The world of sound design has come a long way in the past few decades. Some people might still have the dated idea of foley artists, hunkered down in a soundproof room with hundreds of props, embellishing movies with homemade sound effects. Nowadays you may be surprised how many elements of your everyday life are accompanied by specially made sound design, from big brand logo reveals to interface clicks and beeps. Consider the ubiquitous Netflix ta-dum or Apple’s startup chime; all iconic pieces of sound design. It’s an equally important part of modern music too. In 2021 you’ll seldom hear a soundtrack or music release without some element of sound design.
Thankfully, there are thousands of KONTAKT libraries with weird and wonderfully mutated sounds to enhance your next project, and lots of them are free to download. Rather than just choosing a grab-bag of libraries, here are 5 free tools that reveal some popular sound design techniques. They’re fun to try out and you might learn something too.
If you need thousands of small samples to begin your sound design adventures, 8DIO have you covered. Make sure you use the developer’s own downloader app to install the library as the manual download links seem to jumble up the library content rather awkwardly. For Mini, it seems as though the folks at 8DIO raided their office supplies and sampled pretty much anything they could get their hands on. The sounds include stopwatches, radios, cups, pencils, paper, coins, chairs, and sticks. There are also plenty of organic human body recordings including finger snaps, teeth clacking, fingernails and lip-smacking kissing noises! The entire library houses a generous number of round robins at a variety of dynamics. In their raw form, these samples can be inspiring rhythmic elements but that’s just the start. The small number of bonus atmosphere patches could open your mind to the creative possibilities of mutating mundane sounds for yourself.
Cuckoo Clay Bird
Amongst the generous selection of freebies from Atom Hub is a small and unassuming library based around the various sounds of a toy cuckoo whistle. By itself, this may not appear a very exciting concept, but the 12 patches here offer an excellent demonstration of the ways you can begin to build your own simple Kontakt instruments from the ground up. Don’t try to download using Chrome as the Atom Hub site seems to be a bit fussy about browsers. Once downloaded and installed, click the wrench icon at the upper left of the Kontakt interface to peek behind the scenes at the instrument mapping. You can also access the various FX slots and see how those transformations are integrated into the signal chain, turning a whistle into a hammond-style organ. Just playing around with this simple library should begin to display the sound shaping possibilities of Kontakt, with ideas that you can implement in your own instruments.
Snack The Cat
Animal noises are a plentiful resource for unusual sounds, just ask the sound designers behind Jurassic Park’s fearsome roars. The vast variety of wildlife living on earth means that the breadth of different types of calls, chirps and bellows is truly astonishing. It’s obviously pretty expensive to book your own safari or even visit your local zoo, but there are lots of ways to gather animal sounds for free. Try the quality WAV downloads at the BBC archive or crowd-sourced samples from Freesound. Closer to home, you may even be able to grab a microphone and record your own pets. This is obviously the inspiration behind ‘Snack The Cat’. The folks at Soundiron sampled their studio cat and used FX and processing to transform the recordings into percussion and organs. These patches are great inspiration to show how far you can take everyday animal sounds and twist them into unrecognizable instruments.
Bionic Plucks & Mallets - Lite Edition
Riot Audio is the brainchild of award-winning composer Robin Schlochtermeier. The concept behind Bionic is an important fundamental in creative sound design; combining the transient of one sound with the tail from another. This transient-slicing principle is taken to the extreme here, with a possible 4 mixable sound slots in total; 2 transients and 2 tails. Despite the small number of sources, the way that you can mix the attack and body from the various samples means that there’s lots of scope to create your own bespoke plucks and mallets. Alternatively, try the 20 factory presets for inspiration. The flexible engine also employs some of Kontakt’s finest effects (including the new Replika delay) and is a real hands-on demonstration of how you could mold your own instruments by cherry-picking dynamics of different sound sources. If you like the concept and want to experiment further, there’s a full-fat version of Bionic available with many more sound sources.
With 12 sound sources and a dual-layer engine, this free taster library from Triple Spiral Audio is a cut down version of the full Universe experience. Despite having far fewer samples than it’s bigger brother, the engine is fully functional with an arpeggiator, ADSR editing, filters and a separate page of creative effects. This library provides a look-ahead into where you could take your own Kontakt instruments, using more complex Kontakt scripting to twist basic samples into more interesting textures using sound design concepts. Beyond the educational aspect, Universe has some great presets in its own right, with soaring arpeggios and lush pads.