100 Next-Level Sound Design Tips & Tricks

Sound Design is one of the most fun parts of electronic music production.

Everybody wants to make unique yet awesome sounds to improve their tracks with.

But sometimes you can get stagnant, using the same techniques and sounds over and over.

So no matter where you are on your sound design journey, here are 100 tips to take your sounds to the next level.

But first, do you need some quality Serum presets? Make sure to grab our FREE Xfer Serum EDM Essentials Pack.

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Tip 1: Presets Are Okay

I wanted to start this list off with something that will hopefully shift your mindset.

Presets are okay.

Read that again. And again. Nobody cares if every sound in your music is made from scratch or not. They just care if the music is good.

Recommended: The Best Free/Paid Serum Presets For Each Genre

Tip 2: Multiband Compression is Your Friend

If you’re working with bass sounds or any sort of frequency-dense sound, multiband compression is a wunderkind for controlling any part of it.

FabFilter Pro-MB Interface

Highs too wild? Smash them. Lows aren’t consistent? Smash them. Nasty resonances in the high-mids? Smash them (or at least, control them).

Devices like OTT are also great for this.

Tip 3: Less Oscillators is More

I remember when I first got Massive that the best sounds had to use all 3 oscillators.

Why? Because the more complex the sound, the better, right?

Wrong.

Use the least sources necessary to achieve the sound you’re going for.

Tip 4: Get Out of Serum

Steve Duda and Serum are both great. Creative stagnation is not.

Use another synth, like the 5 that probably came with your DAW that you’ve never touched.

Some examples:

  • Ableton Live – Operator
  • Ableton Live – Wavetable (similar to Serum but different workflow)
  • Ableton Live – Analog
  • Ableton Live – Collision
  • FL Studio – Harmor
  • FL Studio – Sytrus
  • FL Studio – Harmless
  • Logic Pro X – Alchemy
  • Logic Pro X – ES1

Tip 5: Bounce To Audio

Ever heard some big-name producer drop a tip like ‘working in audio is better’?

There’s a reason for it.

Working in audio allows you to see what you’re doing at every point in time, and opens up the possibility

Tip 6: Learn FM Synthesis

FM Synthesis isn’t necessary to learn in order to make great sounds, but it sure can help you make a wider variety of sounds.

If you’re making bass music, you can get some sick growls and basses from it.

Synths like Serum have some FM capabilities, but to get really into it you’ll want a dedicated FM synth.

Ableton Live Operator Synth
Ableton’s Operator is a simple yet effective FM Synth

Most common DAWs have an FM synth built-in – Operator in Ableton Live, Sytrus in FL Studio and EFM1 in Logic Pro X. If you’re wanting more, use a synth such as FM8 by Native Instruments.

Tip 7: Treat FX Like Instruments

FX, especially time-based effects like delay, phaser, flanger and reverb, can drastically alter a sound beyond the original signal.

A lot of these FX processors can be used both rhythmically and tonally, allowing you to get chord-like textures that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Tip 8: Record While You Tweak

Ever jumped into a sound design session and started tweaking knobs will looping some notes or playing them in live?

Then you stumble across something really cool for a second but you keep tweaking and it becomes worse.

Suddenly, you forgot how to get back to that awesome sound you were at.

No problem, just record all your parameter tweaks and note playing as you go by hitting record. Or if you prefer, just record the audio.

Ableton Live Resampling

You’ll thank me later.

Tip 9: Curate Your Favourites

Spend some time going through your original presets and also other presets to create a library of go-to sounds.

This saves time when in the track-writing phase so you don’t have to overthink about the whereabouts of your key sounds.

Xfer Serum Star Rating Presets

Many VSTs and plugins have a favourite or star-rating feature, or you can save presets in your DAW library.

Recommended: The Producer’s Guide to File & Sample Organization

Tip 10: Use Distortion

Whether it’s subtle saturation or brutalist fuzz, distortion can bring life to a sound.

The best part is that there are so many types: soft-clipping, hard-clipping, tube, tape, fuzz, diode, overdrive, bitcrushing, downsampling, waveshaping, wavefolding and many more.

Go nuts.

Tip 11: Stop Watching Tutorials

Tutorials can be helpful, don’t get me wrong.

