Hey everyone,

Starting to tire of the literal soundscapes that most of my projects up to now have involved. For the next project I'm involved with it's dark, deep, unnatural and all-round funky!

I don't want to use Pro Tools and say. . some deep base sounds, strings etc as that's too set and simple..

I guess my question is - do you guys know of any great free standalone apps (usually these are roughly made apps) that allow the creation of soundscapes/textures?

I used to use one where you could load a sample in, and it would stretch, pitch manipulate, reverberate and cause great evolving textures to stem from the original sound (even an easy to use modular synthesiser). I use Pro Tools so limited to those plugins and not the .DLL kind :)

Was wondering if anyone knew of one? Would love to get a wee application where I could load a sound like. . .say a metallic sound. . .and drag a few parameters around to creates really stunning ambience soundscapes that could accompany the videos.

Be interested in your thoughts and suggestions on these soundscapes that aren't your average literal City-scapes :)


4 Answers 4


It's a good question, and I understand your desire to get involved with some new and exciting tools, we all love toys after all! Before you do though, it's worth considering how to create abstract soundscapes with conventional tools. After all, sound designers we're doing amazing eerie, unnatural and abstract sounds before protools came along - I had the pleasure of watching Eraserhead (1977) in the cinema recently and was really blown away by Alan Splet's atmospheric sound design. It's worth spending time with some good recordings playing with stretching, pitch-shifting, pitch-bending, reverse, adding effects in reverse, eq, reverb and worldizing before reaching for more exotic effects. It doesn't take much to make a sound completely unidentifiable.

Having said all that, I love new toys. A much used technique for what you describe is using an extreme granular sample stretcher. There's a free one called PaulStretch which is great. Windows only I think. Stretching out sounds like bowed cymbals is good fun. Often with granular effects like these digital artefacts are added so it's nice to add some reverb to smooth the sound out, a bit of reverse-reverb sounds nice too. I also love the Reaktor instrument Metaphysical function and Skrewel for making synthetic layers.

I think it's good to have layers created by different techniques in a soundscape, if you just use the granular method for instance it all sounds a bit uninteresting. Make lots layers out of real sound, synths, effected sounds etc. Remember to mix them across the stereo field with some movement, add layers of depth with reverb and eq. When you think you've finished bounce out the whole this as a Wav and play with it some more - complexity is everything.

  • +1 on Paul's Timestretch. You can create some awesome ambiances using that tool!!! It is also available on Mac: music.cornwarning.com/2011/12/07/new-paulstretch-os-x-build Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 11:17
  • 1
    Great answer. Don't underestimate the power of recording interesting sounds out in the field and manipulating those yourself after! :) You'll always get something completely unique that way.
    – Andy Lewis
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:32
  • Thanks for this! I had used PaulStretch during my degree but forgot all about it! Spear is another program I had forgotten about too. Thanks for all the suggestions guys! Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 14:28

Camel Audio Alchemy is a good and easy software synthesizer for manipulating samples drastically.

Pluggo was a program used to run Max/MSP patches as VST/AU/RTAS, it's discontinued and replaced by Max4Live. Of course there's also the stand-alone Max/MSP.

NI Reaktor obviously has a bunch of useful stuff.

Soundhack is also pretty popular I believe. As is the GRM Tools plug-in package.

You can also find some stand-alone programs for e.g. granular and spectral stuff from the internet that can also be very useful in turning samples to something totally different.

  • yeah Alchemy is very good, sometimes when i don't want to do anything, or just have a half a hour of free time, i just load random samples to osc's and twist them, and then play them on keyboard...amazing stuff can be done randomly...its not free thou.
    – Linas
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 8:12

Sculpture for sprinkling on things. Notam Mammut for turning any sound into mush. Soundmagic Spectral by Michael Norris for sheen and weirdness. Valhalla Shimmer for droning darkness. Ringshifter and phase distortion for degradation. Copious amounts of EQ.

And every now and then I reach for Reaktor in live recording mode.

  • +1 for Michael Norris' plugins. His spectral processing stuff is possibly the most common dronemaking tool I reach for. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 16:40

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