Sound creativity Asbjoern Andersen


How do you set your creativity free and get rid of the things that hold you back? Mark Kilborn has some interesting thoughts and ideas on that - and he's kindly allowed us to share it here on the blog:
Written by Mark Kilborn
Please share:

In my late 20s, a friend of my wife and I asked me to accompany she and her son to an audition. Her son, who was 5 or 6 at the time, was auditioning for a part on a TV show that was going to start filming in the area soon. At one point during the audition, the gentleman who met with us asked the boy to scream. He let out a timid scream, more like quietly mimicking a scream than actually screaming.
“No, scream! As loud as you can!” the man encouraged.

He let out another scream, a little bit louder, but still just at speaking volume. He tried two or three more times, and then the man moved on to a few other questions, and the audition wrapped up. He didn’t get a call back. He forgot about it, it wasn’t a big deal.
The man was trying to see how inhibited this kid was. Could he just completely let loose and scream at the top of his lungs on command? Or was he going to be too embarrassed, timid, shy, pick your reason? I imagine this information would give him an idea of how the kid would behave on set, whether he’d be willing to do whatever silly things they needed for the show, or whether he’d burn precious production time.

We have to be willing to try new approaches that may violate “the rules” of audio, to proceed despite the fear of failure

There’s a parallel between what this guy wanted to see this kid do, and what we do every time we sit down in front of a project: we have to be uninhibited. We have to be willing to try new approaches that may violate “the rules” of audio, to proceed despite the fear of failure.
I’ve talked with a lot of sound friends throughout my career, and a favorite topic I come back to is whether creativity can be learned/taught or not. It is my belief that the core concepts of it can be taught, certain behaviors and studies can be encouraged, but ultimately there are elements of the creative instinct that are either going to surface or not. One of those elements of the creative instinct is the ability to overcome inhibition and proceed in creative ways.

I struggled with this a lot early in my career, but I’ve come up with a few things that help me, and I’ve borrowed some from friends, and I wanted to share them with you in the hopes they will help you to get out of your own way and be creative when you need to.
 

Practice Breaking “Audio Rules”

One of the greatest creative inhibitors in the world of sound effects design is simply adherence to the “rules” of audio. You shouldn’t clip a bus. You have to put your time-based effects on an aux return, not use them as an insert. You shouldn’t hear a compressor pump.

There are so many rules. Practice breaking them. Do things that are wrong, do it intentionally, and if it makes you uncomfortable, that’s even better. Slam the hell out of some source material, then slam it some more, and hear what happens. Chain six delays in a row on a single layer in your build and hear what happens.

There are so many rules. Practice breaking them.

I believe very deeply that it’s important to understand the fundamentals of signal flow and good audio engineering, and I would encourage anyone pursuing our field to gain that knowledge. But you also need to achieve a level of comfort with violating those rules and experimenting. Following all of the rules and not pushing your methods and tools as far as you possibly can is you being afraid to scream as loudly as you can.
 

Force Yourself to Do Uncomfortable Things

Take a cue from the kid I mentioned earlier in the article: go outside and scream as loud as you can. Howl at the moon. If you want to really get out of your comfort zone, attempt something that scares you: bungee jumping, skydiving, eating strange foods, you name it.
I am one of those people that likes everything to look new, always. If I get even the tiniest crack in my phone screen, I want to fix the screen.

It’s like a muscle. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more easily you can do it in the future

When I used to buy laptops, I would never put stickers on them. Lately, I’ve been living with a minor crack in my screen. I’ve put stickers on my laptop. When I feel myself resisting doing something because it makes me feel uncomfortable, but I logically understand there’s no danger, I do it anyway. It’s like a muscle. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more easily you can do it in the future.
 

Put Your Editor in a Cage

Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors of all time, did a lot of free writing. When he passed away, his family found filing cabinets full of short stories, poems and other things he wrote over the course of his life. He wrote almost every single day, and he believed in writing down whatever story he could come up with, and not editing it as he worked. Once it was done, he would then review it with the editor’s eye, make changes and adjustments, and ultimately decide whether or not it was something he wanted to share with the world.

I encourage you to think of the editorial part of your brain as an individual separate from yourself. At the risk of making everyone think I’m a bit crazy, I’ll tell you that mine’s an asshole. He tells me everything that’s wrong with what I’ve done.
His voice shifts between the voices of a few critics I’ve had over the course of my career that did their best to tear me down at every opportunity. I don’t like him. But he serves a purpose. When I let the editor out of his cage, I listen to his criticisms, I decide what I think has value and what doesn’t, and then I tell him to shut the hell up and lock him away again.