But at the end of the day, it’s the time spent creating sounds that counts.

So if you’re a tutorial-hoarder, go open your DAW and make some sounds instead.

Tip 12: Mangle Sounds with EQ

EQ is normally seen as a mixing tool primarily, but you can heavily alter the tonal content of sounds with this tool.

EQ Eight Creative EQ

Whether it’s crazy curves or automated parameters, try using EQ in unexpected ways in your next sound design session.

Tip 13: Tweak Random Parameters

Many producers are overwhelmed by the number of features on modern synths like Serum.

A fast way to overcome this fear is to just start tweaking and see what happens.

You won’t break it (hopefully).

Tip 14: Make Multiple Versions

Good tracks have subtle variation.

One way to do this is to use slightly different versions of a sound throughout a track.

Maybe swap the filter type out, or add in a second oscillator with the original one up an octave, etc.

Tip 15: Give Yourself a Time Limit

Sound Design can be an endless process.

To speed things up, give yourself a time-based challenge. Like ‘make 5 sounds in 15 minutes’.

You’ll be surprised at the results, and even if they aren’t great, at least you learned something.

Tip 16: Learn One Synth Well

This tip combats in even bigger problem in producer circles: gear lust.

Don’t feel the need to buy or download 10 different synths, especially if you’re starting out.

Pick one and roll with it, until you can start to feel the limitations – they tend to never come, anyway.

Tip 17: Pumping Sidechain

This might sound obvious to some, but well-controlled sidechain to a kick or a snare, especially on bass and lead sounds, can really tie a track together nicely.

Ableton Live 10 Sidechain Compressor

Use fast attack and release, high thresholds and ratios, and adjust to taste.

Tip 18: Signal Chain is Important

When adding FX on to a sound, many don’t stop to consider the order they were added.

Got some compression after reverb? That could muddy up the sound, so try switching it around.

OTT after distortion might help to tame the sound more, but distortion after could help it poke through the mix.

Think about what you want to achieve, and order your FX accordingly.

Tip 19: Recreate Sounds

This is a very useful tip I borrowed from an earlier article I wrote on the Sound Design process.

Recreating sounds, whether mimicking presets or doing it by ear, can help you sky-rocket your sound design skills.

Why? You’re figuring out how it was done. You’re literally learning the steps.

My recommendation is to start with recreating presets before moving onto doing it by ear.

Tip 20: Layer for Contrast

Want to get that thick-layered sound, perhaps in a supersaw?

Stop layering the same sound with one variation.

If the highs need filling out, create a layer that does that.

Tip 21: Layer to Compliment

To play the devil’s advocate sounds still need to work together in order to sound cohesive (if that’s what you’re going for).

So make sure there are similarities between sounds still.

In fact, you could have two completely different sounds that share the same ADSR envelope and reverb processing, and they compliment each other.

Balance contrast and compliment.

Tip 22: Don’t Layer (If It Doesn’t Need It)

Don’t layer for the sake of it.

When in doubt whether a layer works or not, you’re likely better off with less.

Why?

Stack The Layers Meme

Mud. Phase cancellation. Mix problems.

Less is more.

Tip 23: Use Transient Sounds on Plucks

Ever wondered how some producers get their sounds so plucky and sharp?

Well, it’s likely the use of a click or transient sample, layered with a synth.

Xfer Serum Noise Osc Attacks

Serum even comes with a bunch of transients you can load into its ‘Noise’ oscillator for this purpose.

Tip 24: Record Sounds

Go out into the world and start recording. Birds, cars, people, fireworks, streams, waves etc.

Yes, even your phone will do.

Tip 25: It’s Not All About The Bass

Let’s be honest, most of you here want to make sick bass sounds.

But sound design is not just about making cool basses for genres like trap, dubstep and drum & bass.

Leads, pads, FX, keys, bells, brass and much more are other groups of sounds that you can make unique sounds in. Try it sometime.

Tip 26: Reverse

I’ll be honest, this is one of my favorite techniques.

If you’re in audio, simply reverse the sound. It can bring a whole new light to an otherwise vapid sound.

Tip 27: Timestretching & Warping

Time-stretching is great for getting glitchy and worn-down-type sounds from samples or resamples.

