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

Pedalboard Madness

Posted: May 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: gear, music, sound design, synthesis
Sometimes sound design requires thinking inside of multiple boxes.

Sometimes sound design requires thinking inside of multiple boxes.

I’ve developed a small collection of handmade and boutique electronic effects and instruments over the years, like the Grendel Drone CommanderLite2 Sound PX, and many more (perhaps the subject of another post). Longtime readers may recall that I just love supporting independent makers and small cottage industries: That’s where all the weird, truly innovative stuff happens, and I (like many of you, dear readers) am more interested in cool sound design possibilities than straight-up distorted guitarrrrrrrr sounds.

Beyond this, I’ve also been expanding my collection of effects pedals. My latest three are definitely the weirdest: The Great Destroyer and Robot Devil from Dwarfcraft Devices, and the Wow & Flutter from Snazzy FX.

 

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The Cries of Mr. Heater

Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design

Mr. Heater, the oddest and loudest camping stove ever.

One of the guys at work loves camping gadgets (as do I), and he shared a video of his odd little Mr. Heater camp stove making some weird unholy racket. Naturally, I asked to borrow it and did some recording sessions with it over the holidays.

A metal reflector lets the unit be used as either a heater or a camp stove. This ring of steel doesn’t make much sound when it’s running (all you hear is the hiss of gas emission, much like this recording), but it sure resonates when the stove fires up, starting as one tone and diverging into two separate tones, creating a harmony. Very effective or driving away bears, or as a means for summoning the dead.

The only processing applied to this sound is some noise reduction to minimize the gas regulator’s hiss, to pull the resonance forward. Recorded at 192kHz, a clip like this is ripe for pitch shifting for even scarier tones! (Mic placement was tricky; placing the mics right in front would melt them instantly.)


[Sennheiser MKH 50/30 pair, rigged for mid-side stereo, into a Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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Robot’s First Steps

Posted: November 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design
I'm now the proud owner of an NJ-1 Heavy Lifting and Utility Unit!

I'm now the proud owner of an NJ-1 Heavy Lifting Utility Unit!

I’m very excited to share a new audio recording: The first steps of my new NJ-1 Heavy Lifting Utility Unit (HLUU). The HLUU is a do-everything kind of robot, and I’m hoping to use it for landscaping and home improvement projects. It was a big purchase in a pretty down economy, but my significant other and I think it’s a solid long-term investment.

I was so excited that I had to grab my field recorder and document its first steps. The manual says to let it charge overnight and then calibrate its voice command recognition system, but I just couldn’t wait to just let ‘er rip. Unfortunately, that meant that it only took a few steps before losing power and automatically shutting down, so that’s why this clip is so short.

This puts my Roomba to shame. Check out the recording below and say hello to HLUU!

WalkingRobot 001 by noisejockey
[Røde NT4 stereo microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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Razordome: Two razors enter, one sound leaves

Posted: August 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design
These razors were locked in a battle to the death for the sake of sound!

These razors were locked in a battle to the death for the sake of sound!

I think it was Ben Burtt who described coming up with a sound effect by putting an electric razor in a trashcan and letting it vibrate while recording it…sadly, I’ve forgotten where I saw or read this… (if you do, note it in the comments!)

This naturally made me wonder what would happen if you put multiple electric razors in a resonant space like a trash can. I have both a small beard trimmer and a larger hair razor, so I knew they’d create two very distinct sets of harmonics.

What else is there to say, really? I put those two razors in a trash can, turned them both on, and then let the ol’ 702 rip with a large condenser mic. I tried it with the trash can lid open and closed. It was when I placed both of them on the lid of the metal trash can that the magic started to happen. The trash can acted as a resonator, like the body of a guitar.

Here’s the bizarrely awesome moment (unprocessed) when they started harmonizing and turning into a rich, thick chorus of motorized drone-y goodness!

Two Razors in a Trash Can by noisejockey
[Røde NT1a mic into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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Pew! Pew! Pew!

Posted: August 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: sound design, synthesis
Have blaster, will travel.

Have blaster, will travel.

All my posts to date have featured what’s newest to me: sound gathering in the field and only slight manipulations to said sounds. But synthesis is a longtime love of mine. In my studio, hundreds of small snippets of synthesized sounds exist scattered across terabytes of hard disk space. I usually have no clue what the source material was, or how I created them.

Luckily, I (re)discovered several unusually well-documented synthesized sounds for this post: a collection of samples that were oriented towards making impactful, short sci fi sounds, but created using virtual synthesizers in software rather than real recordings. These sounds all wound up evoking lasers, blasters, and other sci-fi energy weapons, or discrete layer elements for the same.

Ben Burtt defined this sound for generations with his struck-guy-wire laser blasts in Star Wars, and I (like most) tend to agree that these real sound sources make a big difference in the complexity and character of the final sound. But synthesizing these sounds from scratch is a fun exercise, as well: deconstructing what works about that classic sound (amplitudes of high and low frequencies offset in time), figuring out how to execute it, and then modifying the sound for different emotional effects.

(I’ve found other real-world objects that also make Burtt-style blaster sounds, which will be featured in an upcoming post!)


[EFM1 and ES2 virtual synths, Apple Logic Pro 8]

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