By Trent Rentsch
Of all the concert T-shirts I’ve collected over the years, my favorite is one I picked up at a Bruce Hornsby concert a couple of years ago. It isn’t just that the show was especially memorable — although it was on many levels — it was the first concert I enjoyed with both my younger brother and my youngest son. My wife was sitting beside me, we ran into a good friend unexpectedly on the way into the show, and she joined us as well. It was the first time I’d seen Bruce in concert, and I discovered that his music goes much deeper than any 5 minute pop single that was played to death on the radio. It was a perfect evening under the stars, and the sound in the outdoor amphitheatre was just as perfect. My brother and son even made it up on stage to dance with about a hundred other Bruce fanatics during one song. All in all, it WAS an especially memorable concert, but the memories are not the only thing that makes the T-shirt special.
It’s not your usual obnoxious concert T. In fact, you wouldn’t know it was from a concert, unless you saw the word “Hornsby” under the small abstract figure dancing on the back. On the front is a small rectangle, which borders 5 equally abstract symbols, and on the bottom of the rectangle are the words that make me wear the shirt every chance I get: “Here Come The Noisemakers.” It’s like it was designed for me.
I suppose it was a given that I would become an Audio Creative. My parents tell me that as a very young child, I would naturally harmonize with my Father when he sang Everly Brothers songs, and I found the different sounds he and his band mates could achieve by twisting the knobs on their gear endlessly fascinating. As I grew older, the giant modular synthesizers used by bands like ELP were even more fascinating, and although my path strayed away from real music as years went by, the ability to create new and unique noises has always intrigued me. When I discovered the oscillators in the first Eventide Harmonizer I worked with, I spent more time creating unique noises than using the effects to enhance vocals — I think a few of those patches even ended up in the pages of this magazine, years ago.
Today my home studio is filled with many ways to make noise. Several synthesizers surround me, as do guitars, a bass, a mandolin, tribal drums, a thumb drum, even a harmonica or two are stashed somewhere. On the very computer I’m typing on are many (and I do mean many) software synthesizers and drum machines. If I were the musician I would like to be, I’d probably be creating some serious symphonies — the possibilities have quite literally become endless. As it is, I do create some little music ditties, even came up with an advertising jingle or two. But honestly, even in this day of hundreds of available sound effects libraries, nothing gives me more pleasure than coming up with a new noise, something that’s the perfect underscore for my latest project.
You might want to give it a try, even if you’re blessed with several of the many great libraries available these days. Let’s face it, no matter how many libraries you have, the time will come when you won’t be able to find THE effect you need. It’s not a condemnation of the companies out there putting sound effect libraries together; it’s just that sometimes, no matter how many you have available, none of them are “just right.” Besides, you’ll get that little swell of pride when you create it yourself and hear it on the radio — it’s a lot like hearing your voice on a spot for the first time, trust me!
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and create a Whoosh. No, this exercise doesn’t include a trip to a music store, or 500 bucks for a synthesizer, real or software. If you use Cool Edit 2.0, or any flavor of Adobe Audition, you have everything you need. If your station doesn’t use either program, no worries. Odds are that you’ll be able to use the same basic procedure with your audio software. And don’t worry; I’m not going to get all techy here with what’s making everything happen. Honestly, knowing what you’re doing can take some of the fun out of tweaking.
Let’s start by going to that drop down menu you probably never use called “Generate.” We’re going to select “Noise,” and when asked, we want a stereo file, 44.1, 16-bit will be fine. You’re going to want to choose “White Noise,” the default intensity, and a length of .5. Listen to what you have… a half second of static. Thrilling, huh? It will be when we start messing with it. Now go to the “Effects” drop down menu and select “Filters.” In the next drop menu choose “Dynamic EQ.” In the Pre-sets, there’s a choice called “Low-Midà Hi.” Go ahead and select it, and hit “Ok.” Now listen. You now have a nice little low to high Whoosh, perfectly acceptable for some application. If you’d like to play further, be my guest. Reverse the Whoosh… now you have a high to low that is almost like a laser shot. Now choose the “Binaural Auto-Panner” under “Amplitude.” Pull the graph all the way to the top on the left, all the way to the bottom on the right. Now you’ve added some “movement” to the Whoosh. Still too long? That’s what “Time Stretch” is for. In fact, you could use two options under “Time/Pitch” to come up with a whole different sound. Open “Pitch Bender,” and do the same thing with the graph, plus change the Range to 20 semitones. Great Whoosh… but it’s too long now. That’s when you open “Time Stretch” and change the length to .5 again. At some point in the tweaking, you may have to boost the level, and when you’re finally happy with the result, you’ll want to do some mastering; but when it’s all said and done you’ll have a Whoosh that you can be proud to say you made yourself. And this is just a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg.
Once you start tweaking, you’ll see that the potential is endless… and a lot of fun. Plus it expands your mind to new possibilities in Creative Audio. Perhaps it will encourage you to learn more about the tools we use, why they do what they do, and how we can use that knowledge to take audio production to a new level. At the very least, you’ll be proud when you’re walking down the hall and somebody says, “Here comes the Noisemaker!”