Ableton Live Warping

If you’re in Ableton Live, the warp modes are great for this. You have a variety of options you can choose from, and you can do it in audio or by loading a sound into a Simpler.

Tip 28: Separate Sound Design & Writing Tracks

We’re big fans of this here at EDMProd.

Why? Sound design can be a very analytical and technical process, whereas songwriting tends to be more creative and random.

You want to have good sounds you can just drop in rather than spend time making them or finding them.

So make sure to separate out the process. A lot of the time you’ll find that a good sound design session flows nicely into a songwriting one.

Tip 29: Use Short, 100% Wet Reverb

This works particularly well on plucks and short sounds, but using any standard reverb you can get a wide, sucking-type effect from reverb.

  • 100% wet
  • >1s decay
  • 0ms pre-delay
  • Little to no frequency dampening
  • Small room size

Tip 30: Process With Multiple Filters

Stacking filters can help add movement to sounds, especially pads and the like.

Check out an older video I made on this topic:

Tip 31: Don’t Be Afraid to Sample

New producers think that using samples is cheating, but getting past this helps open new creative possibilities.

You can edit and process samples into completely new sounds, or even just use it as is in a new context.

Recommended: How To Sample Music

Tip 32: Destructive Editing

Destructive editing usually means to go overboard with the processing.

Add too many delays, distortion, time-stretching devices and pitch-shifting devices, until you can get something completely new.

Tip 33: Use A Granulizer

Granulizers are another great tool for getting glitchy, atmospheric and random sounds.

Ableton Live Granulator II

Many DAWs have them built-in:

  • Granulator – Ableton Live (Max For Live)
  • Fruity Granulizer – FL Studio
  • Output Portal – Third-Party
  • Sound Guru The Mangle – Third-Party

Tip 34: Experiment With Analog Synths

Whether you care about the sound quality of analog synths or note, they’re great to get hands-on with.

If you can’t buy one, borrow, rent or find one for cheap.

Tip 35: Fill Out a Sound with Noise

It makes sense – white noise is literally every frequency happening at the same time.

To make it more interesting, use creative processing or different types of noise.

There’s a reason it’s called big room.

Tip 36: Convolution Reverb

In my opinion, convolution reverb is one of the most underrated types of FX.

You can make a sound feel like it’s any type of space just by dragging in a sample (impulse response) in.

The fun happens when you use sounds that weren’t supposed be used as impulse responses – you get some wacky textures.

Tip 37: Use Vibrato to Make a Sound Unstable

One of my personal favourites – dial in a bit of vibrato to add movement and instability to a sound.

I like to combine to instances of this, one fast but subtle and one slow but more noticeable. This way you get a wow/flutter tape effect.

Tip 38: Make Sounds on Your Phone/Tablet

Do you know how many apps there are on your phone that you could record directly from into your DAW?

The answer – a lot.

Here are a few:

  • Audulus
  • Korg Gadget LE
  • Propellorhead Figure
  • DRC
  • Launchpad
  • Auxy
  • Garageband

Tip 39: Read Books on Sound Design

Sound design is traditionally a field reserved for foley artists, film sound effect engineers and other industries.

But there’s a lot to be learned from them still. Here are a few good books:

Also, general music production books help too.

Tip 40: Borrow Techniques From Film

Sound design is music is a relatively new concept, especially because of digital technology’s evolution.

Yet in fields like game design, film and theatre, sound design is a staple. Of course, music is a different application, but there is a lot to be learned from these fields.

Getting ideas from outside of the box might be what your music needs to take it to another level of uniqueness.

Tip 41: Use A Sampler

Sound design isn’t just about saw waves, square waves and sine waves.

Using recorded or pre-existing sounds as the basis for new ones by loading them into a sampler (Ableton’s Simpler is a personal favourite) can help you get some great results.

Ableton Live Simpler Chop

You’ve got all the same processing tools (filters, EQ, FX) as in a standard synthesizer, but you’re just changing the source.

Even Serum has a sampler built in – the Noise Oscillator. Drag any audio file in there and away you go.

Tip 42: Break The Rules

There are a number of spoken and unspoken rules in sound design – especially in electronic music:

  • Don’t use reverb on sub-bass
  • Bass should be mono
  • Don’t overuse distortion
  • Layering leads to a thicker sound

Try opposing or flipping these approaches and see what results you get.

