Is learning more advance methods of sound design worth it?

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Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening My fellow sound designers

I recently bought Reaktor 6 by Native Instruments. As i started to work my way through the manuals and a thought crept into my mind, “Is this all worth it.” Does learning more advance methods of sound design like Reaktor, Pure Data or Csound really add more value to your projects then just simple pitching , time stretching or long convoluted processing chains?

Side Question : I want to get into sound for games what game engine should I learn first? There are so many and I know nothing about game sound design.

Much Love

Ltultrafluff

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I’m afraid there isn’t one answer to your question about using “advanced methods of sounds design”. It depends on so many factors like what you are trying to achieve, how much time you have to devote to this, how curious/interested/passionate you are about creating new sounds, and more. There is no doubt that programmable environments allow you to create things that ready-made plugins cannot. But do you need them? If you can’t realize you vision with existing tools, then you might want to make your own with one of the programming languages. An artist may want to explore for a long time and get inspired by happy accidents. A product-driven creator may need to make something “good enough” to satisfy the client, schedule, platform and such. Having skills in some programming environment can make you attractive to  clients who want newly-imagined sounds but realize it will take serious efforts and time to be good at it. Only you can decide if it’s “worth it”. There is also the question of your own nature. Some visual artists, for example, can make fantastic collages out of photos that they find on the Internet. Some want to take the photograph themselves. Some want to also develop the film and some want to build innovative cameras to realize the photographs they take to make their art.  Which type are you?

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It’s definitely a great learning experience and experimenting with these type of things will benefit you in the long run.  I always set aside a little time each day to learn something new, whether that’s using a new tool or reading some articles.  The small efforts toward growth add up to something greater over time.

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I think that learning Reaktor, Pure Data or otherwise isn’t necessarily more “advanced” but these approaches to audio design allow for a more computer science approach to audio. You could also learn electrical engineering and build your own synths as well. But if you gain little pleasure from working with audio this way and don’t find that they help you progress as an artist after a while then I wouldn’t continue to pursue them. I’ve spent many years working with audio using these techniques and when teaching them I try to challenge my students to find out if it is a rewarding way for them to work or not. I think a common pitfall with any approach that takes a significant time investment is that people can become too precious about their methodology and less invested in the artistic outcome. Learning new tools is important but in the end, they’re just tools.

As far as a game engine, I would recommend investing time in Unity. There’s many indie game as well as AAA developers that use Unity for their games. Unreal is also a good software to learn as well. The more game engines you learn, the better you’ll be able to adapt and many larger studios have their own custom tools (such as Frostbite at EA) that you would need to learn on the job anyways. If you’re interested in learning about game audio then there’s some great tutorials available on the Audiokinetic website that teach Wwise (which can be integrated into Unity). There’s lots of other areas to start learning about game audio as well: http://designingsound.org/2015/01/learning-audio-middleware-online-where-to-start/

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I agree with others that if the more advanced method you choose to learn benefits you then it is worth learning. The one thing I would add is that I think, sometimes, having too many buttons can stifle your creativity. You can have so many options you don’t know where to start or you can be so dazzled by the latest and greatest plug-in or process that you forget the tremendous power of elementary things like pitch-shifting etc.
I remember when I was just getting into audio and was playing with Windows Sound Recorder. Now I wouldn’t say for a moment that anything I produced with it was any good, but I ran that program to its very limits trying to achieve the things I wanted – turning profanity backwards in rap songs, producing elaborate mixes, using the Windows control panel to achieve panning by messing with the balance controls etc. It was good fun and really forced me to think outside the box to get the results I wanted.

 

With more and more sound effects and plug-ins at my disposal, I sometimes wonder if I’m overlooking very basic things. I look back at the stuff I produced with a lot less, not quite as little as the sound recorder days but somewhere in-between, which was really good.

 

I remember churning out dozens of sounds really quickly back then and these looks back prove they stand the test of time. Nowadays, I find I go through periods of producing much more slowly and being less happy with the results, so I wonder if I over-polish or concentrate too much on advanced things – the envelope followers, the effects that freeze audio in time etc, rather than simpler things.

 

It’s great to have as many tools in the box as possible, as long as new ones don’t displace old ones.

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It’s a difficult question to answer. Years ago I got the modular synth bug, I traded in a lot of my gear for some starting building blocks but it took months to just get a basic synth up and running, countless hours learning, and it’s been a ridiculous money pit. But I’ve learned a lot about synth architecture and got some weird sounds of some weird patches I would not even have dreamed of sitting in front of the computer.

My point is, experts can probably figure out a way to get very similar results in a simpler way and with simple tools and techniques, but the knowledge needed for that is not easily acquired. Experimenting with something that interests you and is kind of ‘FUN’ even if it’s hard can be rewarding in many different ways.

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