How to get Started in Sound Design (and Save Oodles of Time in the Process)

Every so often (by which I mean dozens of times a day), I get emails from people asking me to tell them "the basics of sound design."


I get it. All my stuff is spread out, and sometimes it's a pain to search for stuff. And even if you've watched half of my videos, you'd still have hours and hours of content left over.


So here, finally and definitively, I'm going to tell you the things you need to know as a sound designer as fast as humanly possible.


All of these answers are general. They're not objectively true of all scenarios, but will be helpful to most of the scenarios you're going to run into.


Again, don't take these as gospel, but use them as a great starting point.


First, let's talk about gear

Just watch this video. Boom. Done. End.


What about studio monitors?

These aren't as important as most people think (at first), but go here for recommendations.


Next, let's talk about DAWs

There are a billion of them. It doesn't matter which one you use.


IT 👏 DOESN'T 👏 MATTER 👏 WHICH 👏 ONE 👏 YOU 👏 USE 👏


ITDOESNTMATTERWHICHONEYOUUSE


The DAWs that are most common in game audio are:

  • Reaper

  • Cubase/Nuendo

  • Logic

  • Ableton Live

  • Pro Tools (If you want to work in AAA, knowing Pro Tools is helpful)

  • Garage Band

  • Reason

  • Studio One


And 2 billion others that I'm forgetting because IT. DOESN'T. MATTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Just pick one. If you're struggling to choose, pick Reaper and go from there. It definitely has the fastest workflow for sound design out there, but takes some serious customizing to get it going.


What about Audacity?!

Use it if it's all you got. It's fine, but you'll also be well-served by learning a fully-featured DAW like any of the ones up above.


Time for plugins, here we go

A good sound designer can use pretty much any set of plugins and still make great stuff. A bad sound designer can have every plugin in the world and will still only make trash.


Use stock plugins until you're getting paid enough to buy better stuff.


Honestly, I still use stock plugins a lot of the time. They're good. Especially the ones in Ableton Live and Logic.


From there, if you want good general workhorse plugins, start with FabFilter.


Then go to Sound Toys if you want the crazy stuff.


Krotos' stuff is great for ultra specialized things like monsters, vehicles, and more.


Kilohearts are my all-around favorites for general use. Full disclosure, they give me all their stuff for free, so I'm biased.


Native Instruments' stuff is also industry-standard. Get Komplete (or at least Kontakt and Massive) eventually, but don't rush to do this.


Serum is also a great synth for sound design.


Get paid first, then use that money to buy plugins. Don't spend the money in hopes that people will pay you because of your cool gear. It almost never works out that way.


Sample Rate/Bit Depth

Record your sounds at as high a sample rate as possible, at the highest bit depth possible.

In most cases, that means you'll record at 192KHZ/24-bit, or 96KHZ/24-bit depending on your recorder.


If you don't know what that means, go to this website. It explains LITERALLY EVERY TECHNICAL THING YOU NEED TO KNOW about sound design. There's absolutely no excuse to have any lack of technical knowledge with this website in existence.


I also don't answer any technical questions, because this website does such a stellar job of answering them already.


Exporting Sounds

When exporting sounds to be in a game, here's what you'll do most often:

Export your sounds as .WAV, 48KHZ, 24-bit.


Stereo for UI/Ambience/Music/Feedback/other non-positional sounds.

Mono for positional, "in-world" sounds.


Again, these are gross overgeneralizations, but will apply to many of the situations you find yourself in.


What about m-m-m-middleware?!?!?!

Watch this video.


What about VR/AR/MR?

Don't worry about that right now. Maybe I'll do a follow up to this email about Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality specifically if enough people ask.


Alright, we're done

Yes, there's TOOOONS more, but for 99.99999% of beginners/intermediates out there, this will save insane amounts of time and confusion.


Go forth.


Yes, there’s TOOOONS more And if you want to keep learning with me, then sign up for my newsletter here. That’s where you’ll get all my latest sound design resources, as well as access to two free courses that will teach you how to get high-quality paid work in the game industry.

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