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7 Steps to Perfecting Your Sound Design Skills

April 11, 2024 - Looking for ways to master the art of sound design? Follow these seven steps to refine your creative process and perfect your craft in new and exciting ways.

Mixing music on a computer

Being a sound designer requires a broad range of creative and technical skills. Your task is to create the sonic fabric that entire scores, soundtracks, or scenes will be crafted from. 

From sampling and mixing to tweaking effects chains and conceptualizing soundtracks, it’s not uncommon for sound designers to hold themselves to an impossibly high standard – and while that can be admirable, it’s not worth putting yourself through unless you have a plan to help you attain it. 

No matter which stage of your career you are in right now, finding ways to up your game and improve your sound design skills is something everyone in this industry can benefit from. Let’s help you get there. 

And if you need a modern, online tool for professional sound design and music making, don’t forget to check out Soundtrap here.

Constant Improvement Is The Key To Sound Design Perfection

Being a great sound designer does not happen overnight. Like most crafts, it’s a lifelong creative process that evolves and changes over time. Unless you’re some kind of generational prodigy (hey, we’re not ruling it out), it’s unlikely that you’ll reach the level of perfection you seek in the first phase or two of your sound design career. 

Looking ahead and feeling overwhelmed by how much time and effort is going to be necessary to achieve your goals in this field can be overwhelming, but there’s some good news. 

First of all, the process you’re going through is universal. Every ambitious sound designer has undergone the unique pilgrimage of pursuing artistic greatness in some way or another, and that can be an encouraging thought. 

Secondly, the challenges of pursuing skill perfection are an essential part of what will ultimately make you a better sound designer. It may be a pain now, but in the long run, facing and overcoming challenges is a crucial step in learning more about yourself as a professional and achieving your most treasured goals. 

So before you allow yourself to get defeated by the road ahead or even just good old-fashioned imposter syndrome, take a moment to consider where that road is taking you. And in the meantime, focus on some basic steps for improving your sound design skills and becoming a more rounded creative:

Step 1: Learn about your equipment 

Repeat after me, RTFM. 

One of the most effective ways to limit your skills as a sound designer is to forego reading the instructions for the various tools and equipment you use. 

Sound design gear is notoriously complex and expensive, and failing to understand it properly is not only a waste of money but also of potential. Read all the instructions, immerse yourself in tutorials, and talk to other sound designers about how they use their equipment. The more you know about your gear, the more value you can extract from it.

Step 2: Optimize your sound design sessions 

While there’s a time and place for passively noodling around in Soundtrap, it shouldn’t be every day. For the most part, you’re going to need structure in your routine if you want to seriously progress. 

Set aside certain hours of the day or week to focus on different aspects of your work and take it seriously. This can be especially difficult if you work freelance, but it’s well worth the effort for the reward of enhanced consistency and skills application.

Step 3: Experiment 

Doing the same thing every day and expecting a different result is madness – and can lead to creative stagnance. Give yourself time and space to truly mess around with what you are working on to see what happens and develop a more unique and industry-impactful sound. 

Step 4: Keep your sound design apps and tools organized 

Workspace organization is crucial for achieving sound design perfection. As so many new tools, software programs, and bits of equipment are unleashed on the market, the need for effective self-management is even greater. Keep your physical and digital spaces tidy and organized.

Step 5: Listen

Yes, yes, we know you already do this. But sometimes, as sound designers, listening to the work you produce can become such a normalized part of your day that you forget how much of an art form it is. 

When your brain is going at a thousand miles an hour, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by a task, allow yourself to step outside of work mode and simply listen—not as a designer, but as an observer, an absorber of the music. Great listeners make the best sound designers. 

Read more: Audio Engineering Explained - Record and Mix Music Professionally

Step 6: Learn a little bit about music theory 

If you skipped music school or it’s been a while since you were there, don’t be afraid to put yourself in a position to learn or refresh those skills. 

As much as sound design is a creative practice, it is, first and foremost, a highly technical skill. The structure of music theory can help you approach sound design with a heightened, more knowledgeable perspective, allowing for more precise and enriched work to emerge. 

Read more: Basic Music Theory: An Introduction for Producers and Songwriters

Step 7: Stay focused and keep moving forward 

Ultimately, if you take anything away from this article, it’s to keep going and remain focused on your goals as a sound designer. If you aren’t sure where you want to go yet, set aside some time to figure that out—a little bit of vision and mental clarity can do you a world of good. 

Being consistent in your routine and continuously striving for personal improvement are two of the best things you can do for yourself. Perfection is a journey, not a destination!

Unleash Your Potential 

Sound design is not for the faint of heart. So many technical skills and creative expertise are needed to thrive in this industry, but with the right approach, reaching your goals and being successful is not an unrealistic goal. And don’t forget that Soundtrap is a great place to start, with a full online music production program at your fingertips.

With these seven steps for honing your skills as a sound designer and pursuing a higher level of sound quality, you can continuously grow as an artist and become the sound designer you know you have the potential to be.

About the author

Sydney Evan is an editor and writer who specializes in business and marketing content. She is also a music lover who enjoys listening to a variety of genres, from classical to rock.

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