I’m taking a little break from the “Microgame Platformer” series to show you a cool little exercise I came up with!
I really like the idea of limiting yourself in some way when creating sounds. It tends to inspire more creativity within you, while also giving you space to learn completely different/new ways of doing things. Limits also allow you to work quicker and more effectively, since you only have a certain set of options to choose from when designing, so forget about having an existential crisis about which of your 60 EQ’s best fits the job and just limit yourself to one.
Blipsounds has a competition each month that’s based entirely on this concept (if you don’t know them, they’re a game audio design/teaching service). The challenge this month was to create a spell from League of Legends using only synth sounds.
Here’s what I came up with for that challenge!
What’s so great about this challenge is that it can teach sound designers of all levels something new about sound design. So it doesn’t matter how good (or bad) you think you are, you can still do these challenges and learn something no matter what.
I wanted to expand on this concept a bit, adding more variations and some randomness to the challenges. While also allowing you to get some solid sound design practice in a couple of times a month (or however much you want).
So I wrote a list of 43 different challenges (which will be posted below) that will limit you in some way or another, thereby teaching you different things. These challenges vary from only using a specific amount of plugins, deadlines, techniques and so forth. I also strongly encourage you add your own challenges to the list to expand it as much as possible. I might be that you have a certain plugin you want to try out, so make a challenge only using that. Maybe you have a certain technique you’ve never tried, so make a challenge only using that as well.
The basic idea is that you then make a folder full of short gameplay clips from a variety of games (I would recommend around 30-40 clips). You then choose a random clip, maybe using a random number generator like Random.org.
You then use a random number generator once again to choose a challenge. Your task is now to do sound design for the chosen clip, while sticking to the guidelines of your challenge. Remember, some challenges and clip combinations might seem impossible, but I really want you to try anyway! I can almost guarantee that you can make it cool regardless.
43 Ways To Challenge Yourself
- Only use noise (White, Pink, etc.)
- Only use your own voice
- Only use synthesizers
- Only use sound libraries
- Only use material that you recorded yourself
- Only use a single source
- Use a random word generator to find 5 random words, type the results into your sound search engine and only use the first results as your source.
- Before seeing the video, record 5-8 random sounds around your house, and only use those as the source.
- Use a single “click” as the source for everything
- Do whatever you want!
- You can only use a single plugin
- You can only use 5 plugins (or use dice roll to determine)
- You can only use musical instruments (real or VST’s)
- Use a plugin you have never used before
- Use silence somewhere
- Prepare 6 folders of 6-8 sounds, dice roll for which one to use
- You can only use 2 layers (or use dice roll to determine)
- You can only use free sounds (freesound.org, youtube, etc.)
- You can only use automation to change plugin parameters
- You can only use stock plugins
- Try out a new DAW (or other DAW than usual)
- Get a friend to send you 5-8 sounds, only use those
- Record your sources with a microphone you wouldn’t normally use
- Try performing and recording the sound in real time as foley and then manipulate it afterwards
- Only use white noise
- Write down exactly what you want the sound to represent before designing it
- Be as minimalistic as possible
- Go completely over the top (HOLLYWOOD!!)
- Don’t use any reverb
- Give yourself a deadline (or have someone else set it for you)
- Create a set of source material for your sound first, then edit afterwards (aim for speed and quantity)
- Finish sound design for one part of the video before moving on to the next (and so on)
- Don’t use ANY of the plugins/tools you normally use
- Don’t use any presets in any of your plugins
- Only use presets in any of your plugins
- Do 4x Pomodoro sessions each day (20/25 minutes work – 5 minute break) until the sound is finished
- Divide your sound into Foreground, Middle Ground and Background. Work on those layers separately. Make a list of what sounds should go where before beginning.
- When the sound is finished, create 7 variations on it
- Use another sound as reference to your own (not the original one)
- Draw a dramatic contour for your sound before making it, thinking about the “melody” of the sound.
- Record yourself mimicking the sound you want with your voice, import the recording into your DAW, use that as a frame of reference.
- You can only use Samplers for processing
- Use side-chaining somewhere in your sound
Wrapping It Up
You don’t have to use these exact challenges of course (but feel free to!), I highly encourage you to expand and make your own depending on your needs.
Hope you find this inspiring and helpful, see you next week!