Sound Design Feedback Thread, Dec. 2023

Post sounds you made here and get constructive feedback from the community on how to improve them. If this takes off then I’m willing to make this a perennial thing, maybe quarterly or twice a year (we’ll play it by ear).

Rules and guidelines

  • Your own sounds only! Keep discussion mainly focused on sound design created by members of this community. You can link reference tracks if they are in relation to sound design practice, but don’t just post a link and ask people to remake it.
  • Share audio files (Discourse allows uploading MP3s). The shorter the example, such as an individual drum hit or instrument, the more likely you’ll get specific and helpful comments. However, sound design happens in context, so you can share entire arrangements or pieces if you like. Mixing and sound design are fundamentally intertwined.
  • You can share SC source code too, but always share an audio file with it in case people have trouble running your code.
  • Assume that feedback is allowed on anything you post here. It’s often useful to ask specific questions — how can I make this more punchy? is the high end too excessive? — but you don’t have to.
  • Likewise, keep feedback constructive and polite. I believe opinionated, negative feedback on specific problems can be very helpful, and I trust you to balance that with basic etiquette. Calibrate it for the sound designer’s skill level. (That said, I much appreciate an old instructor of mine who shouted “turn down the ******* reverb” at me, lifelong lessons.)
  • If someone posts SC source code, get permission before you crib it for your own music. Don’t steal.
  • This is about audio. Discussion of UGens is on-topic, sclang features are off-topic.

Im all in for these squeaky sounds:

which I have been creating by a frequency envelope of a saw wave + additional FM with a modfreq in the LFO range between 1 and 10 hz. I think the main point is that the frequency should ramp down to an inaudible range with additional FM.

I have tested out different FM formulas:

1.) classic one freq + (fmod * index)
2.) creating predictable sidebands freq + (modFreq * fmod * index)
3.) analog exponential style FM: freq + (modFreq * (2 ** (fmod * index)))
4.) binding the modulation to the carrier frequency freq + (freq * fmod * index)

But the last one which is binding the frequency of the carrier signal to its modulation works best here together with a frequency envelope. I guess FM is in this case more behaving like PM and doesnt loose energy if you sweep up the spectrum.

Do you have other ideas for awesome squeakiness ?

I really like these tracks by rian treanor for their squeakiness:


You’ve got good modulation here, really dig the second one in particular and the idea of bouncing in and out of audible frequencies. I do think that a pure saw wave is a little too clean compared to the refs, the second track is extremely “squelchy” and definitely not a pure saw. (The first track is more transparent, but it has reverb and it’s in the fringes of the mix, so Rian can get away with simpler sound design that complements more complex sound design.)

If this is the only or primary element in the mix, maybe add in another modulating oscillator that’s more in the 20-40 Hz range, with really really dramatic exponential FM across many octaves? The waveform of the modulating oscillator is essential here: saws and sines sound very different, and even upward and downward saws are very distinct. A small touch of stereo phaser/flanger on the final result will also help sell it.

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Besides being squeaky in the right way, I love how tight and crisp the snippets sounds. 100% .

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Just listening once on bad speakers… The second reference track works with less clean materials, at the same time, it uses a lot of concatenation, which influences the mixing possibilities of different layers.

In addition to what Nathan said, I think the example loses a bit of expression when it disappears into the low freq. Each layer must be very clear about its acoustic space and remain there, with presence. Maybe something more in this sense is missing in the FM saw osc, to become on of those layers

just to clarify i have just posted the so called “reference tracks” because i thought they fit into this kind of sound design. I have not been taking these as a reference.

I think for the second track you are way better of by using somekind of “buffer scratching” with a bipolar signal which is basically PM on a buffered signal. I think the signal doesnt have to be a buffer at all you can just use a sine function with a frequency downward sweep driven by a phase of a bipolar signal.

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Yes, sure, I was not thinking about what technique to use, was trying to describe the sound idea. It can be done in several ways, right

You might try creating banks of each of these squeakers, where you slightly detune one or more parameters for each iteration - then you can either sum them, or progressively subtract them from each other (subtracting alternating channels of a multichannel expansion is simple - something like (multiSig * [1, -1]).sum.

A nice thing here is: if you flatten whatever parameter you’re varying to be the same for every iteration, you should get either the “clean” signal, or silence (if you’re doing the subtraction) - so you have the ability to easily move between the clean and warped signals in an expressive way.

This probably DOESN’T work well if you vary the frequency, since it will cause oscillators to drift out of phase and you’d lose the ability to reset back to the dry signal, so modulating phase is slightly more controllable (but: if it sounds cool, it sounds cool).