You might end up with an unexpected sound that defines your next track.

Tip 43: Make A Sample Pack

The quickest way to get a bunch of unique sounds is to make your own sample pack.

Yes, it’s still time-consuming, but it’s worth it.

If you struggle to make certain sounds from scratch, try using existing samples as the basis for new ones (especially kicks and snares, they tend to always get recycled in new ways anyway).

Tip 44: Find New Presets

Spend some time on Splice Sounds or scouring the web for good quality presets that you can use on your favourite instrument.

Sometimes a preset pack can inspire your sound design process in new ways that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

Tip 45: Save Your Presets & FX Chains

People love to save presets that they’ve made, but what about the processing and FX chains?

These things often contribute to a sound more often than we recognise, so make sure to save your favourites and reuse them on new or existing sounds.

Even swapping presets but using the same FX chain can yield interesting results. Serum has this feature where you can lock the effect rack between presets, so go nuts with that.

Xfer Serum Lock Effect Rack

Tip 46: Try A New Plugin

Before I explain, let me be clear – new plugins are not always the answer.

In fact, too many producers likely overdo the whole new plugin thing. It’s best to stick to minimal options and learn them inside out.

But when creativity is getting stale, it might be time to find a new addition. You don’t even have to permanently add it to your studio – just use the trial for a bit and see whether it works for you or not.

Tip 47: Silence

All too often, producers are hell-bent on filling out the mix with ‘big sounds’. There always has to be something going on, as if leaving unused frequencies is some sort of crime in electronic music.

This is not the case, and silence can be very desirable – both for sound design and production in general. Try having fewer-note melodies, less black-hole-type reverb and delay tails, and overall fewer elements/layers in your next track.

Your sounds will be more highlighted as a result due to an increased sense of contrast.

Tip 48: Collaborate

Your own perspective can become your own enemy, so you might need to break up your workflow by collaborating with another producer.

They might know more FM synthesis than you, might process sounds differently and might have different sets of presets.

Tip 49: Listen to the World

Sound is constantly going on around us – all different rhythms, pitches, timbres and layers.

Simply by closing your eyes and listening to the chatter, to the breeze or to the traffic, you might actually hear something inspiring.

Combining this with tip 24, you could record the sounds you hear and re-work them into a more useable context.

Tip 50: Embrace Random Modulation

There are many ways you can add randomness to your sound design:

  • Velocity randomisation
  • Random/noise LFO’s (Serum’s chaos oscillators are a great point to start)
  • Play notes in with your keyboard, even if you can’t play piano
  • Use unsynced LFO’s and FX processing
Xfer Serum Chaos Oscillators
Xfer Serum’s Chaos Oscillators are a great source of modulation fun

Tip 51: Record Automation

Automation can add movement to sounds, either on a micro or macro level. If your struggling with repetitive sounding tracks, maybe you need to add subtle changes over time.

Tip 52: Get A Control Surface/MIDI Controller

Off the back of the last tip, a control surface will allow you to tweak not just one but multiple parameters in real-time.

Even something as simple as TouchOSC or another iPad app can be used as a control surface for your DAW.

Tip 53: Experiment With Modulation

I’ve mentioned modulation a lot in this article so far, but what I mean here is to use modulation in a clip-by-clip basis.

If you’re a Live user, when you go to modulate a parameter, there is a ‘Show Modulation’ option, which will allow you to control the parameter on a clip level. This means the modulation will repeat every time you copy/paste or loop that clip.

In ’embeds’ it into the phrase, making it part of the composition in a manner of speaking.

Tip 54: Use Reason

Reason, although not the most widely used DAW, has a loyal fanbase for a reason (pun intended).

Reason 10 DAW

It’s great for creative sound design. It mimics the older workflow of working with hardware, by allowing you to patch cables wherever you see fit.

Split, combine, modulate, distort, whatever.

Additionally, you can save these racks to reuse at any time, so it’s not all over when you pack it down, like the old days.

Oh, and it supports third-party VSTs now.

Buy It Now

Tip 55: Pitch-Shift Sounds

Simply pitching a sound up or down (sometimes by a small amount, sometimes by an extreme amount) can achieve something that you might have been looking for.