When I was young, I read an interview with Tori Amos in which she described her songs as “girls” that she knew, and talked about their personalities. I thought she was crazy at the time, but now I understand how personifying components of your creative process can help you internally manage the process.
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Horror Giant Pinecones Play Track 500+ sounds included, 44 mins total $79

    • In Giant Pinecones, get a visceral collection of scraped and eviscerated pinecones from the gray pine trees of Northern California. Scrape the razor-sharp hooks of the cone petals and hear guttural scrapes crackling with energy. Hear rolling cones popping and fluttering with rich stuttering tones. Hear fully open cone pedals squeaking with woody vocalizations like supernatural animals and hardy crunches filled with organic grit.
    • This library offers you an extensive collection of sounds from a unique organic sound source. Digger pinecone sounds are incredibly soft and intimate in real life, but when recorded from two inches they morph into a unique wooden sound source brimming with powerful glitchy and stuttering textures.

    2% FOR THE ENVIRONMENT & CARBON NEUTRAL:
    • Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause, as an “artist royalty” for the planet!
    • Carbon offset credits were purchased to offset my field recording travel for this library.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Woody vocalizations
    • Rolling, scraping, and stuttering textures
    • Visceral and guttural scrapes
    • Fluttering and popping textures
    • Rich crunches
    • Chalkboard-like squeaks and squeals
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    • A spectrogram is included for each audio file. Double click on the photo to enlarge.
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ testimonials for Thomas Rex Beverly Audio
    • Read my Field Recording Mastering Rules and learn more about how these recordings were mastered.
    • Browse the Library Info Master List to compare specs on all my libraries.
    • Browse the Metadata Master List to search my entire catalog.
    • MD5 and SHA 256 Checksums are included for each zip file in my catalog. Use these hashes to check the integrity of your downloaded files.
    GEAR USED:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 and MKH30 in MS
    • Sound Devices MixPre-6
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  • Recording of the American 2017 Polaris Ranger EV. Powered by an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor.


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    The sound pack includes 4 synchronized takes of onboard driving. 4 channels of audio capture the engine and onboard perspectives, with 2 custom stereo mixes provided. Performances include driving slow and fast, with steady RPMs and ramps, starting, stopping, and more.

    The package includes Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, full professional metadata, and metadata import files in 7 languages.

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    Bring your sounds to life

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  • Cricket – Junior & Senior is our latest SFX library toolkit, created to cater to cricket specific sounds. We have covered a broad range of specific sounds that differentiate Cricket from other batting sports. Included are sounds for Cricket Gear, Movements, Batting, Bowling, Fielding and Other Miscellaneous sounds.

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  • An ice hockey game is an exciting, dynamic and powerful sonic experience. From the thunderous crack of a puck hitting the boards at full speed to the gentle scrape of a stick on the ice, this library contains a complete range of the game’s on ice sounds, all captured with natural reverb in an indoor arena.

    Included are a range of performances of skate, stick, puck, and whistle sounds, as well as rink door opens and closes, and various board, glass, and ice impacts.

    The skate sounds include starts, stops, turns, and pass bys, as well as single steps and scrapes for detailed editing and layering. Stick sounds include different kinds of shots, passes, drops and scrapes, and impacts with other sticks, the boards, and the ice. Puck sounds include impacts with the ice, boards, skates, the goal metal and net, and even goalie pads. Rink sounds include the opening and closing of doors, impacts with the boards and glass, and a goal horn. Two different types of whistles were recorded, with varying durations.

    Each sound effect performance was recorded from multiple perspectives – a stereo ORTF pair of Lewitt LCT 540s microphones, a closer wide XY from an Audio Technica BP4025, and a close mono Schoeps CMC6/MK41 – either stationary or following the action on a boom, depending on the type of sound. The ratio of direct to reverberant sound differs between these perspectives, offering a variety of options when editing to picture.

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Meditation

In early 2019, I began practicing meditation, and I’ve found it to be tremendously beneficial to me. I’m not as diligent about it as I should be, especially as I write this (in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with my wife and three children in our house always, it’s very difficult to get alone time), but it’s been wonderful.

The method I use is transcendental meditation. I visited a teacher, he taught me how to do it, and I do it. But the specific method isn’t important. What’s important is that it allows me to perform a sort of emotional reboot of myself.

