Sep 05
Waveform mix

The Art of Layering sound: How the pros do it.

A couple of weeks ago, we tweeted asking what kind of articles you’d like to see on the blog – what aspects of sound design you’d like us to cover. One of you replied and said they’d like something on how to combine sounds to make a new sound effect. This is a fascinating and vital topic and one of particular interest to me because, I’ll freely admit, it’s not my strongest area. I tend to be more about combining plugins, using them like instruments to make a new sound effect.

We’ve been all a-bustle at the moment preparing a new horror sound effects pack for Halloween, which is due for release on 8. September, so we haven’t had chance to write our own article yet, but, as luck would have it, I came across three excellent demonstrations of how sound designers combine assets to make entirely new composite sounds, which I found inspiring so here they are below.


The Hidden Benefits of Beer

The first article, which appears on Designing Sound, written by Oscar Coen, is perhaps the most ambitious, aiming to make all the mechanical and shooting elements for a plasma gun from just one prop…a beer can. This approach may well be “wildly impractical” as the author says, but he then proceeds to make a very inspirational job of it.

In addition to the chance to see his approach, you can download all the source material he recorded for the project to create your own weird and wonderful sounds. We’re sorry to say that, while being extremely generous in sharing his source material, he seems to have been less willing to share the beer. Honestly!

Click here to read this article


An Organic Approach to Magic

The next Article I came across appears on Sound Spark’s website. It describes the compilation of a library of magical sound effects, including how to make fire without using fire and ice without using ice. I enjoyed reading this article because the approach used is so different from the one I usually use, i.e. very low on processing.

Like the last article, it’s full of audio examples and concludes with a demo for the whole library so you can see how the layers that were demonstrated earlier in the article were combined.

Click here to read this article


A Quiver Full of Layers

The last article is a video providing a fascinating insight into sound designer Bobby Moen’s process for designing a set of archery sounds for the game Crowfall. Sounds used include a pitched up swarm of bees, a flute and a stretched leather jacket. what I particularly liked about this article was that, when I heard the individual layers in isolation, I thought, “really? How’s that going to work?”. Of course it does work very well due to the mixing, showing how important being able to picture sounds in different contexts is when building believable sounds.

You can watch this video below:


Hopefully you found these articles helpful. Do you have any tips of your own? Have you come across any articles you’d like to share? Let us know either on Twitter or join the discussion on our Facebook group.

About The Author

Justin Macleod is a sound designer based in the UK who runs SkyClad Sound. You can check out his sound effects here at and follow him on Twitter @SkycladSound

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