Combining this technique with different time-stretching and warping modes can help to achieve all manner of sounds.

Tip 56: Process Vocals Into Something Else

Vocals are great source material to work with for sound design.

Jack U and Justin Bieber’s ‘Where Are U Now’ is a great example of this. The main hook is actually one of Justin’s vocal adlibs processed with distortion and other FX.

Good stuff.

Tip 57: Short Delays are Sick

Bass legends like Getter use a variety of techniques to get unique sounding basses.

One of these is using a very short, unsynced & mono delay between 10-30ms and with the feedback adjusted to taste. The result is a very metallic, energetic sound.

If you want an example, Getter uses it on his track ‘Inhalant Abuse VIP’.

Tip 58: Add Movement Before Compression

Compression sounds better when the material is dynamic in the first place.

There’s not much point compressing a saw wave as it is from a synth, it’ll sound very similar (depending on the compressor, of course).

Tip 59: Take Cues From The Physical World

Objects, shapes, people and other visual cues can be a great source of inspiration and are often untapped by producers.

Tip 60: Circuit-Bending

Not for the faint of heart, but circuit-bending is a practice that can yield the strangest yet the dopest sounds. In essence, you take electronics and adjust the circuits so they output different sounds in comparison to what they originally did.

Here’s a great video from Switch & Lever that explains it well:

Tip 61: Learn MaxMSP

MaxMSP is a visual programming language that allows you to create your own plugins and devices. Don’t worry – it’s not as complicated to learn as a traditional programming language.

MaxMSP
Credit: Cycling 74

Getting under the hood and figuring out how plugins and devices are made can inspire your own devices that could add a unique addition to the studio.

Tip 62: Same Purpose, Different Approach

Suppose you want to use a supersaw – that’s cool. But maybe you’ve outdone the whole traditional supersaw thing and want to approach it differently.

Duumu talks about this in his interview on the podcast.

Tip 63: Not Everything Has To Stand Out

On the problem of layering and arrangement in general, everyone thinks that every element in a mix has to sound great and clear on its own. This isn’t true.

The same goes for sound design – some elements are meant to sit in the background and therefore don’t needs heaps of compression, distortion and high-end.

Tip 64: Use Inconsistent Timings

Tempo-synced modulation is great, but there is beauty in unsynced timings.

Using unsynced delays, phasers or other FX can be great ways to add humanity and unpredictability into sounds.

Tip 65: Stop With Multiples of 2

If you’re going to used tempo-synced modulation, why not try out something a little different, like a 3 bar filter modulation or a 3/4 beat phaser?

Multiples of two are great but are overdone.

Tip 66: Throw On Random EQ Presets

Not everything in sound design has to be a thought-out decision – like with tweaking random knobs, there is beauty in the accidents.

Try loading up your favorite EQ and switching between presets. You might find one that affects your audio in a really cool way.

EQ Eight Random Preset

Tip 67: Modulate Anything with an LFO

Most synths and FX allow you to modulate standard parameters with an LFO – filter cutoff, pitch, volume, wavetable position etc.

But what about modulating something like an external distortion effect’s bias control? Or the ‘Fatness’ knob on Sausage Fattener?

Something like Max for Live’s LFO device will allow you to modulate anything. If you’re not in Live, you might have to do this in automation or use something like Cableguys MIDI Shaper.

Tip 68: Consider Stereo Width

An often overlooked part of the sound design process is the stereo width of a sound.

I know it’s something I overlooked a lot in the early days, and to a degree, I still do now.

Consider the following FX, as they tend to add stereo width:

  • Reverb
  • Delay
  • Phaser
  • Flanger
  • Chorus
  • Stereo Widener (obviously)

Stacking too many of these effects might result in stereo mud. To avoid this, consider eliminating the effects or using them in mono mode (setting a ‘phase’ control to 0 degrees also does this).

Tip 69: Phase Alignment is Key

Particularly with bass sounds, making sure you line up the phase is very important.

Why? Because if you have overlapping bass sounds, instead of increasing the amount of bass, you might actually be reducing it.

How you might ask? Phase cancellation.

Phase Cancellation Graph
These two waveforms will result in silence, as they completely oppose eachother.

