Option-Click: Playing for Special Effect

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

FIG. 1: Serafine FX Tron (sonicreality.com; $995) is the sound effects library you play like an instrument.

One popular way to add realism to electronic instruments is to mix in the real-world squeaks, clicks, and buzzes their acoustic counterparts produce. Some producers even add crowd noise or room tone for depth. (As Xbox Halo composer Marty O''Donnell quips, “Sound makes it real; music makes you feel.”)

But sound effects have huge emotional power of their own. Renowned Hollywood sound designer Frank Serafine played backward monkey screams, pitch-bent and flanged, to add menace to the killer Frisbees in Tron. He also pioneered the technique of performing sound effects rather than simply pasting them in. “When I play it on a keyboard, it''s like music. It feels right,” he told EM.

Another favorite Serafine technique is transposing sounds to harmonize with the music. His new virtual instrument, Serafine FX Tron (see Fig. 1, and “Quick Pick” review), makes that easy.