I'm sure we all have our own unique taste for monster vocals, just as sure as I am that we all downloaded Tim Prebble's seal vocal library for those same vocals. (If you haven't check it out here http://hissandaroar.com/sd003-seal-vocals/ ) But what sounds have you guys recorded in the field that has been useful to your own monster creations? :)

I lived in the Northwest before coming south to SF, and luckily before I moved I managed to record two bald eagles fighting in front of my house over some fish. They gave me one shriek that is just gorgeous! Also recordings of dogs and raccoons have been part of the arsenal.

So, let's start a series of people telling us about your favorite organic or non organic sounds to use for creating monster vocals :)

Cheers, Michael Brennan

11 Answers 11


I have the Tim Prebble Seals library, and its amazing! I have also used my 7 year old daughter and 9 year old sons voice to a great degree. The human voice is an indistinguishable element for Monster design. Many of us are already close to monster status, and the cultural baggage and recognition for the audience is very strong.


Ive been doing a lot of hyper-real monsters in the past year and I've come accustom to laying down my own vocal tracks first to start building a foundation so I can start getting a sense of the personality. Then Ill mess with that as far as pitch and any light modulation and then start getting weird with animals and build around what I did with my own vocals.


I always try to drag myself in front of a mic when I have a nasty cold. As difficult as it can be, a scratchy throat and flem filled lungs and sinuses can make for some great monster source if you get creative with it.

Something I learned many years ago that can be useful for many sound design tasks is the experimentation with mixing attack transients of various animals morphing into unrelated sounds. The basic premise is that humans recognize a sound mostly based on its initial attack envelope less than the body of the sound that follows, such as a violin for instance. Since good animal sounds can be some of the most challenging to create in large numbers with enough variety without spending lots of time and money, this method can be used to get the most out of a limited amount of unique source. As an example take the attack of a short dog growl, pitch it down a bit and blend the attack into a metal grown/stretching sound and some other similar layers. It can take quite a bit of experimentation to get the hang of it but can yield unique results all while leveraging much more easily accesible SFX you probably already have that you might not ever think to use for monsters. The key can be to choose material for the body that has similar frequency and timbre as the attack source.


And yes, of course pigs. They are usually pretty cooperative in my experience.


It depends on what the monster looks like etc. whether it's a cartoon, science fiction monster or you just want to make an animal "hyper-real"

For me though, I like using musical instruments (especially deep woodwind instruments such as a bass clarinet or bassoon) and then just completely messing with them!


One approach thats very useful with human performance/ADR for monster vox is using a real time pitch shifter, so the performer is hearing themselves pitched down & can adjust their performance accordingly... I've used the TDM Avid pitch shift plugin, recording the clean & the pitched version to split tracks...

Also cutting breaths & lip/mouth sounds is important too, esp using dbx subharmonic synth or LowEnder plugin.... as mentioned here:

Creating Large Animal Breathing Sounds

(& thanks for the kind words re the Seals - I scared the living crap out of myself recording it, not because I was in danger but because my mic was! And I was wearing headphones so it was like sticking your head right up beside them!)

  • cutting through the pitch shifter is a great idea. i've done similar in music settings and you certainly do alter your performance in realtime and achieve a better result. – Brad Dale Feb 28 '13 at 17:08

My parents' dogs and my girlfriend's (now deceased) cat have made multiple appearances as monsters. I do a bunch of my own monster vocalizations as well. Long ago I also did some recordings of a device at a museum that approximated the mechanics of a dinosaur's roar, and used that for a few things. It was essentially a bellows and a long plastic tube/hose arrangement.


Pigs do great shrieks and squeals. I used these for vampires with excellent results.


The scariest monster I ever created was by granulising baby loughs/crys with ableton inbuilt granulizer/pitch shifting algorithm. Just pitch it down and make the grains short and audible. BrRRIIiiahhhhhriiiaraawwr :)


I am a huge fan of pitch shifting Komodo Dragons, I also use a lot of my own voice and reversed animal recordings. The reversed sounds obviously need the attack and decay corrected, but it is always fun, especially when you start layering with breaths.


Vocoding your own voice with various animals works great too!

Also, that seal library sounds great!


You can try Dehumaniser, a prototype application that I created in order to transform your voice into monster sounds in real time with many presets and parameters. It has already been used by acknowledged sound professionals in feature films and video games.

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