When two opposing waveforms interact, they cancel out.

It’s like adding 5 and -5 = you get 0.

Tip 70: Don’t Overthink It

Work fast, make sounds, move on.

Often simpler is better.

Need I say more?

Tip 71: Start With A Theme

If you struggle to start making new sounds, give yourself a theme to work with.

Maybe recreate what your idea of a black hole sounds like? Or maybe make an underwater-type lead.

It might sound corny, but it works.

Tip 72: Make A Preset Your Own

Tweaking presets and making them your own is a great way to build up a library of sounds.

Most presets and sounds have been done before, so adjusting existing ones to be slightly different could be all you need to curate your unique sound as a producer.

Tip 73: Use Foley

Recorded sounds are pleasant for a reason – you get textures that remind you of the real world.

They have movement embedded into them.

So whether you use them as-is, with some processing or layer them with digital sounds, you’ll get a nice result.

Recommended: Foley Sound Effects: The Ultimate Guide for Electronic Music Producers

Tip 74: Don’t Neglect MIDI Effects

MIDI effects are unspeakably good ways to get fun and interesting sounds.

A few of my favourites are arpeggiators (stacking multiple is particularly fun), chord triggers and note length devices. Ableton Live has all of these built-in, but other DAWs like Logic Pro X have variations of these.

Tip 75: Sound Design Starts With The Composition

Most people think that good sound design is about unique wavetables, crazy processing or layering for thickness.

But the truth is, without solid rhythm, melody and harmony, people won’t care too much.

In fact, using rhythm, melody and harmony can be a sound design tool in itself. The piano roll can be used to make fun scale runs, machine gun-like rhythms and big-layered chords.

Recommended: Songwriting for Producers

Tip 76: Use Grain Delay

Grain delay, granular synthesizers and other granular processors are great tools for achieving random sounds, from crazy glitches to lush atmospheres.

Ableton Live Grain Delay

A few good options for this kind of sound:

  • Ableton Live
    • Grain Delay
    • Granulator
  • FL Studio
    • Fruity Granulizer
  • Third-Party
    • Soundtoys Crystalizer
    • The Mangle

Tip 77: Every Sound Matters

Don’t neglect considering the sound design on every element – it all adds up to create an overall timbre.

If your kick isn’t working, make or find a new one. Don’t skip over it because it takes time.

If your bass sounds cool on it’s own but doesn’t work in this track, save it for next time.

Tip 78: Think Out of the Box

Record a sound with a speaker and resample it. That’s how the Star Wars lightsaber sound was made.

Put tape on your subwoofer and record it rattling when you play a bass. That way, you’ll get a unique texture to layer in.

The point here is to try random things that nobody else has tried before and take risks.

Tip 79: Don’t Recreate What Doesn’t Need to Be Recreated

For the 100th time, nobody cares if you use presets or not.

So don’t waste time remaking something if it already exists. Spend your time making new things on top of what others have already done.

Tip 80: Stop Using The Same Sounds As Everyone

Balance is key here, but if you’re not breaking through the noise and developing a unique sound, it’s probably because you’re emulating other producers too much.

This is fine to learn as a producer, but eventually, you’ll reach a point where you might need to branch out a bit and incorporate some external influences, be it musical or non-musical.

Tip 81: Phasers, Flangers and Choruses

Use them to add movement.

Phasers sound thin and airy, flangers sound metallic and choruses sound wide and thick.

Tip 82: Make Different Types of Sounds

If you’ve never made a kick before, make one.

If you’ve never made a pad before, make one.

Mixing it up can yield very interesting results, even when you go back to making what you normally make.

Tip 83: Embrace the Process

Sometimes you’ll end up making 5 crap sounds in order to get to 1 good sound, especially as a new producer.

This is normal – don’t get discouraged. The more you make, the better you’ll get, regardless of whether you end up using every sound you make or not.

Tip 84: Process Sends & Returns

Using sends & returns is a great way to unify sounds and save CPU.

But remember, sending a sound doesn’t mean it comes back through the same chain, especially if you use group processing.

So you will want to consider processing your sends to shape them to the mix – EQ, sidechain compression, even volume.

Tip 85: Group Processing

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of processing individual sounds in this list of tips, but group processing is also important for unifying sounds.