Hey guys

I did some experiments with non-linear filters, with parameters changing slowly. I found these sudden audio hauls, which seem like they will “get out of control”.

This is a simple situation on “chaos” (the code has nothing special), but, have you ever come across algorithms and filters like this? How can you cause this type of instability (ongoing “unstable balance”) on purpose? I’d like to share experiences/ideas/impressions/opinions on similar situations.


I’m going to critique this more on what I hear as a listener over how it’s made. Atmosphere is great. High tones, despite their simplicity, work really well.

I’m on record as a growl connoisseur, so I’m going to concentrate on those. One area to improve would be the envelope at 1:15 and beyond. Two opposite directions to go in:

  1. Make the attack and/or release completely sudden, and maybe even demarcate the start and end with a sharp transient-y sound, which gives you dramatic contrast between suddenness and stillness. I’m envisioning something like the on-off switching in Tim Hecker’s “Prism,” first track on Virgins.
  2. For a more droney piece, make the amplitude envelope very slow and broad and give it reverb or delay that persists after the dry sound dies out. A completely standard reverb would sweeten it well enough, but if you’re so inclined, you can also try a weird reverb with a pitch shifter or granulator embedded in it, all parameters modulated and linked to the rest of the patch. A little goes a long way there, in either case it’s wanting a little more persistence and room.

Finally, although there is some stereo image here, I think the main drone elements could be wider and more immersive.

Oh, nathan, I haven’t edited this at all. It was a test code straight to an audio file.

In general my music is very far from anything like drones, far the opposite, including my live electronic music. BUT, we need to always include more things into the box.

))) thanks

Alright folks, rip this one to shreds.

Problems I’m aware of: drums are too loud and bright, the little “sigh” patch could be more sporadic.

It’s grown out of some experiments I did with rimshot synthesis (as discussed with some colleagues in this Mastodon thread). Refs included TechDiff - Positronic Meltdown for the drum sound design, and the sequencing was heavily influenced by Ruby My Dear - Karoshi, particularly Ruby’s use of 4/4+4/4+4/4+2/4 time signatures from that entire album.


Scared to share my thoughts but here goes.

I would try EQ out some frequencies that goes slightly out control on reverb, (the wet side) for the percussive sounds. Something with the reverb is going out of control. If me and possible, I would test to move the metallic feel/quality on the reverb from the percussive elements and add the metal to the vocal elements. Then i would would test to dial back the reverb on the drums & percussive elements just about until i hardly notice them.

The “sighs” are wonderful.

Kind regards,

In general, I’m not too fond of artificial reverb. Some people go to an extreme and make a law in stone to NEVER USE ANY REVERB. One person I remember is Robert van Heumen from the Netherlands.

But that is a sensitive topic to touch!

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I don’t know what counts as artificial but personally i am a sucker for the use spring-reverbs on old dub-records.

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Some composers in the 60s had a very good sense to use reverb (and tape/delay techniques), those I enjoy quite a lot, maybe because it’s part of the material of the music.

Okay… my turn to be roasted (:slight_smile:

I don’t know where to go with this…

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I think it doesn’t need to be a sensitive topic. The extreme is at minimum a useful polemic to spark discussion.

I’d be the first to admit that I overuse reverb, and I generally like it that way, for my style. It would be totally wrong for other styles. This thread is getting me to think, what if I cut way back on the reverb sometimes? If some pieces, or sections of performances, were a lot more dry, what territory would that push me into? It’s one approach to creativity: What is everyone doing, or what’s becoming a cliche, and consciously do the opposite (in the way that Boards of Canada talked about “Music Has the Right to Children” as a reaction against EDM style tics that annoyed them at the time).

Henry Brant once said in an interview that he hated spatial imaging and he would only use speakers as point sources, because it’s honest. Paul Lansky talks about using speakers as a window into a world. Who’s right? (Both, and neither.) At ICMC in Shenzhen, one afternoon I was sitting in the sweet spot for a beautiful ambisonic piece about a riverside port… close your eyes and you’re there… stunning, wouldn’t trade in that experience for the sake of purity.

Good to discuss, not sure where that will lead me yet.

I do have a sound design question, but not specifically feedback on an example. I think I’ll ask in the “learning sound design” thread.


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When I do live improvisation, this is very clear. Electronic reverb as part of an electronic instrument differs from room acoustics for chamber music in innumerable ways (even if you think it’s the same “function”, it’s not). Nevertheless, in both cases, it is part of the style you’re engaged with, even if you don’t think about it.