7 Sound Design Prompts to help you Practice Your Craft

What do camera phones, LEDs, and running shoes have in common?


Well, they all exist thanks to NASA.

Oh so many inventions were made thanks to NASA

More specifically, LEDs came about from needing red lights to grow plants in space, camera phones exist because NASA needed small cameras that could fit on a spaceship, and running shoes are based off of space suit cushioning.


No one who made these original inventions knew they would lead to all these items we use every day. It was all totally unexpected.


And when it comes to sound design, all of our best results will come from unexpected places, too. But, to unearth those golden nuggets of sound design, we need to practice our craft and do some wild things.


So, to help you make some wild new sounds, here are some prompts to help you practice.

The point of these is NOT to create a great sound, but to experiment. The more experiments you do, especially when it comes to sound design, the better you get.


The better sound designers are the ones who have ran more experiments than everyone else, and thus know how to get the result they want.


So here are your delicious prompts:

  1. Take a sound that isn't supposed to loop (like a footstep, a gunshot, any sort of "one off" sound) and make it loop and play in quick succession. Adjust the loop length so you can hear what that sound sounds like when looped slowly/quickly.

  2. Make a sound made up of at least 8 layers, exclusively out of one synthesizer. For example, use 8 instances of Massive or Serum on 8 separate tracks to make up your sound. Each layer's synth parameters can vary, but the VST itself needs to be the same on each track.

  3. Record a sound (using anything - your field recorder, your phone, a laptop mic... anything!), and put it into your DAW. Then, play that sound back through your speakers, and record that output into your device (literally just hold your mic up to your speakers). Take that re-recorded sound and put it back in your DAW. Repeat this 5 times, and see what comes of it.

  4. Record your voice saying "Ahh" or any vowel sound, and use Paulstretch (a free built in time-stretching tool in Audacity) to stretch it to 80 times (or more) in length.

  5. Find a lower/bassier sound and EQ out all the lows and boost the highs and see what comes of that. Find a higher pitched sound and EQ out all the highs and boost the lows, too.

  6. Take a sound you're already working on. Reverse it, add reverb, pitch it down (or up) as far as your pitch shifter will allow. Export that sound, and put it in your library for later.

  7. Make a sound exclusively with layers from freesound.org. Use 10 (or more) layers from completely random sources. Use a random word generator to create search terms for your samples.


If you run even one experiment like this a day, your skills will grow ludicrously quickly. Sound design is such a strange, ephemeral art, and because of that, very few people realize they can (and should) practice it to get better.


Hopefully, these little prompts can help you get started on generating amazing results from unexpected places.


And if you'd like more advice on building your game audio career

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