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How To Study Sound Design

Adam Scott

This article will discuss how to study sound design, as well as how to interview sound designers and producers. My goal is to help any level student get a job in the sound industry.

How to become a sound designer?

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing the many great people who have helped me on this path. Their knowledge has helped me become a better sound designer.

All four of these sound designers are great examples of how to become a sound designer. You can learn a great deal from them, and I think you will too.

I have yet to meet a sound designer who is not happy. They love what they do and that is what separates them from most. Their passion is infectious. It makes me want to work hard to become a better sound designer.

You will be one too if you start. Your own work is the best way to learn.

You can’t just be mediocre. Achieving your best is what this article is about.

You can do it. We can do it.

It takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of good habits. You have to look inside of you to find that fire.

Elevate your work, and elevate yourself, as I like to say.


How to study sound designJABRA Elite 65t true wireless earphones

I personally find this to be one of the most important parts of becoming a sound designer. While most people work in a production or post-production environment, the work is almost always done in the recording studios, soundstages, and music studios.

This gives you an opportunity to get some really awesome job opportunities. I know that was my motivation in creating this course.

As we all know, recording and mixing is one of the most important components of sound design.

What is a pattern?

A pattern, for all practical purposes, is any tool, like a key, which you use regularly for a certain purpose. In some cases, the same tool can be used in different places for the same purpose, but that’s not really something you can learn, and shouldn’t really matter, because, other than that, they should look the same.

It’s not about the appearance of the tool, but about how the tool is used. A key might look like a sledgehammer, and can serve the same purpose as a key, but if the hammer is put in a bowl of water and used with the right hand, or put in a bowl of water and used with the left hand, it’s not the same, so the way it is used is a pattern.

Types of patternsblack Marshall portable speaker near white computer keyboard on black and white striped textile

The standard ‘staple’ patterns are:

  • Action patterns
  • Lining patterns
  • ‘Quarter’ patterns
  • Repeating patterns
  • Sequencing patterns

Note that these patterns are not always found in actual instruments, they are designed to be used with a specific instrument.

Each of the different patterns has its own name. For instance, the action pattern might be something like Auto-Harmonize or an Auto-Pitch.

The units of measure for a pattern can be standard units, such as up to two eighth notes or something like 4th to 1/8 notes, or the unit could be a meter, foot or even notes (there are no hard and fast rules on this).

These patterns are known as main patterns or smart patterns.

As stated above, it is also important that these patterns should be treated the same when used with a certain instrument. However, if they are used with an equal instrument, the pattern name should match.

So, if the pattern has an Auto-Harmonize set, it’s just called that, no need to name it Auto-Harmonize.

The same goes for the aforementioned repetitive pattern. In a traditional keyboard instrument, you might find something like 88518, but if you use it on a synth, the pattern might be called 108309.

If you switch to a drum set, the pattern might be called 785980.

Selection of patternsIn love whit the iPhone X

Patterns are not all created equal. Some patterns have very few and specific variations, which aren’t really patterns at all, but just short variations.

Others are a bit more general in their usage. There are patterns such as 6120, 108309, 88518, 88545, 284610, 968100, and so on.

These patterns are used in all sorts of instruments and should have a pretty clear definition.

For the sake of simplicity, I will show you a few patterns that I believe are well understood. This means that they have a well understood usage, or they are used in some other way in a lot of different kinds of instruments, and therefore are often used in teaching and so on.

First of all, let’s look at a really simple pattern. The whole purpose of a pattern is to save you time and effort in some way, so if we’re going to have a pattern, let’s have one that is simple to learn, as well as providing an intuitive progression.

So, the pattern we’ll choose is called 3 with a descending octave.

It’s one or two semitones down from the 514 pattern (the standard main pattern) and it’s only one semitone down from the 704 pattern, which is also a good starting pattern for both beginners and intermediates.

It means that you start on a note of some sort, and then play the octave below that note. To make it more complex, you can always extend it by adding more notes in the octave.

After all, why would you play just three notes? In my opinion, having a three semitone down pattern is a good way to get the ear used to a pattern at first, and then gradually change it to more complex patterns.

Here are a few good examples of people using this pattern:

  • Bow sax
  • Guitar
  • Ukulele
  • Snare drum
  • Hi-hat
  • Drumkit
  • Cymbals
  • Floor tom
  • Quad bass

Really, the possibilities are endless, and you can build up patterns from this simple one very easily.

Now, a pattern can’t be written in one or two dimensions. However, there are lots of patterns that have a fixed scale.

The simplest way to think about these is like writing down a rectangle on a piece of paper and then allowing it to fold to the middle. After all, you can either draw a square or a rectangle, but you can’t draw both at once.

So, these patterns are what we might think of as a fixed scale pattern. With these types of patterns, you have the standard major scale from the top to the bottom, and the notes are the same in the upper and the lower ranges.

For instance, the most common mode of these is the minor scale. So, a major scale is in G, minor is in G, and so on.

Of course, this type of pattern does not have any range notes in it. If you wanted to, you could add more notes, but it’s not really necessary.

This means that with this type of pattern, it’s much easier to memorize the pattern. I have seen patterns in which there are only six notes in it.

The notes are written on the pattern sheet, but they are not actually there.


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