I’ve found this helps me keep the editor in his cage, and creates less mental resistance to experimenting and trying different ideas

Turning inward, focusing on my mantra, and allowing the world to just go by me for 25 minutes or so relieves stress, tension, and allows me to sit down at my desk and focus on my work with fewer worries lingering in the back of my mind.
I’ve found this helps me keep the editor in his cage, and creates less mental resistance to experimenting and trying different ideas.
 

Following (and Breaking) Established Processes

In talking about being creatively uninhibited, it may seem odd to mention established processes as a method to spark creativity, but I’ve found it works well for me. I have a method to my practice for designing the sound of a project on a higher level, but also specific methods I like to use when attempting to create certain types of sound effects. I have sound effects templates in Reaper and sound effects chains in Soundminer that are built around these various methods, and I use them as a starting point when building certain types of sound.

Often it’s better for me to start with a framework of rules, an established process, and then deviate from it once I’ve started chasing a spark and instinct has taken over

I’ve found in my practice that having a completely open-ended process, with no boundaries whatsoever, is intimidating. Where do I start? What should I do? There are too many choices: too many plugins, too many recordings in the library. Some days I can overcome this, pick a direction and just start going, but often it’s better for me to start with a framework of rules, an established process, and then deviate from it once I’ve started chasing a spark and instinct has taken over.
 

Creative Fear

As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve had the chance to talk to some of my heroes, and to a lot of sound designers who are far more experienced than I am. One of the topics I like to ask them about is how confident they are about their work. Do they really know what they’re doing every time they sit down to work? Do they know if they’ll reach a result? Are they just winging it?
Fear of failure has haunted me most of my life, as it has many people. But what I’ve learned from talking to some of the most talented sound folks I know is that they often don’t know what the hell they’re doing either. I’ve had Oscar winning sound people tell me that they fail regularly in their work. And we’re not talking about a few times a year, we’re talking about hundreds of times on a single project. They make something, it doesn’t work, they trash it and start again.
They regularly feel the pressure of not knowing how they’re going to overcome the challenge in front of them, but they charge ahead despite the fear because, well they’re on the hook and really have no choice.

Don’t be afraid to start because you don’t know how you will reach the end result you desire. And don’t think you have to hear the sound in your head before you can make it.

The important takeaway here? Don’t be afraid to try something because you don’t know how it’s going to work out. Don’t be afraid to start because you don’t know how you will reach the end result you desire. And don’t think you have to hear the sound in your head before you can make it. Acknowledge the fear, but let go, lose yourself in the process, and trust that something will work out.
Your heroes, the people who have made amazing sounding films and games, whose interviews you read and study for any little tidbit you can learn from? Odds are they don’t know how the hell they’re going to get through their next project. They just know that they will, because they’ve figured it before. So will you.

A big thanks to Mark Kilborn for letting us share his thoughts on how to deal with creative inhibitions! Learn more about Mark Kilborn and his work here

 

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    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + 2 x Sennheiser MKH8060 + ATE208 (M/S)
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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Horror Giant Pinecones Play Track 500+ sounds included, 44 mins total $79

    • In Giant Pinecones, get a visceral collection of scraped and eviscerated pinecones from the gray pine trees of Northern California. Scrape the razor-sharp hooks of the cone petals and hear guttural scrapes crackling with energy. Hear rolling cones popping and fluttering with rich stuttering tones. Hear fully open cone pedals squeaking with woody vocalizations like supernatural animals and hardy crunches filled with organic grit.
    • This library offers you an extensive collection of sounds from a unique organic sound source. Digger pinecone sounds are incredibly soft and intimate in real life, but when recorded from two inches they morph into a unique wooden sound source brimming with powerful glitchy and stuttering textures.

    2% FOR THE ENVIRONMENT & CARBON NEUTRAL:
    • Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause, as an “artist royalty” for the planet!
    • Carbon offset credits were purchased to offset my field recording travel for this library.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Woody vocalizations
    • Rolling, scraping, and stuttering textures
    • Visceral and guttural scrapes
    • Fluttering and popping textures
    • Rich crunches
    • Chalkboard-like squeaks and squeals
    FILE LIST & METADATA:
    • View larger version or Download CSV
    • A spectrogram is included for each audio file. Double click on the photo to enlarge.
    MORE INFO:
    • Read 40+ testimonials for Thomas Rex Beverly Audio
    • Read my Field Recording Mastering Rules and learn more about how these recordings were mastered.
    • Browse the Library Info Master List to compare specs on all my libraries.
    • Browse the Metadata Master List to search my entire catalog.
    • MD5 and SHA 256 Checksums are included for each zip file in my catalog. Use these hashes to check the integrity of your downloaded files.
    GEAR USED:
    • Sennheiser MKH8040 and MKH30 in MS
    • Sound Devices MixPre-6
  • Recording of the American 2017 Polaris Ranger EV. Powered by an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor.


