Making SFX for games and why it’s beneficial for your producing skills

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Hello and welcome! Today I‘m gonnna talk about a thing not many people do although it’s actually something that can be extremely beneficial for every kind of electronic musician. To cut a long story short: Today’s blog is about making SFX for games and why it’s beneficial for your producing skills!

I have occasionally been producing SFX for an indie game project called ‘Pentaquin’ for a couple of years now and in those years I’ve made a lot of experiences regarding the production of SFX. I feel like now is the right time to share some of the most valuable things I’ve learned doing this.

Making sound for games (or movies) basically means adding sound to whole worlds. Depending on what project your working for, the sounds you’d have to produce can range from simple Foley sounds like movement and environment SFX to crazy otherworldly SCI-FI or fantasy-like sounds for magic spells or space crafts. Some may be done in just a couple of hours, for others you might take weeks to complete when you’re desperately trying to find the right sound over and over.

Realistic sounds can be incredibly challenging as well as listeners know how a certain thing would sound in real life and therefore expect a perfectly realistic sound effect.

What I’m trying to say is: As an SFX-artist you have to be very versatile and every day can surprise you with a new challenge. For Pentaquin I’ve produced some very different sounds such as this archer shooting an arrow or a magic jumppad.

Archer shooting an arrow SFX
Sound of a magic jumppad

Now why is making SFX for games beneficial for my skills as a music maker?

Get to learn your software better

Pretty much all audio content will somehow end up in a DAW to be produced. That means if you’re working on game sound you can use your software, as you usually do.
When solely working on SFX though you’ll use it in a slightly different way, that’s less musical and therefore more technical.

You won’t have to set up a song structure and work with chords and rhythms. Instead you’ll work on sound-design! And that means you will have to take a closer look at all your plugins and the built-in features of your DAW to exhaust all the possibilities you got to shape the sound to your liking.

While you might have no problems using only the most basic features of say, a compressor, when producing music, it might be necessary to use more of the different controls your tool has to offer. That’s because most SFX consist of multiple layers of sound that combine all the parts making for the distinct texture every sound has to have. Hence every layer (which oftentimes isn’t even a second long!) has to fulfil very specific needs in terms of attack and release, transients, texture and resonance.

In conclusion, making SFX for games will most likely help you refine and perfect your knowledge of the software you use and will open up more opportunities in music making once you know how to use every one of the tools you have.

Improve on understanding sound design

It basically goes along with learning how to use your software: Understanding what makes a sound sound the way you want it to. As I said in the previous paragraph, for most SFX you’ll have to combine layers to achieve that very sound you’re looking for. While doing that you’ll explore what defines the characteristics of a sound. Especially when having to record parts for realistic SFX you’ll start to realise how important texture in sound really is. This will project on to your sound-design as a music producer as well, as you’ll start to think about how you can create a sounds texture to match another sounds texture and so on.

Sound-design expertise is something you shouldn’t overlook if you want to create a unique signature sound with your music!

Improve on creativity

At first this sounds a bit strange but making SFX for games helps boosting your overall creativity. This isn’t because of the actual sounds you produce but because of HOW you do it. Having to produce any sound requires an initial thought process.

‘How can I achieve this sound? What can I record and which exciters do I use to achieve that sound? Which tools do I choose to edit the recordings?’

sound design material (making SFX for games)
You get to sample the weirdest stuff as an SFX artist

These are the questions you will yourself asking frequently when making SFX for games. And the more practice you get of this, the easier it gets to imagine a sound and having the right idea of how to create it. In short: Making SFX for games doesn’t only improve your sound-design ability but also your creativity!

Making SFX for games is a time off

I’ve talked about this in the blog episode ‘How to beat writer’s block in music production’ and it’s something a lot of producers deal with: That creative blockade that doesn’t let you create properly. A way to get rid of this block is taking a time off by for example stopping production for a bit and focusing on other things outside of music.
Another way to do something different, not music related but in your normal surroundings is making SFX for games!
At least for me making music and creating sound-effects are completely different things and having a creative blockade in one doesn’t automatically mean having one in the other for me.
Try it out next time you experience writer’s block in music production and go for some sound-design sessions!

Anyways, that’s what I wanted to share with you today. I hope this post gave you interesting insight on the things you can do as a music producer to improve on your skills and have fun at the same time! Make sure to check out other blog episodes and have a look at my social media. Until next time!

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