In this episode I am answering a question from my community:

“How do I go about creating a template for organic sound design track?”

I love this question as it challenges some of my previous teachings about templates and workflow.

Always good to challenge your own knowledge and practices.

This one just goes into ANOTHER way of working that I use for my very successful ‘Throat’ series for Elephant music.


Hey guys, welcome to session number 14 of the trailer music composers podcast.  I like it a lot.


One with one microphone, whose favourite flavour of crisps is salt and vinegar.  Welcome to the trailer music composers podcast.

Hey guys., welcome to another session of the trailer music composers podcast.  In this session I want to answer a question that I received in the trailer music school community regarding starting out composing, getting your ideas out.  This was in response to something I was saying about sitting down and just writing and not critiquing, just getting the sounds out and letting them fly, seeing what sticks and not editing.  And the question was how do you do this when you’re working on a sound design album as in if you’re trying to find new and original sounds how do you then sort of approach the composition stage, the structure stage with that, which I think actually is an excellent question because sometimes we’re not all working with preloaded templates and wonderful samples recorded courtesy of Spitfire Audio.  Sometimes we’re working with sound design and our own sounds.

So I want to revisit that with this in mind.  What do I do as a composer when I’m approaching a sound design cure?  And the answer is twofold.  The first one is I approach it firstly with a sense of play.  If I’ve got a brief to do some tracks for a sound design album or do an entire sound design album by myself, it’s usually organic sound design because that’s the way I work.  I don’t always start by just writing a cue.  In the manner that I taught when I say that, just sitting down, write don’t edit, book track, write don’t edit, boom track.  I sometimes sit down with this in mind.

Today’s session is going to be finding cool sounds and creating cool sounds.  So when I have a session it’s kind of like my template building session where I sit down and I go through either the sample libraries I have or the synths I have and I find sounds that are appropriate for what I want to achieve.  So if as soon as I find a sound, again I don’t think about it beyond, that’s cool, I let up a new channel, that’s cool, let up a new channel.  Again not critiquing too much.  And also I don’t really want to spend too much time fiddling with the synth because that’s not the way I roll.  You might open up a synth, go into it, create a sound.  Tha’ts cool.  Led up a new synth and created a new song.  And it’s the same with me when it comes to recording my own samples.  I record a bunch of sounds, with the intention of them loading them into my door and into my magic and then creating either just literally just a channel with that sound that audio file or then creating an instrument, very quick instrument in contact that I can then use for that project and further projects in the future.  But the key there is again is not to edit what you’re doing, just to keep loading new sounds and finding new sounds and just have fun with it.  Because it’s like a kid when you go to a toy shop, you’re just like oh my gosh there’s so many cool things here that I could play with, that’s what you want, you want your template for a sound design cue, and obviously for any other cue as a trailer musician to excite you.  So that when you load up one of the sounds that you found the moment you play a single note you go yes, track, I’ve got an idea.  And you roll. And you want those sounds that you find to fire you into excitement to get the flow of inspiration going.  So it’s really, really important that you have this fun session of finding sounds.

Now again I don’t tend to mix that in my cues, I don’t tend to have little sessions of that at the start, I usually do that at the start, at the start of an album or a project where I create a template or at least create a starting logic file that has all the cool sounds I like.  

Now it might be a little bit different, so for instance the Throat albums I do for Elephant Music I obviously have my template which has percussion sounds I like and the risers that I’ve created for myself. But obviously I’m going to be recording my cello and my violin myself.  So I will be either adding, playing the cello into that fun session where I just have a session where I sit down with the cello and just record a load of riffs.  Or I would take those cool sounds that I’ve started to build in my template and just bring my cello to the table when I start to write, because obviously it’s an instrument and an exciting sound inside of itself. 

A good example of this is the way we wrote Throat 3.  So we obviously wrote Throat 2, that was a solo cello most of the time, and that was very successful.  So we went and let do Throat 3.  Let’s do more cellos so we did three cellos and a double bass.  So rather than going  into the recording session with these guys with a ton of tracks that they then just play through start to finish, I went in there with ideas and I just got them to play a ton of sounds that I thought would sound exciting. And in the session, obviously we did a ton of risers that were filthy and amazing, we did loads of crazy things like playing the cello with bags of sugar or playing the cello with little bits of wood, just to get that exploration, that fun going.  

