available.
Try using the following transformations in the development of your composition:
|Pitch Shifting This refers to the changing of the pitch in either direction. Traditionally pitch shifting went hand in hand with the change of speed of a tape recorder. Pitch-shifting & TranspositionA manipulation which changes the pitch of a sound. Transposition||GainGain is a measure of how loudly the sound plays back. You can change gain, just like you can turn the volume up or down on your TV or stereo.Gain|
|DelayA process in which an input signal is looped and repeated.Delay||ReverbThe multiple short reflections of sound that give humans an immediate impression of space. Reverb effects can be used to impart a sense of space onto recorded or generated sounds.Reverb|
Try to contrast the different sound types, for example:
- Go from a very simple and quiet section, to a busy and complex section.
- Perhaps introduce different soundwave types, or increasingly transform your original sound.
- Once you reach a complex and busy state, explore it for a little while. Then begin to take things away and return to simplicity.
- Perhaps aim to end up at a different point to where you began.
Over time, try to develop more complex sounds and then return to simple pure sounds (but not the same sounds as you used at the beginning).