POST-MORTEM: Using a variety of tools and manipulating them underwater while recording with a 3 different pairs of hydrophones (for a total of 6 different perspectives) yielded truly wonderful results! Thanks to all for your contributions to the thread.

UPDATE: The recording session is coming up! Let's hear some more thoughts, people --

I have some methods in mind but thought I'd ask the hive mind for some insights. Think:

  • Large submarine propellers / screws;
  • Smaller scale submersible vehicle;
  • Remote controlled ROVs;

Whether you want to achieve a "Hollywood"-style sound (ie. muffled / boomy / echoey) or a more realistic vibe (ie. hydrophonic recordings), let's hear what you got!

  • 1
    Just to kick it off, I have a method I've conjured up but haven't field-tested yet: Take the plastic fan blade off of a standard-issue standing oscillating fan and attach it to a cordless drill. Submerge the "propeller" and start revving! (I'll let you know how it turns out) Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 3:34
  • Love that drill idea. Provides a lot of control, good solution for keeping motors out of the water. Wonder if you could also do something weird like put a vibrating hand massager in a heavy plastic kayak/rafting drybag, submerge it, record with hydrophone. May sound mechanical but muffled, which is appropriate for this cinematic trope. Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 13:45
  • @NoiseJockey, your method would probably yield more of a rattling, humming sound than a fwup-fwup-fwup, but could be a really cool layer for some underwater vehicle. Good tip! Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 16:39

5 Answers 5


That cinematic soft "fwup-fwup-fwup" of a large sub prop element might nice with a low speed fabric-blade fan against upholstery. A small compressor with a long tube might be good for sustained bubble generation.

Warbling, sub-audio-rate LPF modulation might help make things feel aqueous, and blend elements together.

Actual hydrophones seem far too bright for anything but the smallest ROVs, without water pressure on the pinnae they never seem to emulate the human experience of being underwater.

Immersion blenders would be great for a more aggressive sound, esp slowed down 1-2 octaves.

  • 2
    Hello my friend! Appreciate the answer (don't forget to upvote the question should you think it worthy). Agreed, hydrophone recordings, although ultimately cool, really don't feel too convincing in traditional Hollywood soundtracks, although I have had luck feathering them in so as to add a realistic flavor. I experimented with the immersion blender but had limited success, even at 192k. Just too fast I think. See my above comment about the fan on the drill? I have high hopes for that. Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 5:18
  • Btw, what do you mean by fabric blade? Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 18:10
  • One of these jobbies: target.com/p/vornado-2-speed-zippi-personal-fan-black/-/… Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 2:41
  • I have never seen one of those! Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 3:28

I'm a big fan of the pitched down pool toys. I did a bunch of that stuff here. They aren't pitched down in the library though.


But @noisejockey is correct, there will be lots of high end stuff you won't want. Some other cool elements to play with:

Scuba gear in pool. I'm sure all of those air releases will be useful. Also one cool side-effect I had was the HVAC system for the house I was recording at produced a crazy low-end vibration under the pool. I ended up recording this amazing low end drone. Low frequency vibrations underwater could be used to provide a sense of movement for that sub. That crazy drone is also in that library.

  • Great to see you again @sepulchra! Nice contribution to the question. BTW, I and the other mods are looking into your original SSD account, there should be an easy way to get you linked back up with that so your reputation et al is restored. Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 16:56
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    @JayJennings looks like i sorted it. Time to make social sound design great again.
    – sepulchra
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 18:29

What about not using a hydrophone, but just a contact mic instead? Since the sound transmission through water is not the frequency response you're seeking, perhaps using the drill or other electric motor on another surface, like metal or wood, would imply the same idea but provide a way to get the density of sound you're hoping for and you get to stay dry in the process.

Then you can layer in a performed water element, whether it's recorded on a hydrophone or condomed mic underwater or mic'd from above the surface and rolled off.

This would probably be my first approach.

  • 1
    Hi @Steve Urban! Interesting that you bring up the topic of contact mics…I've found that those kinds of recordings really lend themselves to underwater scenes; they carry a weight and density that work well with what we, the audience, perceive "underwater" to sound like. Problem I've found is that, although the dead quality works well, they often sound lifeless and, you know, dead. :) So, as you suggested, layering other sounds with some mid- to high-frequency content over them really completes the picture. Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 21:04
  • 1
    @steveurban we need to get the gang back together again!
    – sepulchra
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 17:25

There are these pool toy guns that are just long water cannon tubes, but hovering them at different depths in and out of the water and also just blowing the empty air tube into different tubs makes some cool sound.

This isn't for the propeller obviously, but could be a good compliment for that water expulsion



there are three possible approaches to a problem like this:

  • using acoustic sources;
  • using electronic sources;
  • using electroacoustic sources;

in the case of using acoustic sources, you will need some hydrophones, so that you can properly make underwater recordings

please do the following:

  • find a proper water recipient or water container
  • put your hydrophone inside the water;
  • find the proper method for exciting the water;
  • just recording

no matter if you recording acoustic, electronic and electroacoustic, it's always advisable to;

  • layer as many sound sources as possible;
  • control the envelopes of the sounds;
  • etc.

in terms of approaches to generate sounds electronically, you will need to:

  • use granular synthesis;
  • use physical models;
  • use fft transformations;

actually granular synthesis and fft, are more like sound manipulation techniques, so you can apply both granular and fft to:

  • the acoustic sources your record themselves;
  • you can also layer the sounds you record with the digital domain, with the original ones, allowing for richer textures;

if you decide to also generate sounds electronically, a possible approach may be:

  • recording some sounds using physical models;
  • grabbing the physical models and adding them to the mix;
  • processing the physical models with granular synthesis and adding those to the mix;
  • processing the granular and the physical models, with fft and adding separate layers to the mix;

then it's pretty much about:

  • controlling those envelopes, and the volumes in the mix, to make sure everything blends perfectly

another thing you can do, is searching for folley in actual recording of music, movies, etc., and sampling those, making a library of catalogue sounds with the stuff you are looking. simply try to reframe sequences of movies and songs and other forms of recordings that may include such kind of sounds, and sample those.

finally to summarize mix:

  • the acoustic sources;
  • the pure electronic sounds;
  • the the electroacoustic sounds recorded out of the acoustic sources;
  • the samples sources;

do the following:

  • mix the volumes;
  • control the adsr;
  • Very scientific approach! Thanks for the insights, @Tiago Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 14:17

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