And it’s that same thing, we’re going in with an open mind and not editing what we’re doing.  We’re going in just to have fun with it.  And that’s what you must do, you know, you must find a way to write.  But when I say write I mean commit a fun sound that you like to your project without editing it, without getting too like that sounds a bit too raspy, don’t do that now, just get the cool sounds going.,  just load them up, load up tons of sounds.  Basically it’s kind of like smash and grab. You’ve got a two hour session to go into your computer and fi8nd as many cool sounds as you possibly can, and then run and go.  Done. because actually I find that when I do that I’ve limited myself to the sods I have so that when it does come to editing those sounds I am then more creative because of the limitation.  Because remember guys limitation on your project is a spark for your imagination for your creativity.

Whether you agree with me or not that is what I have found to be true and I’ve found that to be true in all of my teaching as well.  When there has been a limitation imposed the results have often been much more interesting. Like for instance when I give my trailer composer students a brief that’s like give me an epic music track and I give them a load of references and that, the problems then start to arise, oh I’ve got so many brass libraries to choose from, so many articulations, so many string libraries, and everyone just panics that they haven’t got the best library and they haven’t got the best sound and they don’t focus on the writing.  Whereas when you go ok guys you can’t use any other libraries except this, right.  All of a sudden you get all these wonderful creative responses and you really see the creativity of the composers coming out.  So yeah, it’s a really long-winded way to say I start by having a fun playing session.

And that’s the way I like to keep it.  Because I want to keep my job fun because first of all it is blooming fun, it’s so much fun to make sounds and make music for a living but then when you get sessions where you just sit down and play, what?  Just press record on the microphone and a little toy glockenspiel is awesome.  Isn’t that so cool where you can sit down and do that.  Well I’m very blessed to be able to say that I do that, some fo you might be doing the old side hustle which is obviously what you know that I have done for many years too and hats off to you chaps it’s not an easy one, but keep the fun alive with your tracks, keep the fun alive in these sessions.  Don’t get bogged down and scared of writing.  If you can just have sessions in sound design work where you find sounds and create sounds in the most open-minded way.  Again remember what I said, oh that’s cool save it.  Start a new phone, oh that’s cool, save it, start a new one. By the time you’ve finished that session you will have countless instruments that are sounding awesome. 

And then obviously you can go back with your nerdy critical eye, put the glasses on and I can say that because I do actually have the glasses on. Put the glasses on and then sit down and go hmm.  How can I improve these sounds?  And that’s a different mindset altogether.  You’ve done the smash and grab and now you’re choosing the best sounds and what sounds would be best for what, how can I make this sound sound like this how can I make this sound sound like that? 

So that’s basically it, the answer is template creation, template creating but make it fun, make it fun.  Because then what you can do is each time you create a template you’ve got a weapon in your arsenal and that’s amazing, it’s a huge, huge bonus to have that.  And remember guys keep it fun, keep enjoying what you’re doing.

That’s a bit of a short one today but I think this is a real necessary one especially for those of you who work in sound design, and don’t forget to explore and have fun with it. And also try a couple of wild cards, try some instruments you’ve never tried before or try a recording way that you’ve never tried before.  The way you do as a kid you’d be like what happens when I do this?  Obviously I never had those deep thoughts as a kid that wasn’t true.  What happens when I do this type of thing.  I’ve turned into Stewie haven’t I what happens when I do this.  Think about how you can bring that fun into those sessions.  That’s really important because that fun will put wonderful energy into your session and that energy will then feed through all your tracks and feed through the listener energy is huge and it will travel across space and time.

Ok anyway enough of that.  Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to me jibber jabber and I really do hope you got something out of it.  Again I like to think they’re small tit hits, I’m not like supplying you a massive three course meal here I’m giving you a little snack. Here’s a little pot of raisins in musical terms for you to snack on and mull over and take to your trailer music practice. 

Thanks very much for taking the time to listen guys you are totally awesome and I so very much appreciate it.

See you.