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Topic: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

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  1. #1

    Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    Hi All,

    We listen to so many great demos and wonder how that incredible sound is acheived. Is it possible to identify and rank the components responsible for achieving that sound? Obviously melody/harmony and compositional structure are key, but this exercise puts those components aside and looks at midi compositions strictly from an engineering/sound design perspective.

    Possible Sound design components:

    1)Quality of the Sample out of the box (i.e. late 90\'s type sounds vs. the newest libararies)
    2)Application of Reverb
    3)Application of EQ
    4)Application of Panning
    5)Application of Volume
    6)Application of Compression
    7)Choice of Instrument for Mix (i.e. you want and compose a trumpet for a particular part, but you choose a flute because the trumpet sample you have just does not sound as good)

    Have I missed any components? If so, please add 8, 9, etc. and add them to your rank.

    Here\'s my best guess Ranking of importance to achieving a good sound:

    7,5,4,1,3,2,6

    Thanks for posting your rank if different. In addition to posting your ranking, could you please answer the following:

    You are stuck on a deserted island and can only have either A or B. Which would you choose?

    A) A JV-1080 hardware sound module (or comparable late 90\'s-type sound quality) with all the capabilities to adjust Reverb, EQ, Panning, Volume, and Compression

    OR

    B) The newest libraries (VSL, QL, SI, GPO SAM, etc) with the ability to adjust volume for each instrument but nothing else.

  2. #2

    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    Hmmmmmmmm


    You forgot the two most important things .....

    - Talent

    and

    - Knowledge

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    multiplied by

    --taste

    I think your rating order is the same that I\'d pick Joanne, with the possible exception that I\'d put \"good samples\" a notch or even two lower on any given day. The writing/orchestrating choices are definitely number one followed by miles of space before the other issues land in a fairly close clump.

    I\'d want:

    c) Any acoustic instrument...my djembe, my flugel...those are the things that feed my musicianship, and prepare me for (and heal me from) the constant production-oriented mindset I have to be in to make the monthly nut.

  4. #4

    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    Hi SWL,

    Yes talent and knowledge are key. I\'m trying to get a feel for the time we spend and the importance placed on these other technicals. I remember reading a post the other day that on many orchestrals, reverb and eq is not used all that much. Possibly the \"genre\" of the composition (rock, classical, jazz) makes a big difference with respect to how important things like panning, reverb eq etc. are.

    So often when I compose/produce, panning makes all the difference with respect to space and feel. Sometimes even more than the quality of the sample, and i find this interesting that these technicals can play such a major role.

  5. #5

    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    Bruce,

    You answered the additional question that I really did not know how to pose, which is what is the distance between your number one rank of importance and the others. It is just recently that I\'m beginning to understand the importance of number seven. Those newer to the mixing scene like me tend to think it is all those other things (EQ,VERB,PAN,SAMPLE QUALITY) that is so key.

    And of course, acoustic, (especially in a deserted island setting) would be the coolest, but again, I was trying to understand just how much we rely on these technical components to dress up our midi sample works.

  6. #6

    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    7 1 2 5 4 3 6

    7: Of course, you have to have the right instrument. I don\'t want to hear Beethoven\'s 5th with the instruments randomly assigned.

    1. Quality of samples is extremely important, because the modern libs have more and more articulations- and that\'s where a good bit of the realism comes in. And legato capability..

    2. Reverb- or lets call it ambience. That\'s why they spend a lot of money on great music halls instead of just playing in the gymnasium.

    5. volume- lets call it dynamics. It brings classical music to life. It adds to the emotion.

    4. Panning- Nice to get a good orchestra seat and hear the instruments spread, but we\'ve all heard great music from an old mono radio, and identified it as a great performance.

    3. Equalization- That\'s a fix-it patch necessary only when the orchestration is poor.

    4.Compression- Probably shouldn\'t be used on orchestral music. Used most frequently to raise the apparent loudness of pop songs on radio.

    My 2 cents-
    Cheers
    Carl

  7. #7

    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    Thoughtful points carl. I like your gym verses concert hall as the rationale for moving up reverb in importance. Or shall I say \"Ambience\"

    But the rating of number 1 seems to have the most controversy. Possibly depends on the type of music. If you are emulating orchestral, and to your point, no way to achieve this without the newest of libraries no matter how clever you are at number 7.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    I would say that compression is sometimes #2 importance of the technical \"modifications\" to signal, right behind volume. It\'s not just for \"squishing.\" Microphones don\'t hear the same way that ears hear. The difference between pianissimo and fortissimo at different microphone distances may be wider (or narrower) than the target \"mixed\" distance you\'re trying to get. Compression in that situation can actually make a track sound more \"acoustic\" than no compression.

    Compressors get a bad rap, but fact is, they\'re one of the most used tools in orchestral and pop music alike. There are many times you can warm up a sound with compression more transparently than you can warm it up with EQ.

  9. #9

    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    Bruce,

    I\'ve never heard of compression used to warm things up, but then this is why I\'m posting such basics.

    You are you talking about application of compression for live analog voice/instruments recorded via microphone correct? Or are there times you use compression to warm library samples too?

    Last question: I think of compression as someting you do to the entire mix all at once. Sounds like we are applying compression on a track by track basis?

  10. #10

    Re: Quantifying The Individual Components of Great Sound Design

    Last question: I think of compression as someting you do to the entire mix all at once. Sounds like we are applying compression on a track by track basis?
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Hi Joanne, certainly compression can be used track by track.

    Jeremy Soule mentions (in his interview here on this site) that he uses a soft knee compressor to focus the cello\'s and basses.

    Something that took me a while to learn is that compressors can add \"punchiness\" to a track - they are not only used to regulate the volume.

    You can hear a lot of compression (I think, I\'m not an expert!) on Bill Brown\'s tracks. There is one song where you can actually feel the violins hitting you as they are struck. I cant think of any other way he might\'ve achieved this effect except for compression.

    P.S; If anyone is interested the track is here; http://www.billbrownmusic.com/soundBB/TL_Timeline_Theme-Credits.mp3 - If it is not compression that is giving the strings the punchiness, I would love to know what it is.

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