A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, sound effects, and music.

Semi-Call of the Pseudo-Wild

Posted: October 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design
Animal Calls

Trust me, those are animal calls, and this is a PG-13-rated show.

Not all of us have the long schedules or big budgets that support going out to exotic locations – or even the local zoo – to record unusual animals for sound design. There are an increasing number of excellent creature-specific effects collections out there, too.

But another fun alternative is to use animal calls. Mostly created to lure or flush birds for the benefits of hunters, some also mimic the sounds of squirrels and other small animals…they’re not exceedingly realistic, but they do sound pretty neat. These calls can be used as the instructions suggest for some level of realism, but using them in unusual ways can create great base sounds for more extreme uses. On their own, they’re OK, but they’re high-pitched enough that they hold up well to heavy processing. They come in many shapes and sizes, but those that feature bulbs that pass air over a reed can be played more expressively.

These calls have the added benefit of garnering very curious, or suspicious, looks from visitors if you display them in your studio.

Today’s sound is a cute little number called the Squirrel Buster. I  rattled it back and forth, cupping my hand over the horn to filter the sound just a little. The first portion is the call being shaken back and forth. It doesn’t really sound like any squirrel I’ve heard…in fact, it doesn’t sound unlike the tail end of a hornbill’s call (which many mistake for monkeys, thanks to Hollywood’s use of the hornbill call in jungle films). Perhaps it would be a nice background layer in an exotic ambience. The second portion is the first that’s been sped up to 200%, then pitched down 1.5 octaves; this sounds a bit more gutteral and almost simian. The third portion is the second, run through the GRM PitchAccum plug-in and sped up again by 200%, and it starts to sound like a layer of rapid-fire alien utterances, a la District 9.


[Røde NT1a microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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6 Comments on “Semi-Call of the Pseudo-Wild”

  1. 1 Mike Niederquell said at 9:21 am on October 25th, 2010:

    Yes! I could totally use this right now. Great idea!

  2. 2 Mike Niederquell said at 9:23 am on October 25th, 2010:

    Oh yea, and I think that squirrel call is fairly convincing. I’m from Michigan though and they are a little different out that way. It kind of sounds like a giant chipmunk too.

  3. 3 Colin Hunter said at 12:15 pm on October 26th, 2010:

    Honestly Nathan, where the hell do u get all this crazy stuff? Love it!

  4. 4 Nathan said at 2:17 pm on October 26th, 2010:

    @Mike: Thank you!

    @Colin: Haha, thanks man – it’s just part of the process, as I’m sure you know. Our whole lives are only as good as the stories and sounds we gather!

  5. 5 Ryan said at 11:12 pm on October 26th, 2010:

    I’m still waiting for those recordings of after-party and crowds from the Giants stadium :-)

  6. 6 Miguel said at 6:21 pm on November 1st, 2010:

    Love it!!


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