28 September - 2015
A Guide to Free and Simple Sound Design By: Help For Bands, 0 Comments

The sheer range of software available for sound design is staggering. To someone who’s looking to start using their machine for more than just recording, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start looking for new tools. There are some real gems hidden out there; there’s a huge selection of bitesize programs capable of creating sound design that will add spice to any track. The good news: they’re powerful. The best news? They’re free! See our previous blog about useful free music software.

These four programs are capable of completely changing the face of your track. It doesn’t matter what you put into it – vocals, guitars, saxophones, you name it. These tools will help you come up with surprising and interesting sound design. PaulStretch, SPEAR and Cecilia5 are standalone, but don’t be afraid to combine them or alter the result even further. Go forth and experiment!

PaulStretch

If there was an award for the sketchiest looking website and the most “vintage” interface, then this little antiquity would certainly win it. This is a powerful tool which uses Fast Fourier Transform to stretch samples to ridiculous lengths, creating beautiful chime-like sounds from the grungiest of sources. PaulStretch is perfect for creating haunting pad sounds from guitar chords and pure, crystalline sounds from vocal samples. Armed with processes such as a pitch shift and an octave mixer, you can achieve a complete transformation before you’ve even touched your recording software.

PaulStretch sound design

PaulStretch – download (Windows)

SPEAR

SPEAR takes your sample, breaks it down and recreates it using sine waves which you can then manipulate to your heart’s content. You are free to crush them, stretch them, alter their frequency/volume or delete them entirely. If you’re feeling arty, you can even draw the sine tones in yourself. For vocal tracks, SPEAR’s sine wave reconstruction is a fascinating effect in itself.

SPEAR sound design

SPEAR – download (Windows or OS X)

Soundmagic Spectral

This selection of fast Fourier transform-based plugins by Michael Norris are simple but very effective. They plug directly into most DAWs (e.g. Logic X, Ableton Live, Cubase) which, whilst it may require a bit of Googling, means you can use them directly on your recordings. There are 24 separate plugins – there’s a couple that deal with stretching to achieve similar results to PaulStretch, and others that add harmonic detail. Play around, but keep the FFT size below 4096 to prevent slowdowns.

Sound magic Spectral sound design

Soundmagic Spectral – download (OS X)

Cecilia5

Cecilia is a standalone tool with many facets, capable of automating multiple sample parameters at once. It has its own set of FFT processes and a range of more conventional plugins, such as filters and pitch-altering suites. Whilst it’s slightly more complex than the other pieces of software we’ve talked about, the ability to combine each process on the fly can lead to some interesting results.

Cecilia5 sound design

Cecilia5 – download (Windows or OS X)