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How to: Composing Ambient Tracks for Dummies

how-to guide music audio ambient

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#1 kyyrma

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 11:05 AM

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Composing Ambient Tracks for Dummies
v. 1.0 or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make the Ambient

This tutorial shows you my method for creating ambient sound without any previous musical talent or experience in using audio editors required. The guide will be fleshed out as I learn more about the process and everyone is welcome to contribute. Feel free to add your own comments and suggestions in the thread.

These are type of ambient tracks that have been created with my methods:

Haunted Ground
Home Asleep
Creaking

What tools do you need?For best results follow the tutorial twice: once following my directions exactly with the samples I provide, and then a second time picking your own samples and making your own choices in how to modify them.

With these simple tools and a bit of patience you too can produce your own ambient track with relative ease. Just don't expect to become Eric Brosius overnight. Remember to save your project between between sections, and don't worry about completing everything in day.

I. Planning and preparation

Spoiler


II. Choosing the ambient base

Spoiler


III. Effects in Audacity

Spoiler
IV. Applying effects on a track

Spoiler


V. Trimming, copying & pasting

Spoiler


VI. Layering

Spoiler


VII. Adding Instruments

Spoiler


VIII. Adding Fade-ins and Fade-outs

Spoiler


IX. Adding Instruments pt. 2

Spoiler


X. Mixing, Looping and Exporting

Spoiler

Edited by kyyrma, 01 December 2014 - 06:26 PM.

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#2 RPGista

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 08:18 AM

Hey man, this is amazing, will come in handy for sure. Ive got some video art planned and was actually thinking about making my own (simple) background audio, or at least start to look into how I could learn it, I'm starting with your tutorial now. Thanks a lot.

#3 buck28

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 09:35 AM

kyyrma said:on Nov 26 at 11:05AM
If you want to use the track in TDM, you still need to create a soundshader for it. Follow this guide on how to create a soundshader.


What guide for the soundshader creation? Is it in the Wiki? If so, I can't find it. :huh:
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#4 Springheel

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 09:45 AM

This tutorial shows you my method for creating ambient sound without any previous musical talent or experience in using audio editors required. The guide will be fleshed out as I learn more about the process and everyone is welcome to contribute. Feel free to add your own comments and suggestions in the thread.


Very cool. This should definitely go on the wiki, or be linked from there, so it isn't lost.

#5 ERH+

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 10:10 AM

What guide for the soundshader creation? Is it in the Wiki? If so, I can't find it. :huh:


You need your own registry file:

darkmod/sound/anyname.sndshd


And within it:

anyname
{
editor_displayFolder your_music

minDistance 10
maxDistance 24
volume 15

sound/your_music/anyname.ogg
}


Actual sound file goes to:

darkmod/sound/your_music



Just be aware not every format will be recognised by game:

http://wiki.thedarkm...nd_File_Formats

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#6 buck28

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Posted 28 November 2014 - 02:58 PM

@ERH+
Thank you:)
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#7 kyyrma

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Posted 29 November 2014 - 08:28 AM

Glad to hear that the guide has been of help. Report back here if it helps you get any results!

@Buck28: Sorry about that. That line was a placeholder where I was going to link a guide to creating a soundshader, but I couldn't find one for the life of me. Fixed now.

#8 buck28

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Posted 29 November 2014 - 09:44 AM

@kyyrma

Thank you. That helps ;)
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#9 SeriousToni

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 04:31 PM

Wow that's really awesome how easy it seems to make a nice ambient track now - especially after listening to the great demo songs you've put up here! :)

On a sidenode, this link doesn't work:
2. Copy that over to a new track three times and then close the remaining bell sound track. The result should look somewhat like this picture.
"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

#10 kyyrma

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 06:24 PM

Wow that's really awesome how easy it seems to make a nice ambient track now - especially after listening to the great demo songs you've put up here! :)

On a sidenode, this link doesn't work:
2. Copy that over to a new track three times and then close the remaining bell sound track. The result should look somewhat like this picture.


Thanks, glad to hear it! I'm still very much learning myself, so I'm hoping I can make the guide a bit more clearer in the future :)

I fixed the link, thanks for pointing that out.
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#11 SeriousToni

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 08:00 AM

I hope for more nice ambient tracks in the next year (the current ones are really starting to repeat all over the FMs).

