There's rhythm all around us, and computers make it easy to capture those sounds and weave them into your own compositions. In this episode, we transform the everyday rhythms of talking, laughing, and even toothbrushing into exciting new grooves. (DMI 05-24-2007: 8 minutes 28 seconds)

Production Notes

The musical examples for this episode are largely excerpts of songs I've made over the years with "found sounds" and borrowed instruments. "Hi! (Ahem) 'Scuse Me David," for example, is based on an answering-machine recording that I looped, imported into a Yamaha Motif workstation, and then filled out with Motif piano, bass, drums, and background vocals. I then sampled and looped a few bars of that into a Boss SP-505 groovebox and overdubbed the solo bass sound.

Several of the examples are soundtrack excerpts from the Art of Digital Music DVD, which features 53 short movies of the artists I interviewed for the project. (The photo below is a frame from the DVD.) When I added music to the interview sound bites, the rhythms in the speech sometimes matched almost magically with the beat of the music.

I created all of the excerpts in BIAS Peak 5. As usual, I recorded my voiceover into Peak as well, using a Rode Podcaster mic. Next, I imported all the audio clips into Ableton Live 6, where I arranged the musical examples around my voiceover and the theme music. I compressed and enhanced the voiceover with Izotope Ozone. Finally, I rendered the mix to an AIFF file, converted it to an MP3 in Peak, and then used iTunes to clean up the ID3 tags and add artwork.

The Digital Media Insider theme music came together in Live as well. The opening sound effect is a compressed mouth noise spliced onto a tone cluster I generated in Native Instruments Reaktor. The main groove is from Steinberg Xphraze. (Jim Aikin turned me on to both virtual instruments in his article "My Five Favorite Soft Synths.") The piano is from the Garritan Personal Orchestra, which I discovered when we interviewed Gary Garritan. Then there are a few percussion samples dredged from my hard drive. Altogether, the theme took just six tracks. Effects processing was courtesy of Live's default plugins and Freeverb.

Jennifer Hruska

Sound designer Jennifer Hruska embraces audio indeterminacy. "Iím constantly aware of sound thatís happening around me," she explains. "It's always fusing together no matter what Iím doingóoutside of the studio, at the dinner table.... Thereís so much rhythm there, and sometimes it comes together in really interesting ways."

Related O’Reilly Articles and Blogs

Create Scorching Grooves with Spectrasonics' Stylus RMX

In this hands-on tutorial, MIDI meister Jim Aikin reveals how to get the most out of this amazing percussion plugin.

Sneaky Tricks for Speech Synthesizers

Surprisingly, synthetic speech can add a captivating human aspect to your music. Here are several creative (and free) ways to use speech synthesizers.

More Fun With Speech Synths

O'Reilly recently snuck a wacky speech synthesizer into our blogs. As a speech synth enthusiast, I immediately started looking for phrases that would produce funny rhythms.

Quirky Online Drum Machines

At the Virtual Drum Machines site, you can play dozens of wacky-sounding yet strangely inspiring drum machine emulations.

Need a Break? Try the Sloppy Online Drum Machine

This Flash-based drum machine produces an interesting, sloppy feel. Cool sounds, too.


The Art of Digital Music

Albhy Galuten

Jennifer Hruska/Sonivox

Ikutaro Kakehashi/Roland

Amy X Neuburg

Marty O'Donnell/Bungie

David Battino is the audio editor for O’Reilly’s Digital Media site, the co-author of The Art of Digital Music, and on the steering committee for the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (IASIG). He also writes, publishes, and performs Japanese kamishibai storycards.

Return to