I've been given a small task at my University to create a sequence of footage entirely from scratch but I cannot use any real audio, I have to use synthesis.

I've found it quite easy for the most part, but I'm having trouble getting a good footstep noise. It's an animation of someone walking on hard rock.

I've been using a synth like Massive for now, manipulating waveforms such as general noise, but is there any alternatives that I could use?

Or is there a preset someone has made so I can look to see what they've done? (I promise not to steal...)

It's not a big deal if not, just wanted to know if anyone has had any luck with this sort of thing! Thanks a bunch.

4 Answers 4


Andy Farnell has done lots of research in this area:



Depends how far you want to go with it! I agree that most commercial synths are not capable of doing this well. They are not designed to add in the random variations in envelope, tone and texture that is inherent in real footsteps. Using an environment like PD changes all that because you can effectively build a custom synth designed for the purpose.

It's probably going to need some filtered noise for the scrape and layered, resonant filtered impulses for the click. I suggest looking at some spectrographs of footstep recordings and then break down the sound into components. Note prominent frequencies, decay times etc.

  • They are great articles! Thanks for the advice! I've gotten a lot closer with your advice.. still not there yet though..
    – FFRMusic
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 10:30

I reckon the most important aspect is to get the space right. If you just create some transients and get the right sounding reverb you will be 70 percent of the way there. I've never tried it but i would take the same route you are, using noise and wavetables. That way you can move through the table to generate subtle versions of different footsteps.


You start from noise or noisy sounds (e.g. inharmonic FM or AM) and then you further shape them by filtering. That's the basis. Wavetable or other forms of "synthesis" could do as well, but those aren't technically synthesis, because they work on prerecorded audio.

To make a complete footstep sound or multiple different footstep sounds is however too or unnecessarily complex to be attempted to be done inside most synths (it would be technically more feasible in modular synths that know, for example, how to sequence), because a footstep is a combination of different sounds and may require hand-drawn modulation (i.e. built-in envelopes are not enough, there aren't enough of them or you cannot route them as needed).

The simplest way is to use one synth (or few, if necessary for some reason), use automation as needed and record down different samples. Then edit, treat and piece them together for the finished footsteps. Create new samples when needed. You may also attempt to do most of the sound shaping using MIDI first, i.e. send notes and automate parameters during the note durations, before bouncing down the sounds.

It may seem like it's not going anywhere or you don't know what/how you're going to do it (especially, if you're not very experienced with synthesis), but at some point you should arrive at something that you know how to take it further and how to approach creating new variations. If you're totally stuck: listen to your own foosteps or take a recorded footstep and listen to it, listen to it carefully/analytically. Then proceed to copy it using synthesis. The footsteps that you do may also end up sounding totally crap, but that might be educational for understanding the limits (and exponential complexity, when attempting to model real world sounds) of sound synthesis.

Some reading, if you're interested:

A. Farnell: Designing Sound http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/designing-sound This book has actual synthesis models, made in Pd.

  • Great advice! I found the best way was to analyze a pre-recorded footstep with programs such as Izotope RX and work from there as per your advice!
    – FFRMusic
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 10:33

If all you have is an analog synth, I hope you have at least 2 oscillators.

Fiddle with the frequency/resonance settings to make the oscillators sound less like music and more like footsteps, or just use a noise oscillator if your synth has one.

Set the ADSR of OSC1 to a fast attack, and have OSC2 a little bit behind it. OSC1 is the heel strike and the toe strike is OSC2. Play with the sustain to get the length of the step sounds.

Use an LFO to slightly vary the pitch of both oscillators to make each hit sound a little different.

Add some reverb and shorten the attack for hard floor sounds. Use some PWM and add a little sustain to OSC2 for walking in gravel sounds.

Have fun!


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