Good job, boy! :wub:
"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

#12 OrbWeaver

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 08:03 AM

anyname
{
editor_displayFolder your_music

minDistance 10
maxDistance 24
volume 15

sound/your_music/anyname.ogg
}


Some great information here. Just a couple of comments about the sound shader:
  • You will probably want to add the keywords global or omnidirectional to make the sound actually ambient rather than appearing to come from a particular location in the game world.
  • Similarly, you most likely need looping if you want the ambient to repeat indefinitely. These properties can all be set on the speaker manually by the mapper, but it's much better if they don't have to do this.
  • You almost certainly do not want to use a high volume adjustment like 15, unless your sound file is rendered at a particular low volume to start with (in which case you should re-render at a higher volume to increase signal-to-noise ratio). An "ambient" sound that is 15dB louder than other sounds is going to be extremely intrusive and annoying when playing, so this value will either need to be adjusted by the mapper or they will just skip your ambient because they find it unpleasant to listen to. Most of the ambients with the stock mod do not have any volume adjustment, and those that do have a negative one (I think I set some of them myself after noticing piercingly loud background sounds in one of the test missions).

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#13 ERH+

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 10:02 AM

That was just a copy/paste example for people who don't know how to start. There is a lot to customize just by args on speaker, and in many cases ambient sounds will be used via atdm:location_settings. In .sndshd file I've found interesting option of stocking many sounds on random choice list like that:

random_words
{
editor_displayFolder erh_sounds

sound/voices/Fridd.ogg
sound/voices/Kaom.ogg
sound/voices/Mega.ogg
sound/voices/Morte.ogg
sound/voices/Movis.ogg
sound/voices/Nhi.ogg
sound/voices/Rhaa.ogg
sound/voices/Folgora.ogg
sound/voices/Spacium.ogg
sound/voices/Stregum.ogg
sound/voices/Taar.ogg
sound/voices/Tempus.ogg
sound/voices/Tera.ogg
sound/voices/Vista.ogg
sound/voices/Vitae.ogg
sound/voices/Yok.ogg
}

...so you can hear something more than loop -every triggering will take random sound.

I've found also useful placeholder for future voice acting files in voice synthesizers, like Ivona (if you are not good at speaking english and want people to understand dialogue in alpha testing).

Edited by ERH+, 08 December 2014 - 10:11 AM.

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#14 kyyrma

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 10:59 AM

@OrbWeaver

I'll eventually add a bit more of this on the tutorial itself. I usually omit looping / global from my own soundshaders, because I always tweak them in DR anyway, but I see your point there.

@ERH+

... those are the Arx Fatalis spell sounds. right? :P

#15 OrbWeaver

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 11:04 AM

That was just a copy/paste example for people who don't know how to start.


Right, and since people following a tutorial will tend to copy what is written exactly, my suggestion is that the given example only includes what is absolutely necessary — and there are very few situations in which it would make sense to start with a volume adjustment of +15.

(Assuming that positive adjustments even have an effect at all; I don't recally testing this specifically although I can see no reason why it wouldn't work).

in many cases ambient sounds will be used via atdm:location_settings.


True, this probably negates any need to add "global" or "omnidirectional" manually, although it still might be convenient in case mappers do want to use the traditional speaker-based method.

#16 OrbWeaver

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 11:08 AM

I'll eventually add a bit more of this on the tutorial itself. I usually omit looping / global from my own soundshaders, because I always tweak them in DR anyway, but I see your point there.


Oops, I didn't notice that the example sound shader and the main tutorial were posted by different people.
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#17 ERH+

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 11:09 AM

@kyyrma
Yes. I'm testing random lists of words -verbs, adjectives, nouns- if they could form some sort of non repetitive, enigmatic, prophetic poetry.
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#18 SeriousToni

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 03:18 PM

Sounds interesting! Do you have some results about the word test already? :)
"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

#19 ERH+

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Posted 12 December 2014 - 07:41 AM

I thought english version will work a bit better due to easier grammar ( lack of cases), but it sound gibberish for most of time. I'm working with different ratios of adjectives and verbs, but I think a good dramatic lector can make a huge difference too, so I will try to find some public domain poem (something like Hamlet) and cut it to pieces.

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#20 SeriousToni

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Posted 14 December 2014 - 04:55 PM

Just dont let it become a pop song :P
"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

#21 Petike the Taffer

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 07:27 AM

Not sure if this could be helpful, but I guess it would be OK as a simple practice tool:

http://www.ambient-mixer.com/

 

I'd personally use the more usual methods instead.



#22 SeriousToni

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 05:28 PM

Well you have to pay money to download your ambient track, soo.... <_<


"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

#23 Anderson

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Posted 23 November 2015 - 11:31 AM

This is actually  very, very useful. Can this be stickied on the forum? I am afraid for this to be lost.


 "I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass."...

 

 

- 2 July 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell from Edgar Allan Poe.

 


#24 Bikerdude

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Posted 23 November 2015 - 11:45 AM

Hasen't Kyyrma added it to the wiki yet..?



#25 Anderson

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Posted 23 November 2015 - 11:51 AM

Hasen't Kyyrma added it to the wiki yet..?

I don't know. I wasn't aware anyone had it in plans. It wouldn't hurt if it's possible.


 "I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass."...

 

 

- 2 July 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell from Edgar Allan Poe.

 




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