App and Game Icons

Creating interactive sound effects for apps, games and digital interfaces

Digital media is well upon us, with the average adult spending around 5.6 hours per day in the USA using it as of this writing. (Data from

Mobile apps and games on your mobile/cell phone or tablet are used around the world and children are using such devices from an increasingly young age.

Sound design for apps and games and other digital media is an excellent market to target if you are wanting to create sound effect packs or libraries aimed specifically at developers for these genres and it doesn’t have to be that difficult to create some really useable sounds.

As a sound designer, I’ve worked with companies as small as a brand new ‘one-man-band’ start-up through to developing the sound for games for companies such as Hasbro. It may sound surprising that in most cases, the sounds needed for such games and apps were the simplest ones to create, but that’s the truth. If you’re wanting to develop the sound design for complex games for mainstream games consoles like X-box and Playstation, you’re going to be putting yourself in amongst some very talented sound designers in a very competitive industry. But if you are looking for some ‘bread and butter’ work to bring in some regular money, then creating some simple tone packs could be the answer for you.

You may by now have realised I am talking about creating packs, or libraries of sounds that can be used generically in lower budget (but also high budget) apps and games but also that lend themselves to digital systems, navigational elements for interactive displays and exhibits (such as in museums) and much more.

Beeps, blips, swooshes and pings

Now for the fun part… how to make some simple, yet highly in demand sound effects that game, app and digital developers will jump at the chance to buy and use. If you’re not a regular user of apps, games or other digital interactive products, go grab a few (mostly they are free) and play around and absorb the sounds. Then come back here after realizing how simple they are.

If you haven’t already, grab yourself a low cost software music software package such as Acoustica’s Mixcraft for $90. You’ll also probably need a cheap keyboard for triggering the sounds. Check out something like M-audio Oxygen range and grab yourself one for around $50 second hand. The investment is worth it as it’ll make life so much easier. You can make the money back in a couple of sales.

Now simply load some software instruments onto a track and start playing around. Classic instruments like the marimba, xylophone and some other tuned percussion as well as piano’s electric pianos, harps and guitars and are good starting points for organic beeps, tones and other sounds. Try creating sounds in groups, like error tones, completiton tones and other actions like object collect, lose, drop, bounce, run, power up, processing… the list goes on. Once you have created some interesting elements, try layering up more synthetic ones on top… a good example maybe a soft pad with a short attack and release over a harsher organic element to create a pleasing software tone. Negative tones can be produced with lower frequency stab sounds such as an electronic keyboard.

Once you mix these sounds down, you can start editing them again by reversing them, pitching them up and down or running them through something like the SFXmachine Pro which does a good job at creating some weird and wonderful alternatives.

I’m not going to go into much more detail as the beauty of this technique is how your creativity will flow and how quickly you can create hundreds of very useable (and sellable) sound effects. Then all you need to do is start marketing your sounds around the many libraries that will sell them for you and give you a commission, or push the sales directly to your customers yourself.

We offer thousands of free sound effects for games, apps, digital interfaces and more here

By Alan