Found Sound & Foley Samples

Found Sound is an umbrella term for sound captured by unconvential means, which means that it doesn’t come from a sample pack, VST or hardware synth. It’s about capturing sound in everyday environments, like ambient street noise, the crackling of fire or the click of the button on your coffee machine. You can use the raw found sound, but often it will get processed & manipulated. The film industry calls found sound Foley and often uses these type of samples to recreate ‘more realistic’ sounds for a movie, eg. the sound of fire is often designed by taking a bunch of tape and smushing it. Here’s an interesting TED talk about foley and the philosophy behind it:

Isn’t that just called sampling?

While at the core it’s about sampling sounds, it’s not referred to as sampling. This term is reserved for the act of taking a portion, or sample, of something that has already been recorded and reusing it within a new recording. Way back in the days, they used to splice tape together, but with the advent of hardware samplers like the MPC60 and SP1200, sampling became extremely popular, especially in hip hop, which relied heavily on sampling drums and melodies from early funk, jazz and soul records.

Nowadays samplers are built into software. There’s hybrid solutions like Native Instruments Machine and even DJ equipment like Traktor or Serato. Sampling is everywhere and if you decide to deep dive into the topic, then you’ll find most popular songs are actually recycled. Check whosampled.com for a comprehensive database on who sampled who.

So, why use found sound in your productions?

New, unconvential counds can inspire new ideas and provide a great starting point for creative songwriting and they add natural depth to your music. You will create a more organic, non-linear feeling to your tracks, which is already used heavily in popular genres like lo-fi hip hop, where producers use found sound for ambiences & soundbeds, as well as chopping them up for creative effects. Here’s some cool sound kits & sample packs to get you inspired:

Field Recording
Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton

Now go out and explore!

Walk around your city, stop at places and close your eyes. Try to find unique sounds and build up a library of unique sounds. If you record your own found sounds, you will be the only person that uses this exact sound. You craft your own signature sound and set yourself apart from the rest!

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