    The American 2017 Polaris Industries Ranger EV sound collection shares 44 sounds in 3.49 gigabytes of audio. It showcases the sound of an electric utility vehicle’s 48-volt high-efficiency AC-induction motor in 4 channels with 2 custom stereo mixes.

    The sound pack includes 4 synchronized takes of onboard driving. 4 channels of audio capture the engine and onboard perspectives, with 2 custom stereo mixes provided. Performances include driving slow and fast, with steady RPMs and ramps, starting, stopping, and more.

    The package includes Pro Tools and Reaper mixing sessions, full professional metadata, and metadata import files in 7 languages.

  • A crush on music

    Distortion and saturation play a very important role in music production. From subtle, clean and warm tube or tape saturation to the wildest multiband guitar amp effects: FabFilter Saturn 2 delivers.

    Saturn 2 introduces a host of new features such as a redesigned interface with modulation visualization, new subtle saturation and linear phase processing for mastering, many new distortion styles, and more.


    Warmth, harmonics, color and dynamics

    FabFilter Saturn 2 offers a range of different high quality distortion models, inspired by the vintage sound of tubes, tape, transformers and guitar amps. In addition, you get five creative FX distortion styles to mangle your sounds in weird and unexpected ways.

    With its multiband design and per-band feedback, dynamics, drive, tone and modulation options, Saturn 2 will bring a unique flavor to your music.

    Bring your sounds to life

    Add life and depth to your music using the extensive modulation section. By applying subtle modulation to crossover frequencies, dynamics, band levels or tone controls, great warmth and definition can be achieved.

    With all the XLFOs, EGs, XY controllers/sliders, envelope followers and MIDI sources you will ever need, you get practically unlimited modulation possibilities. Creating new modulation connections could not be easier: just drag and drop. And Saturn 2 visualizes all modulation in real-time to show exactly what’s going on.

    FabFilter goodies

    Finally, FabFilter Saturn 2 contains all the usual FabFilter goodies: perfectly tuned knobs, MIDI Learn, Smart Parameter Interpolation for smooth parameter transitions, interface resizing and full screen mode, support for Avid control surfaces, GPU-powered graphics acceleration, extensive help with interactive help hints, SSE optimization, and much more.

  • Cricket – Junior & Senior is our latest SFX library toolkit, created to cater to cricket specific sounds. We have covered a broad range of specific sounds that differentiate Cricket from other batting sports. Included are sounds for Cricket Gear, Movements, Batting, Bowling, Fielding and Other Miscellaneous sounds.

    17 %
    OFF
    Ends 1590530399
  • An ice hockey game is an exciting, dynamic and powerful sonic experience. From the thunderous crack of a puck hitting the boards at full speed to the gentle scrape of a stick on the ice, this library contains a complete range of the game’s on ice sounds, all captured with natural reverb in an indoor arena.

    Included are a range of performances of skate, stick, puck, and whistle sounds, as well as rink door opens and closes, and various board, glass, and ice impacts.

    The skate sounds include starts, stops, turns, and pass bys, as well as single steps and scrapes for detailed editing and layering. Stick sounds include different kinds of shots, passes, drops and scrapes, and impacts with other sticks, the boards, and the ice. Puck sounds include impacts with the ice, boards, skates, the goal metal and net, and even goalie pads. Rink sounds include the opening and closing of doors, impacts with the boards and glass, and a goal horn. Two different types of whistles were recorded, with varying durations.

    Each sound effect performance was recorded from multiple perspectives – a stereo ORTF pair of Lewitt LCT 540s microphones, a closer wide XY from an Audio Technica BP4025, and a close mono Schoeps CMC6/MK41 – either stationary or following the action on a boom, depending on the type of sound. The ratio of direct to reverberant sound differs between these perspectives, offering a variety of options when editing to picture.

    Also included are quad-channel room tones from two different ice rinks, and a special onboard recording of a puck, made by taping a Sony PCM-M10 to a puck and sliding it across the surface of the ice.

    The actions were performed at a range of speeds and energy levels, with multiple takes for variety. Please refer to the sound list pdf below for details. Captured at a sampling rate of 96kHz, these recordings contain detailed information above 20kHz, expanding the possibilities for manipulation when slowing and pitching them down.

    30 %
    OFF
 
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