In this time and age, sound designing and sound designers play very important role in music production – especially in EDM. These people bring inspiration to other producers and their sounds may also become a trademark for a whole genre.
One of the sound designers amongst many is Shane Robbins from Echo Sound Works and I had an opportunity to interview him:
Hello Shane! First things first: can you tell us a little about where are you from and how did you got interested in electronic music production and sound designing?
I’m from Oregon, but my adopted home town is Denver. I really love that city. I moved out to LA about a year ago and that’s my new home bass.
I got started with electronic music produciton kind of later in life. I started playing guitar when I was in grade school. I had to pick an elective and it was either Band, Theater or Spanish. I chose Band and started playing the electric guitar. It wasn’t until I got my first Mac computer in high school that I got into electronic music production and music production in general.
My interest in sound design began when my Mom bought a Korg Triton in 2002. She played in a Church band and I had so much fun tweaking sounds and trying to make my own. I had no idea what I was doing but it was fun! Fast forward a few years and I was obsessed with the ES2 in Logic 7.
About your studio: what’s your main DAW of choice and why’s that?
I am a Logic guy through and through. I have been using it since version 7. When I started out, I didn’t have a lot of money for preamps and third party gear, and back in the day Pro Tools wasn’t an open ended system like it is now. You had to buy a certain preamp and had to buy TDM plugins which were always more expensive than the native ones so I went with Logic.
What about the rest of your studio: what kind of monitoring system are you using? Any other hardware that is your “go-to” equipment?
I’m pretty simple with my set up. I have a UA Apollo Quad, three preamps and an 1176 compressor. I have one “high end” preamp, the Presonus ADL 600 which sounds great on vocals. I swear by Warm Audio’s Tonebeast. That’s a great preamp. I have two of those and would never sell them.
For monitoring I use some JBL monitors and some KRK Rokits and really well treated room.
What’s your favorite effect and/or synth plugin? And why?
That’s such a tough question. I’m so excited to live in a time period where there are so many options for synthesizers and plugins. I could probably narrow down my favorite synths to three.
And as far as effect plugins go, way too many to mention!
You seem to know the features and functions of many popular synth plugins inside out. Where have you learned all this stuff? And where have you learned sound designing in the first place?
I’m self taught in the sound design field. It all began because when I bought Logic 7 I quickly realized the sounds weren’t what I expected them to be. Back then in 2004 you pretty much had to use a hardware synth for commercial results. Massive and Sylenth didn’t even exist yet!
So I really learned how to use the ES2 in Logic. I spent hours learning that synth and reading the manual over and over. After a while it started to make sense. The third party synth game didn’t start to catch on until 2005-2006 and I purchased Massive as soon as it came out.
There’s really only so many types of synthesis. Once you learn those, subtractive, wavetable, FM and Additive, using multiple synths becomes easier.
When you start designing a new sound, do you already “hear it in your head” or do you just start noodling the knobs and experiment and see what you can come up with?
I don’t like to recreate sounds so I seldom have an idea in my head to reference before I start. As a producer, I don’t like to use sounds that are already famous and that has carried over into my sound design. I might think I need a lead that has modulated vibrato that doesn’t sound like a supersaw and then go from there for example.
I just did this Tropical House soundset for Massive and I wanted to make a Pan flute sound. That was definitely noodling. A lot of noodling.
In your opinion, is there any synthesis basics or fundamentals one should learn before being able to create new and interesting sounds?
I would say that it’s important to understand that a good sound will still sound good without a bunch of bells and whistles. I like to think of software synthesizers as real instruments. If you have a bad sounding guitar no amount of reverb or distortion will make that guitar sound good. I also think taking risks is important. I feel like a lot of sound designers try to make what’s already popular in a given genre instead of being the catalyst for pushing that genre in new directions.
Do you ever use any of those commercial, synth preset collections made by other sound designers in your own music?
Yes! It might sound weird but I do. As a producer I love Nexus for being able to instantly create. A lot of times I end up replacing the sound with a custom one but it’s still part of the process. If I have an artist in the room with me, I can’t spend 30 minutes making a sound. I use other’s as well. There are some really talented sound designers out there right now.
What’s your favorite sub-genre in electronic music scene?
I really like Indie Dance, Glitch, Future House and Tropical House right now.
What’s your opinion: what is going to be the next popular sub-genre in electronic music that will go main stream?
I think Indie Dance will start to get popular in 2015.
Any tips for new sound designers?
Just practice, play and tweak a lot!
Where can we hear your music and sound design work?
You can check out my sounds at www.echosoundworks.com
and my productions at www.monarrkmusic.com
Many thanks for your interview, Shane!