Use Found Sounds for Percussion

I’ve gotten a lot of questions through the Academy (and through good ole email) asking for tips on making drum racks more, well, interesting. In this excerpt from the Ableton Cookbook Academy office hours, I show you a method that I’ve found really helpful: Using found sounds for percussion, in lieu of or in addition to high hats.

By “found sounds”, I mean any non-percussive sound. In my example above, I use the sound of wood being scraped, but in the past, I’ve used contact mic sounds, water burbling, ping pong balls, etc. Using these sounds will introduce textures that you never would have thought of, as well as some rhythmic variation that will make your beats slightly more off-kilter and “human.” Check it out and leave me any questions in the comments!

P.S. A great resource for unconventional sounds is the Freesound project

4 Responses to “Use Found Sounds for Percussion”

  1. AfroDJMac August 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Beautiful brother!

  2. Neeevaaar August 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Unhinged, hah. Tops. I also like using the Frequency Shifter set to Ring mode, then tune it up to 5-10kHz to get the classic hi-hat sound. To get stereo width out of it, I’ll switch on Wide mode and set it to -2 to 2 Hz. I might fiddle with the Dry/Wet to balance the original found sound with the modulated sound, since the point of using found sound isn’t necessarily to remove its identity or charm. Or maybe it is. Wet at 100% is a quick way to generate hi-hats that are reminiscent of 808 and 909’y hats, but still novel. Anywhere in between just mixes in that texture. Whatever makes it sit in the mix.

  3. Neeevaaar August 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Oh yeah, not to mention playing with pitch, the pitch envelope, amplitude envelopes, and combining that with layering to make crazy unhinged percussion. I always wantonly up-pitch and down-pitch everything just to see what comes out. Sometimes I’ll use down-pitched samples to warm up sterile synthetic kicks and snares by layering or side-chain gating them in another channel. When in doubt, I indulge mania and go crazy twisting knobs, layering effects, and bouncing down multiple times, reversing audio, and resampling into Sampler or Simpler. Ifan Dafydd is doing some really crazy stuff with found sound.

  4. maqa October 10, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    anthony, where i can listen to your music?

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