Especially effects like compression and distortion, as these will affect the dynamics of all sounds and help them to sit in the mix equally.

Tip 86: Panning & Overlapping

Layering in interesting ways can help to make sounds stand out while filling out the mix.

So instead of stacking things, try panning different layers, and try having some layers delayed by a 1/8th note, for example.

Tip 87: Basic Sounds Can Be Powerful

Ever used a straight saw wave in a track?

You might cringe at the thought, but simplicity can be very powerful.

Tip 88: Creative Sidechain (Other Than Kicks)

Sidechain is great for helping a kick cut through, but you can sidechain other elements to each other to get cool effects.

Tip 89: Clipping Isn’t Always Bad

For as long as I can remember, all the advice I found online with regards to clipping was this: never do it.

But I never realised that clipping can actually be very useful for adding colour and saturation to sounds, especially when done in a soft and controlled manner.

Many synths or FX will have a soft clipping option, so make sure to experiment with it and drive the signal.

Tip 90: Swap Purposes

Make a synth fill in for the snare, make a hat fill in for the vocal.

Get creative.

Tip 91: Use Non-Realtime Processing

Most FX you use in your DAW are all realtime audio effects, meaning you can chuck them on a sound and it will process them there and then.

But what about non-realtime processing? How do you go about that?

There are a few examples we have talked about: pitching, reversing, time-stretching and warping etc. but there are other options.

CDP (Composers Desktop Project) is an example of this – in fact BT is an advocate for using this to process his sounds.

Tip 92: Have A Process

Like we mentioned in our 3 Rs of Sound Design article, having a process of making sounds and learning sound design is paramount.

You can adopt this, or find your own process. The main thing is that you have one.

Tip 93: Borrow Techniques from Other Genres

If you make drum and bass, why not borrow some techniques from trap music?

If you make ambient, why not borrow sounds from pop?

Bring something new to the table, rather that using what is tried & true.

Tip 94: Use Guitar Processing Techniques

Guitarists use all sorts of FX pedals to get unique timbres, tones and textures.

So why not apply these techniques to sound design in a DAW? Even if you don’t own the pedals, replicate the effects with plugins.

There’s a whole wealth of information on guitar FX that is largely untapped in the electronic music world.

Tip 95: Make Sounds in a Different Physical Environment

Your music production environment may be conducive to certain types of work. Maybe you tend to default to making bass sounds whenver you’re in the home studio.

So to mix it up, head down to your local cafe and work on sounds there. The shift in the environment might be enough to discover some new inspiration.

Tip 96: Ask People How Sounds Are Made

Ever heard a sound from a producer you liked at wondered how they made it?

DM them on Instagram. Ask them on their Reddit AMA. Hit them up at their next show in your city.

Nothing wrong with asking.

Tip 97: Make A Go-To FX Rack That Works for You

Having a customisable FX rack you can call your own and chuck on your sounds can be a real time-saver.

Similar to the earlier tip on saving FX chains, this time you want to create an all-in-one-type rack that can be adjusted to a variety of circumstances. Maybe you use filter sweeps a lot, so have one macro knob that you can adjust that turns everything on at once.

Tip 98: Read The Manual

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. But the manual was written for a reason – to solve problems.

Take some time out to read your synth, plugin and/or DAW manuals – you’ll thank me later.

Tip 99: Take a Sound Design Course

We are advocates of structured learning here at EDMProd, especially with our action-based courses like EDM Foundations for beginners.

It’s worth finding a course (paid ones are usually higher-value courses) that teaches you sound design. Here are our recommendations:

Tip 100: Sound Design Isn’t Everything

You might always keep coming back to sound design as the holy grail of music production.

But the truth is that sound design won’t solve all of your issues.

If your tracks keep turning out boring, perhaps try putting more energy into the composition and arrangement of the track.

Need More Help?

Maybe you just need some good sounds.

That’s why we made our EDM Essentials Serum pack for FREE.

Make sure to grab it below.

Download FREE Preset Pack

Any questions? Hit me up at [email protected].

About the Author

Aden Russell

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With 10 years of music production experience and some marketing chops, I head up the content here at EDMProd. I also make music under Artsea. My pastimes include reading, drinking coffee and taking photos.

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