Sound Harvesting 101

Although I certainly understand how to create sounds from scratch using various synthesis techniques, I usually prefer to begin my sound design sessions with actual sound recordings. I’m just drawn to the natural randomness of an organic sound. One of my favorite things in the world to do is something I call Sound Harvesting. Think of it as sonic free association. Once you understand the concept you’ll never be lacking for great source material ever again, I promise!

While there’s a bit of technique involved in Sound Harvesting, most of the work has to do with your mind-set. The key is to use free association techniques to come up with new and unique sounds that you wouldn’t have otherwise created. Here’s what I do:

  1. Find a sound source.
  2. Set up a recording device to capture all of the “sonic happiness” that’s about to ensue.
  3. While the recorder is running, explore every possible way to make sound with the sound source. You aren’t performing, you’re just making sound.
  4. Don’t self-edit, just let the creativity flow. At this point, there are very few bad ideas. Hit it, brush it, drop it, scratch it. Anything goes.
  5. When I’ve run out of ideas I stop the recording. I now have one continuous file with all sorts of different sounds in it.
  6. I give this file a descriptive name (DrumManipulations12-07-10) and save it into a folder named Raw Sounds.
  7. This is the most important step of all. I leave the file alone for at least a week. This allows my brain to clear. When I come back I can objectively listen to the sounds and decide which ones merit further work.

At this point, I move onto phase two of my sound design techniques, called Sound Mangling. I’ll explain this very soon in a future post, so stay tuned.

Here’s a video I made demonstrating the concept of Sound Harvesting:

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