I don’t know about you guys, but I have always had interest in observing my environment and surroundings, more than just observe however, I enjoy listening. To the creaking door that needs that extra bit of oil, to the cacophony of speech and garble I am usually subjected to when I go for my morning coffee.
The conjunction of sounds can more so convey a sense of immersion than any graphics or visual aid will ever do. Partly due to our experiences with our daily activities and what we are usually used to hearing from our environment (if I jump in water I expect to hear a splash).
So what do you need to create an authentic audio experience? Some may say that driving to the country and recording nature or finding sounds within the forest and so forth can be a great fountain of audio resources. Which a lot of the times, is actually true. But in my experience it’s usually a big hassle for something that really doesn’t need to be me reaching for my hiking boots, walking stick and dragging my recording unit through the wilderness (well unless you have the pleasure of living near the country side).
The thing is, audio can be easily manipulated into something that may not be what it actually is (my snoring dog is a good example!). So a lot of my audio resources (if not most) was actually recorded locally right in the office, at home or even on my way to work. Here are a few of my experiences and tactics to go about doing this.
Using Yourself to create Sounds
Your voice can actually be one of your greatest assets in sound creation. Sounds such as growling or screaming or simply trying to imitate a monkey (Monkey Island had great monkey sounds by the way!!) can create some pretty interesting results. Some of my favorite techniques that I usually apply to my own voice usually are echo, reverb and slowing the sample substantially. Slowing the sample can give a much more deep effect to your voice (good for things such as growls or monsters), while the echo and reverb can give a ghostly cavern type feel like a lurking specter that’s hiding further down the dungeon path. Just be sure that when you’re recording your voice that you’re alone in your office or at least have no qualms about shouting “This is Sparta” into your MacBook while your co-workers give you shady looks.
You’re feet and hands are also great assets when it comes to sound creation, such as claps, snapping fingers, footsteps, skipping or even jumping up and down. I had some good experience’s recording footsteps on more dry surfaces where the crackling of the sand is more spread out. Once recorded, try playing with all the tools available in GarageBand or even Audacity, creating sound effects is all about experimentation!
Using the Mundane To Your Advantage
How many times have you made coffee or cooked a specific meal and thought of “I wonder what I could do if I recorded this?” or is it just me? Sometimes the thing you least expect can be an interesting sound asset. The coffee bean grinder is a good example of this, or sticking your fork and mixing a bowl of over cooked rice (which I was eating a few minutes earlier). Fact is, a lot of the time that particular sound you’re looking for might be found in all the normal day to day things you do. So next time you open a door, pet your dog or even boil an egg! Be on the lookout (or hearout?) for anything that might be worthwhile. An important lesson I have learned is that a lot of the sounds “just happen”, you just have to listen.
Pets Are Great!
I can’t tell you guys how many times I recorded my dog. Snoring, barking or simply walking around creates truly nice samples. Especially since her long nails are always scratching the floor! I tell you that a snoring boxer dog really makes an incredible pit monster!
Another good example is bird sounds, chirping or even wing flapping. I had the luck of a friend of mine actually owning two parakeets which was a nice source of soothing and Zen like audio. He actually went on to use some of the sounds we had recorded for an IPhone application about meditation and such. But in case you don’t know anyone with birds for pets, a simple walk to the park will resolve that problem!
Important fact! When you’re recording animals or pets, don’t force them into doing anything or your dog/cat/bird will just get pissed off. Recording an animal is much alike playing national geographic, follow him around with a microphone or let it come naturally and record it.
So in conclusion sound gathering isn’t something that should only be restricted to the studio or someplace miles and miles from you. It’s a matter of being creative with your surroundings and using these audio outputs to create something more. Like mashing sounds or manipulating them into something that fits you’re need! By no means restrict yourself by the examples given above as they barely scratch the surface and are but a few examples of my personal experiences in the art of sound recording.
This doesn’t mean you should walk around with a microphone in your hand all the time and record everything you happen to hear! Take it with a grain of salt, if you happen to hear something you like take it to the studio and try to recreate it. Most of the bits and pieces I record serve a lot as inspiration and the “wouldn’t it be cool if … ” train of thought.
But in case you’re really desperate however, there isn’t really a shortage of free sound assets out there for you to use. This in my opinion should always be a last resort! Now you can ask “Why can’t we just use free assets for all our sounds?” well my answer to you is simple, “Where’s the fun in that?”. But in all seriousness, even though there are a lot of free assets out there, it’s always good to learn how to do it, not only do you learn some basic skills like mixing and recording, all these sounds could be of use later on for other projects (never throw away what you record!). Not to mention that some of these free assets might be badly recorded/mixed or simply being free up until you read the fine print!
All in all the act of recording sound effects shouldn’t be taken as a shore, but as a fun activity or simply out curiosity, because even though were used to hearing something every day, doesn’t mean it isn’t there!