Electronic Music and Sound Design

There are various approaches to electronic music composition; two of the more well-known are German and French approaches to music concrete and electroacoustic music composition.

Some genres, including musique concrete, spectralism and dark ambient, blur the distinction between composition and sound design, especially at macro levels when effects such as triplet delay, oscillators tuned to fifths or square wave LFOs are used.


Composing music involves the overall arrangement of notes, melodies, phrases, rhythms, lyrics (if applicable) and sound design elements to produce an orchestral performance or track. Mastery of this element can make all the difference between an ordinary production and one which truly stands out.

Electronic music compositions typically incorporate beats, chords, and basslines arranged into sections of four, eight or sixteen bars that form its overall structure and offer predictability and balance to listeners. Rhythm is another key aspect of most genres of electronic music production and many producers begin their songs by starting with a solid drum beat before adding chords and melodies.

Melodies are often the heart and soul of electronic tracks, following all of the rules of harmony and music theory applied to traditional classical compositions. Finding an electronic track melody that enhances chords, bassline and creates tension or emotion requires finding one with elements arranged so they will captivate listeners’ ears and stay with them through multiple listens.

Film soundtrack composers traditionally employed orchestral instruments when crafting their scores, but in recent years musicians such as Hans Zimmer and Trent Reznor have begun adding their own distinctive flair by either using electronic sounds and samples to augment an orchestral score or opt for full electronic production altogether. Others such as Nathan Johnson (Brick/Looper) and Excision use effects to detune instruments and generate harmonics which would otherwise be impossible to score on paper staff paper.

Composing and sound design become even more intertwined in certain genres of electronic music, including musique concrete, electroacoustic music, spectralism, dark ambient and noise. Composers in these fields often rely heavily on synth patches programmed specifically for their compositional needs such as triplet delays, oscillators tuned in fifths, extreme compression settings or square wave LFOs to realize their musical visions.


Synthesis, as the name implies, is the practice of electronically producing sounds. This process uses a computer to manipulate various parameters such as pitch, volume, waveform shape and filter type and shape as well as delay type/length/modulation parameters. Sound designers employ these tools to craft unique and imaginative sounds suitable for use in music productions that range from basslines and synth leads to soundscapes and effects.

Synthesis is an essential element of techno production, as it allows producers to craft unique sounds and sculpt sounds specifically tailored for their productions – ultimately leading to more cohesive sounds overall.

There are various kinds of synthesizers, from traditional analog hardware to modern digital software instruments. Most techno producers, however, rely on virtual synthesizers within their Digital Audio Workstation or DAW for production purposes – these plug-ins or VST/AU instruments often represent more cost-effective options compared to their analog counterparts.

One of the key aspects of synthesizing sounds is learning how to control both the amount and type of distortion in your sounds. It can be challenging, though; overly adding too much distortion could alter their timbre and character completely, rendering your design ineffective. Therefore, when creating sounds it is crucial that you take your time designing them until finding an equilibrium suitable for your production.

Modulation is another key element of synthesis. Modulation refers to changing parameters over time, which is an effective way to add movement or life to your sound. You could, for instance, modify filter frequencies while playing to produce shimmering vibrato or tremolo effects; you could also sync modulations up with your project tempo for rhythmic fluctuations; or allow it to drift naturally for more natural results.

Sound Design

As musical instruments become ever more complex, musicians increasingly relied on sound effects as part of their compositions. This trend was most prominent during early avant-garde music from the mid twentieth century; composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Steve Reich used field recordings and synthesizers to craft dense tapestries of sound through field recordings and synthesization techniques. Since then, rock musicians such as Brian Eno and Jim O’Rourke have used electronic devices and synthesizers to craft unique sounds for themselves and styles unique from others.

As these disciplines are inextricably linked, some producers refer to themselves as sound designers rather than composers due to the focus they place on creating audio effects and textures rather than actual note composition. With digital technology and advances in home studio equipment becoming more accessible than ever before, however, the distinctions between sound design and composition may become less defined over time.

Producing audio tracks has never been simpler thanks to innovative software such as virtual instrument plug-ins that enable producers to combine composition and sound design simultaneously, giving them great freedom in creating unique sonic environments tailored specifically for their production without spending hours scouring record stores or libraries for material.

Although this approach can be beneficial in producing songs, it can often result in songs lacking focus on compositional elements, leaving only effects and drum beats with minimal bass sounds – something which goes hand-in-hand with today’s music industry, where instant gratification is required in order to sell songs.

However, with some careful thought and consideration it is possible to craft songs that endure time by incorporating both composition and sound design elements into one cohesive final product that bears its own identity – this is exactly what our Sound Design for Musicians course teaches its students how to do.


Mixing is one of the cornerstones of electronic music production. Mixing involves bringing all the individual tracks together into an coherent whole that’s ready for mastering and distribution, but also serves as an artistic opportunity. Producers can add their artistic vision by customizing its sonic texture through mixing.

As it’s easy to become lost in the technical details of mixing, it is crucial to take frequent breaks from your work in order to return with fresh ears and assess whether there are any areas for improvement in your mix. Listening through different playback systems (studio monitors and headphones) will also allow you to spot potential issues before they arise in the final product.

Mixing electronic music requires mastery of many techniques, from EQ and delay effects to modulation effects and modulation effects, in order to produce a harmonious track. Songs often consist of up to eighty different sounds which must be blended together seamlessly. Due to having very distinct bandwidths between some sounds, clashing or clashing could occur and cause interference among them resulting in clashing or clashing sounds that clash or muddy together into one large mass. These issues can be mitigated using various mixing techniques like EQ, delay effects and modulation effects which sculpt them into more coherent whole.

Acoustic music can often be easier to create because there are fewer instruments and sounds to consider, while electronic music presents endless opportunities that necessitate extensive processing in order to bring all its elements together seamlessly.

Always bear in mind that mixing is a lengthy process that will take time to perfect. Furthermore, its important to remember that your mix’s sonic characteristics depend on its listening environment – what might sound great in your studio may not translate well on car or club sound systems; therefore, before releasing any mix for public release it would be prudent to test its sound in multiple playback environments first.