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Close Encounters of a Special Kind – Part 2

sound design bell sounds

Close Encounters of a Special Kind – Part 2

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A Long Nail and the Bouncers at a Hardware Store

The Art and technique of sound design makes you need to buy unusual things from time to time. Once I needed a lot of different bell sounds, and I had already made a lot of them. Sound of metal sound design – nothing special actually. But now I was searching for a very special one, but I couldn´t manage to design the one I had in my mind. Not using only electronic devices at least. I didn´t really need this sound anymore – but I wanted to get it out of my head. What I normally do in those situations is layering recorded “real world” sounds with electronic ones (FM/RM with bells of course). But none of the bells and bell-like things in my studio and household would sonically fit. Then I remembered something I had done long long years ago. Long before the era of home computers (even before the time of things like the Synclair ZX-81). I had built chimes from nails I bought in a hardware store. Well, might work! But I also remembered the cumbersome work of cutting the nails to the right length to get at least near to certain pitches. But that shouldn´t be a problem nowadays, right? With all these sound tweaking software at hand. I went to our local hardware store – it´s a real big one. I took a mallet with me as well as a piece of cord with a loop at one of its ends to hang nails in.

sound design FM soundsI went for real long nails, those which are used when you build a house. Finding the right department I started trying the sound of nails – a lot of nails, and for quite a long time I think. Ok, some nails sounded as if they might fit – soundwise. But I wasn´t sure. So I kept on trying. Well, I was in the department where you find all the things you need to build a house. Real big and strong things. But not only the goods in this department are big and strong – the shop asistents are big and strong as well. They are skilled and they know a lot about building houses – really a lot. But they know only very little about sound design. After a while one of these good guys appeared, looked at my empty trolley, watched me putting one nail after the other through the loop in my cord and hitting it with the mallet. Then he asked – moderately friendly – what I was doing. I looked up – he was a really big man selling really big things – and answered: “I am looking for a nail.”

“You are looking for nails – I see that. But what are you DOING there?” was the respond. “No, no!” I said. “I am looking for just 1 nail, a nail which sounds the way I need it to sound.” Saying that I took the next long nail, hung it through the loop, held it to my ear and hit it with the mallet. I thought He had understood, because he went away without further questions. But I was wrong. After a minute or two he returned – together with an even bigger guy (probably one who was selling even bigger things to built even bigger houses). This new guy asked me – not friendly at all – to leave the store AT ONCE! I did so

sound design bellsNext day I went there again. But this time I took one of my students with me. She was about seventeen – and really beautiful. We went to the “long nail department” again, and I started scrutinizing the sonic character of nails again. And indeed: the two guys showed up like the day before. But this time things went different. My student was well prepared. She didn´t let the big builders approach me, went to them and started asking for help. Then she explained what we were looking for – and why. The guys didn´t understand a word, but they loved listening to my student´s explanations. And so – in the end – I got the right nail and could finish my bell project at last. If I were to write a sound design 101 I would add a chapter called “Take always a beautiful looking female with you, when you go doing sound design in a hardware store.” You see: it´s not always only about sound in life.

By the way: the nail in the picture above is indeed the nail this story is about. I think I´m going to give it a place of honour in my large collection of “things to be misused for sound design and other intellectual purposes”. (and here is a link to a whole sound design project incl. Documentation how and where I made it: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/46 )

... to be continued

to part 1: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/337

to part 3: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/353

to part 4: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/362

to part 5: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/367

to part 6: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/376

to part 7: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/383

to part 8: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/388

to part 9: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/394

to part 10: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/405

to part 11: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/409

to part 12: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/417


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