Kicking Off As A Sound Designer

Sound designers are the creative people of audio disciplines. While not being so popular in the past, sound design careers seem to be getting more popular everyday wit...

Posted on May 9th 2022

Sound designers are the creative people of audio disciplines. While not being so popular in the past, sound design careers seem to be getting more popular everyday with the obviously fast acceleration of technology. Maybe you are hearing about it more often these days and curious of what sound designers do and what it takes to become one. If this is where you’re standing, this article is for you. We will give you some tips and tricks that should apply to your journey with sound design regardless of where you’re standing or which way you are choosing to reach the destination.  

There are a few things to set up before you plan applying for your first job. When you decide to become a sound designer, your responsibility will be obtaining all sound effects for a specific production. Whether it be for a movie, video game or a YouTube video and even in some cases, music, you or/and your team will be responsible of how that media will be perceived by our ears. In other words, you will be the creator and the designer of the sound.


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Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses

Knowing where you can be potentially best at will help you direct your focus onto more useful  subjects. Same goes for knowing your weaknesses. Some examples to strengths can be having a good sense of melody, being good at audio editing, be good at intentional and meticulous listening, getting the initial recording right, having an efficient workflow. Weaknesses may be that you are bad at transitions, using microphones, orchestral scoring etc. Knowing all these can help both you and your employer to recognize where you might be useful at and what you need to be better at what you’re doing.



Be Proficient In At Least One DAW

If you are gonna work with sound design or anything related creating sounds on a digital medium, you are going to need to use a DAW(Digital Audio Workstation). Master at least one daw that suit your needs. Know your way around it by discovering all the useful functions. Shortcuts will save you tons of time. Do this and you will thank yourself in the future when you realize how fast you work with the shortcuts.


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If you don’t know what DAW to choose, do a research. Look up which DAW is used by the professionals in the field and why they use it. You will see a lot of the professionals that are on the same field use similar DAWs for similar reasons. Your choice of DAW doesn’t really matter. You can do same things in any of them. DAWs are developed for the same reason. That being said, their featured functions differ greatly from one another. Choosing the one that will be more useful to you is advised.

Get Your Skills Proficient At Least In Beginner Level

An education for a skill is a must if you want to know more of what you can do with it. Also if you are thinking to find a job, you will be required to at least have a basic understanding of sound design. Educate yourself at school or at home. Either way you will have everything you need. The basic teaching of sound design is a simply comprehensible concept. If you are just starting out, first thing you should practice is layering. Layering is basically a combination of various sounds that complement each other in some way which creates or resembles a texture of sound. This will be your basic philosophy along the way.

Get To Know Your Style

There is at least one reason why you wanted to know more about sound design. Something drove you into this path and it is your responsibility to identify what brought you here and why you were compelled in the first place. By identifying, we mean to identify the tools and methods to achieve the style of your choice. Maybe you like recording with a microphone and sounds of ambiences really compel you. Maybe you are interested in cinematic sound design and get excited when you hear huge cinematic sounds like braams, trailer impacts, drones. Or maybe you are curious of the immersive sonic world of video games. Even a certain type or theme of sound might be the case like sci-fi or medieval sound design. Whatever it is, you can learn about it on internet amongst thousands of tutorials, articles, blogs etc. Educating yourself in the 21st century is easy. All you need along the way is your commitment and creativity.


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Learn sound design for motion picture. One great way to practice sound design is designing for a video. Have some type of video opened in your DAW of choice. This could be a scene from a movie or a game, a part of a commercial video, or a logo animation for a YouTube video. Whatever it is, you will be practicing it by layering the sounds and it will help you start recognizing the type of sounds that you can work with and the process of sound integration to a motion or animated picture which might be good use to you along your career through sound design.

Of course, it is not the only way to practice. You don’t need any graphic material. Just start making stuff in your DAW and let your creativity open up to you. You will soon start to impress yourself as you start understanding the structure of your designed sound.

Invest Your Time In It & Practice

Like in any profession, if you want to get better at something, you must be willing to invest your time and energy into practicing your craft. Be consistent in your practices. Treat it like it is already what you do for living. When you start giving consistent time into it, you will soon realize you are making progress and development, getting familiar and more creative with the tools which will be your foundational knowledge and the way of working in the long run.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

If you feel it is overwhelming at times, give yourself time and patience to learn and understand it better. Try looking for alternative ways to handle your situation if you have to. Take some rest if you feel the need to. At times of frustration, some time off might be just what you need to move on. Be careful you are not being lazy though. Take just enough time to put your mind at ease and get back into the game!

Creativity Is Your Primary Weapon

Sound design is rather a more maybe the most creative discipline amongst the other sound studies. You are not required to understand too much technicality in order to advance in your knowledge and your skills. The basic technical understanding will fall into its place as you move forward in your studies. You will not need anything other than a working computer, a good pair of headphones or speakers, your commitment and your imagination.

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While knowing this also try to keep your practices as simple as possible. Your most creative ideas will appear over the simplest structures. For example try working with one oscillator at a time or try achieving your sound by the minimum amount of layers to the sound. If you start out by thinking that you want to achieve complexity instantly, you will find yourself wasting a lot of valuable time.


Create A Pile Of Your Best Works

After acquiring certain level of skills, you will feel more comfortable with the process of creating sounds and now you are ready to start combining them in a portfolio.

A combination of your best works in one place will be required in wherever you go to get a job. If it is not required you’d still have something to impress your employer. Still, it is highly unlikely that your works won’t be reviewed by wherever you plan to apply for a job. Choose the works that defines and demonstrates your abilities in best way possible. The pile of works you have created will also be the foundation of your skills and your career along the way. Invest your time to this and do the best you can.

Create A Network

While improving your practical skills, you should also consider reaching out to some people and and improve the business side of things. Designing sounds is totally fun. But if you want to take this on a professional level, you are gonna have to treat it like a job, a business. Be on this mindset and start building your connections. Play it smart by creating a network with professionals. Make good impressions with your works and personality. Be confident while respecting the work you and others do. Join career related communities and share your work and knowledge within the scope of your ideal circle. There is a big chance that your works will be noticed by employers that might need you in their team. Attend to free classes, or take private lessons. Find a way to put yourself among the sound people and and start forming connections in the communities. Try to hunt down jobs. You can find lots of jobs on the internet. Whether it is a freelance or a full-time job. Either way, the chances of you being noticed for any type of job is mainly up to your skill which you will be presenting with your pile of works.

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Failure Is Not An Option

Failure is neither an option nor it is the end. If you think you have failed try again until you don’t fail. Advancing your skills is not easy and the journey can be filled with self-doubt. You will doubt yourself for sure. If you find yourself looking for a way out, try to convince yourself that there is no way out. Because you are highly capable of doing whatever it is you think you’re failing. Take some rest if you need to and try again whether it be about advancing your skills or developing a business. Remember that it takes commitment and that you never fail until you decide to quit.

In conclusion, if you decide to become a sound designer or even if you have some skills but don’t know what to do next, take a look at these tips and see if they would be helpful. They can be applied to you regardless of where you stand. Tune in for more sound design related stories and tutorials.


If you are interested more in field recording, check out Enis Çakar's interview .


Haktan Maya / Sound Designer