Ok, this is probably going to sound insane.

Inspired by @Tim Prebble's H&aRoar contest, I'm trying to build the sound of a Wooden Monster Machine that stomps around and smashes stuff. Think SteamPunk Godzilla. God knows where the idea came from.

Anyway. I'm trying to figure out how the darned thing is powered. Being SP, steam kind of has to be involved, duh to me, but I want to make all of the gears and stuff out of wood.

Anybody have any experience building motor sounds from scratch?

I'm planning to try and do a Watery Monster Machine in the future too, so it'll be super handy.


  • Any fun progress/findings to report? Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 19:32
  • Actually yes. An engine made of wood sounds....... pretty much like an engine made of metal. Though I get the feeling that I'm using the wrong samples, and probably the wrong RPM. I think what I ended up with with was more of a sportscar when I wanted an ocean liner, or at least a big generator. I'm currently on the lookout for more resonant/woody hits, that can sustain moving a little bit slower and with more character.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 22:14
  • Interesting. I've been doing a lot of physical modeling stuff lately. Sculpture might be worth a shot for some basic wood source material that you can have some control over. Maybe some covered wagon samples would be useful, or even wooden water well levers. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 4:43
  • Totally, except that it's for a competition where I have to use a specific set of samples ;) Pretty sure that would get me disqualified.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 10:46

3 Answers 3


This sounds fun! I would start by recording a few different "articulations" of banging wood pieces together, then perhaps arrange a few small sequences of them playing in quick succession. Resample those sequences and stick them into your favorite sampler and experiment with modulating both the speed and pitch up and down with a non-linear envelope, but using different modulation amounts so the two parameters are subtly decoupled.

I think this would result in a nice rhythmically modulating layer that sounds like an engine element but with some of the acoustics of wood.

While you're recording your base elements, you might also want to record some wood squeaks and other stressing sounds to crossfade with one another and mix in as a second layer. Add some steam and you'd probably be well on your way.



I would add some kind of turning mechanism as well, perhaps an old hand cranked steam valve or something. Not blatantly metallic, but something with a little rhythmic "squeak" to it.

Another good underlayer might be one of those big wooden game wheels from the carnival. Heck, maybe even a sample from the Wheel of Fortune!

I bet the MYST games have some great inspiration for this kind of thing. All sorts of weird wooden mechanical devices in those.

The first part of the Steam Dreamers of Inverness series from ZBS Foundation has some awesome imaginary mechanical device steam punk sounds in it, great story too.


Running samples of water through a granular sampler gave me some really good sounds, that might work for wood too. Specifically Metaphysical Function for Reaktor and Devine's Grain Cube.

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