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THE RHYTHM OF RAINDROPS – SOUND DESIGN CHALLENGE

First I’ll describe this backwards, as though it was created from a concept or idea (it wasn’t)

1. Imagine assembling a drum kit made of metal.
2. Imagine designing an algorithm to play that metal drum kit.
3. Imagine recording 14 hours of multitrack generative metal beats.
4. Imagine sifting through 14 hours of recordings and finding the gems.

This is exactly what I have been doing for a while now, but the recording process has been limited to only two days due to the nature of the algorithm: this drum kit is played by raindrops!

Now this idea is not unprecedented. If you remember AMB018 STRANGE RAIN I recorded multitrack textures of rain, by placing microphones inside objects such as metal bowls, pipes, waterphones, gas tanks etc… In that example, the algorithm is direct rain and as the objects were fully exposed, even light rain created a continuous texture or ambience.

For this upcoming library, the algorithm is sparser and the objects were chosen for deeper percussive impact, as you can see and hear in the video below.  I’ll explain how I came to discover this idea, but before I do that I’d like to present a challenge:

RAINDROP BEATS – SOUND DESIGN CHALLENGE

Using a short multitrack loop from the upcoming RAINDROP BEATS Library, make something inspiring and send me a link. If it strikes me as ‘interesting’ I will reward your creativity with a free copy of the library.

Rules: There aren’t any. Do whatever you like. Write a symphony! Design a dystopian ambience! Make bleepy techno! Design an evil sludgecore machine! Make synthpop!  But… be aware if it has no relationship to the source material then it will be difficult to appreciate the ideas and skill involved, in the context of this challenge.

DOWNLOAD:
>RAINDROP BEATS SD CHALLENGE Source
(10 x 24bit 96kHz WAV files – 86.8MB download – 110.2MB decompressed)

This SD challenge is now finished – 20220402.
Fantastic work in every entry!
Results will be shared when the new library is released.
Date TBC

OK I lied, there is one rule: the deadline is 11.59pm March 31st (in your local timezone!)
Email a link (soundcloud, youtube etc) of your creation to: EDU at hissandaroar.com

Also please take a screenshot or photo of the session you created it with.
I’d love to share the winning projects and how you achieved what you did.

I did not find the idea for RAINDROP BEATS, it found me!

I discovered the idea for this library during the Xmas holidays, December 28th to be exact. We had an unexpected Summer rainstorm sweep through, causing flooding and damage. But it also, by accident created an interesting sound. From my studio, I could hear this steady pounding drum beat. Were my neighbors having a party?? I went to investigate…

Turned out I had left a trashcan upside down in the porch, and by pure coincidence, it was directly underneath a crack in the clearlight roof. Somehow this drip was very steady, so I grabbed my recorder and put an MKH8050 inside the inverted trashcan, and also set up my MKH8040 pair to capture the general ambience.

Listening on headphones while recording, it really struck me how musical these sounds were. The steady pounding pulse from inside the trashcan provided a rhythmic reference, making the drips falling onto other junk and props feel like granular percussion. So I quickly set up all of the metal objects I had close at hand (bucket, milk can etc) and I left it recording.

After the rain ended, I loaded the 3.5 hours of raindrop recordings and listened to all of the variations. Immediately after a heavy shower passed the ambience would quieten down, but the pounding trashcan beat continued, presumably fed by the build-up of water on the roof. At this point I decided the idea was worth pursuing – I loved the bassy sound from inside of the trashcan.

A few comments on the drums. When I think of an old school trashcan, they tend to be very solid, but the one I had was a cheap import, made from fairly lightweight steel. I first bought it to capture IR sweeps inside, for the Metal IR Library. And it was the light gauge of the skin (base) of the trashcan that provided the initial resonance, as it was thin enough to act like a drum skin. But I discovered another useful aspect of this particular trashcan: it had a small lip or ridge around the outside, maybe 5mm high. Listening to some of the long takes, I noticed that the pitch of the trashcan would change over 30 minutes. As the water slowly pooled on its surface, the pitch would become deeper!

Next step: I wanted polyphony! I needed more trashcans! I headed off to the hardware store and after returning home spent the next hour arranging the three trashcans, and many more metal props. My metal drumkit and percussion ensemble were ready to play! Now I just needed some rain.

I waited. And waited. January passed with no rain – I was hand watering my vegetable garden every day. Six weeks later the weather forecast predicted major rain!

SEVERE WEATHER WARNING

HEAVY RAIN warning for Kāpiti-Horowhenua, Wellington 11:00 pm Friday 4/02 -11pm Saturday. Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly, surface flood and slips also possible. Driving may be hazardous.

My batteries were charged, and at 5am I woke to the sound of rain, and quickly set up to record. This time I used three seperate trashcan mics MKH8020/8050/8020, plus the external stereo MKH8040 pair. I set my SD788T recorder rolling, had a quick listen and went back to bed. Every two hours I would swap batteries, and I  recorded throughout the day, until the rain cleared that evening.

From session two I recorded a total of 11.5 hours of multitrack raindrops!

At the time, the rhythmic interplay sounded wild on headphones, but listening in the studio the next day these raindrop beats seemed even more interesting. The three thuddy resonant trashcans were consistent and have a correlation in intensity, but musically their rhythms are decoupled. At times they lock into a beautiful pattern, but it may only last for a few bars before nature and gravity gently alters the pulse.

During very heavy showers the ‘dot would become a line’ as the raindrops would be so heavy that the pulse became a rumble. But after a heavy shower passed and everything settled down, the metal percussion started to sound like a mix of free jazz and gamelan.

Since then I have been playing around with the recordings, analysing them and tempo mapping the recordings, and from within these recordings I plan to output a collection of multitrack raindrop beats, and long loops. These can of course be mixed and used as ambiences, but there is another potential use that intrigues me.

These recordings are also a pattern library.
I have been playing around with using the asymmetrical patterns to trigger other sounds (via slice to MIDI, and via real time triggering) and I think there is much potential to use these patterns to generate ambient elements.

As a simple example, imagine designing a night ambience where each of the trashcan pulses is triggering a cricket chirp. While you ‘could’ spend time placing single chirps, or use a randomised algorithm, the gently random distribution of pulses from the raindrop beats could provide a naturally generated pulse pattern, which would be difficult to manually generate, and unlikely to take this form programmatically.

So an important part of this upcoming library and a motive for this creative challenge is this:

What unusual, inspiring ideas can you come up with? SURPRISE ME!

Some techniques I have been exploring:

– Using MELODYNE app (not plugin) to create a tempo map and apply it to other source material.

– Using resonators to sustain and tune individual hits (GRM resonator, MI Rings)

– Using ENVY to apply the envelope from RAINDROPS to other source material.

– Slice to MIDI and use that MIDI to ‘play’ other sounds and instruments.

– Using plugins such as a drum replacer or ATTACCO to trigger other sounds.

 

But these are just starting points… Have fun!
I look forward to hearing what you can come up with!