Hey everyone!

I am curious as to what workflow people use to create crisp and heavy scifi laser sounds. Tribes: Ascend has lasers left and right in it, and I am running out of ideas for new laser sounds that are 100% unique sounding. So I was wondering what techniques people use to get this sound. I figure if I take a different approach to this, I might be able to come up with another new style for laser sounds.

7 Answers 7


Whoo-whee, that's a subjective area...that's also really fun! Can't wait to see the answers here.

Starting with what works (and, granted, is cliched) doesn't hurt: Striking thin metal wires or springs under tension with other metallic objects. Good for base layers and achieving the baseline Star Wars or Wall-E sound, even if you do it just as an exercise to dive deep into what a listener will expect and then branch out from there.

Beyond that, I like using FM synthesis for creating sound layers for energy weapons. It can work well when combined with real-world gun sounds or explosions, often run through effects. Subtractive synthesis is also handy sometimes, but somehow FM methods get me closer to what I like faster.

Of course, never forget to get back to the details of the weapon at hand: Many energy weapons can be described differently in terms of their mechanisms and even their visuals, and rationalizing how the device might actually work might yield interesting ideas, such as integrating the sounds of capacitors charging, flywheels storing energy, and other such hard sci-fi rationalizations. Plus, hey, it's fun to uber-nerd-out on this stuff. :-)

  • awesome, thanks for this reply! This is a great start to this thread, and cant wait to hear what other people have to say! Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 21:22

Try to run sounds through a fast doppler and layer those sounds together with real world weapons and wire sounds. Could be a way to give each laser sound a subtle character. Try to experiment with feedback loops and run it through a doppler. It's already late and these ideas are all that came into my mind. I hope that you can use them.

  • @Michael Manzke, I love the wire idea. Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 8:26

Hi, Benjie!

You have already very nice suggestions above and I'd like to share mine too: very recently, by accident, I step into a sonority very close to the laser thing. (Apart from handling the gun and other great details that should make the difference) I took a file of a metal impact with some reverb on it, reversed it (here I might choose to keep the atck. transient or not), then made some kind of samples with it -- 2 octaves or so. Then, I stupidly forgot that higher pitched notes (resulting of this rough process) would led to smaller samples in time. I realized that when I imported all the tracks into my DAW and they were all starting at different times with less then 1 sec of difference between the 2 more distant. I was surprised of how cool that worked!

Experimenting with various numbers of layers, pitch, delays and combinations should lead to interesting results.

As mentioned above, I guess higher pitched will work better and you may consider pass your sound files through a vocoder with some nice synths.

Good work!

By the way, here's a sample of that rough accident thing (sorry for the abrupt cut in the end): http://soundcloud.com/melissapons/futuristic-vehicle-decelerate

  • that is very cool! Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 23:50

My whole basement is a giant Amerigo Vespucci sail boat that creaks wherever you go. There's a spot on the first step of the stairs that has a wide bandwidth going from high to low frequencies. I recorded it by controlling the speed of the creeks with my foot or my hand and got some laser type sounds this way. Laser in real life don't make any sound so I would say that it's entirely free for you to come up with anything that conveys the energy, the velocity and the power of the blast.


Take a machine room tone that´s constant in pitch and put it to soundforge or similar sound editor. Pitch bend the sound up to down. Experiment with ricochets and flangers. Combine these to assets together.


Thanks for all the great answers everyone! I spent the entire weekend on nothing but lasers and while it was a looooong weekend, it was really fun! I tried several new techniques for lasers and it turned out great!.

If i could recommend one plug in bundle for someone starting sound design, I would have to say without a doubt in my mind... GRM Tools!!! Ive used GRM Tools so much for tribes.


Doesn't look like anyone's said what I use specifically yet so here's another option for y'all.

Rattlesnake magnets - two small oblong magnets that buzz and sputter against each other when you throw them up in the air near, but not next, to each other.

Slinkie - take a standard slinkie and hang it from a height where it is just barely touching the floor. pick up the bottom and drop it, the reverb traveling up through the slinkie will make an amazing lazer-ish PEEWWW! The sound created depends on what the slinkie is hanging off; I hung it off a bike brake handle and my microphone (for a larger noise). Experiment with different materials for different takes on the same lazer noise.

Keep in mind, holding the top of it in your hand will absorb the sound and you won't hear the lazer. You just get the resounding clang and clash of the metal colliding.


  • 2
    i've found many uses for the sounds of those magnets as well. i love to use them in electronic music.
    – Brad Dale
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 21:39
  • ive used the slinky technique before. i love that one. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 18:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.