Found Sound Production Tips

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Integrating found sounds, location recordings & Foley into your productions has become a staple for many producers in genres ranging from House to DnB but, what are the techniques and production tips you should be looking out for?!  Well, worry not. We’re going to explore some of our favourite found sound production tips to help you get stuck into adding some organic texture, groove and originallity into to your compositions.

The Equipment

With the ever increasing quality and access to smart phones with great sounding pre-amps the opportunity has never been better for grabbing those quick ‘spare of the moment’ hits or unique foley samples.  From the sound of a tube station trains passing to the noise and hustle of a busy city square, these area defining sounds can easily be at your disposal and add a real unique character to your music or samples that no one else will have.

Don't forget that windsock when recording outdoors.

Don't forget that windsock when recording outdoors.

That being said, there comes a time when you’d like to increase the fidelity of your recordings so that’s where the trusty location recorder comes in.  Easy to throw in your bag plus increased quality, depth and stereo field this handy little device can be a saviour.  Here’s our top few location recorder production tips:

  • Noise – Handling noise can often get in the way or ruin your recorders so wherever possible look to place the recorder on a tripod.
  • Wind – Again, nature can strike at any time so purchasing a little windsock opens up the opportunities to use your recorder whatever the weather.  The difference in quality is incredible and something that should be kept with your kit.
  • Remote – If possible try and find one with a remote.  This gives you opportunity to stay away from the machine removing the possibility of handling noise.
  • Batteries – Don’t be silly and run out.  Charge it up or bring spares.  You’d kick yourself if you didn’t.
  • Organisation - Try and leave a little room before and after your recordings for editing or natural tails of sounds.  

'Amon Tobin - Foley Room' - A constant for inspiration and abstract location recording techniques. 

Sourcing your Sounds

The world really is your oyster on this one.  From everyday household objects like cutlery and kitchen utensils to plastic bags, paper cups to spanners and wheelbarrows it’s often just a case of getting stuck in a seeing what’s out there.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Kick Drums – Shoe / boot drops, door slams, paper bag hits, thunder, floor stomps, basket ball bounces.
  • Snares – Rocks, glasses, table hits, paper bags, rulers, wood hits, trees, snooker cues.
  • Hats - Lighters, keys, processed noise, glass, wood snaps, wind.

Processing Your Recordings

Before you get started here are a few ideas to help with processing your audio: 

  • Strip Silence - A great way of quickly chopping your audio into sections with minimal hassle.  In strip silence you are able to set the threshold to the volume you require removing all the unwanted location noise.  Logic Pro Guys - The Short cut is Ctrl+X
  • Gates - As with strip silence.  A gate can be a great way to remove noise.  They can also be side-chained to your kick or 'trigger' adding cool rhythmic interest to location recordings.  
  • Editing - Boring but effective.  Why not chop your sounds into single one shots that you can use in a drum rack or sampler.  Over time you'll be able to build your own personal collection of one shots that are as individual as the locations used to record them. 
The options really are endless on how much you want to spend on location recording equipment. 

The options really are endless on how much you want to spend on location recording equipment. 

Integrating Your Sounds

Beats

Probably the most obvious and potentially the easiest, adding organic hits to your drums is a great way to enhance them with added texture, grit and shuffle.  Here's our favourite tips on producing great found sound drums: 

Warping - In Ableton, by simply dragging the warp markers around we're able to design new rhythms, patterns and textures from our original location recording.  In this case, the sound of leaves was used.  The strong transients are almost shaping the groove for me and showing where I should add markers.

Warp markers added to push and pull our leaves samples in time. 

Warp markers added to push and pull our leaves samples in time. 

We recently spoke of using different 'transient envelopes' in our Ableton Favourites blog articles and again this technique came into play.  By dropping the envelop level down to 15% we've been able to remove lots of the noise and create a rhythmic percussion loop.  

On it's own this may feel strange but a simple kick and snare over the top can create something really unique and intersting added new flavours to a previously boring drum loop.  

 

Textures

Layering up location recordings over underwhelming pads or soundscapes can be a great way to add some interest and movement to your sounds.  The random nature of the recordings can often stop the content feeling so 'loop' based blurring the lines and removing the feel of the grid from your session. 

Tuned Instruments

From bottles with different amounts of water in to wind chimes or steel hand rails, anything can be used in a musical fashion.  Throwing a tuner onto the channel can be any easy way to see what you're dealing with note wise.  We'd then place this in a sampler and see what we've got.  The sounds can be incredibly unique and the noise of the recording can be a lovely addition to digital sounds. 

 

So there it is.  As always, if you've any interesting ideas or thoughts on this let us know.  We can't wait to hear what you've been writing and recording. 

The Touch Loops team. 

 

Touch Loops