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Why is Sound Design important in music?

Creating a final, professional, track nowadays is a lot more work than just pure musicianship in the traditional sense. As well as knowledge of music production, marketing, social media, and a whole host of other things, comes a need to create immersive and engaging sounds. You could almost argue that with modern production standards, being a musician isn’t enough - you need to be an audio-artist.

Sound FX have been a staple in cinema for years, bringing us the audio representations of all of our favourite Sci-Fi noises, building tension in horror films, and creating vast and amazing soundscapes. Creating tension soon worked it’s way into the world of dance music, using risers, drops, and SFX to add interest and depth to (what would traditionally be) a repetitive hook. Minor audio deviations like this can undo the repetitive monotony of a simple house track, and transform it into a far more engaging and interesting tune.

Only using Sound FX can limit oneself though, and some artists push further into an area of Sound Design within mainstream music releases. Rob Swire (Pendulum, Knife Party) brings a distinct ‘cinematic’ feel to a lot of his musical projects with extensive use of Sound FX and design to create a sense of epic immersive-ness that not many other artists are capable of - and this signature sound could be part of the reason why he’s seen so many of his projects reach critical an commercial success. The prime example of this comes from Knife Party, in the song ‘Internet Friends’.

 

Incorporating sound FX and ‘real’ sounds into music can also add to the narrative and mood of a track/album. ‘rain on me’ by joji is a great example tying the name of a track, the mood of the track, the message of the song, and the audio FX that have been married into the tune. If you’ve ever studied drama or literature then might have come across pathetic fallacy i.e. “the attribution of human feelings and responses to inanimate things or animals, especially in art and literature.”. In terms of weather this means sun when happy things are happening, and rain when there is sorrow. Using sound design like this in music can make it possible to impart almost exactly the message you want your song to send, without having to add lyrics - they’re the icing on the top.

 

All that being said, if you have the penitence to delve deep into audio manipulation then IDM and Sound Art might await you in the future. These areas of music are highly technical, and place equal weight on creating completely unique audio, and musicianship - whilst focusing on breaking its rules and boundaries; think of it as the electronic version of 21st Century classical composition.

Sound Design never needs to be in your face when you’re incorporating it into your music. In fact, a lot of the time it has more impact when it sits comfortably in the mix. It could be argued that the best kind of music is the kind that lets you hear something new every time that you turn it on and having that unobtrusive, multi-layered, approach to incorporating sound design in your music will elevate your tracks - making them far more engaging and immersive.

You can check out Zero-G's amazing bank of sound design tools by clicking here!

Garrick Wareham

Garrick is a Saxophonist, Pianist and Composer with an eclectic taste in music. Whilst he plays a lot of Jazz and Classical he looks to incorporate as many genres as possible, Prog-Rock, Metal, D&B and Progressive House being amongst his favourites. He's also really into his tech and always looking to marry music and tech in creative ways.


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