Scoring Podcasts – My Tools
18 DECEMBER 2017
written by Mike
As podcasts become more recognised, there is room for different styles and genres of audio storytelling. One of the big ones at the moment, at least when you look at the top charts, seems to be scripted dramas and narrated storytelling content.
With podcasts, you don’t have that many tools behind your belt – it’s all about the sound so, in reality, you have three elements to play.
Each is important and plays a different role; all depending on the project. For example, with a podcast like Casefile, we tend to go with just two of the elements – narration and music. Sure, from time to time we do include extra elements such as recorded interviews, police archive audio, and even reenactments.
However, most of the times the centre of the show is the narration of Anonymous Host and music underscore for the emotional connection. The goal is to create a complete audio experience with just two elements. The listener does not feel that it is either too much or not enough in the mix – balance is the key.
Today I wanted to talk about my tools I use for scoring Casefile podcast. I treat the work as I would with writing music for films therefore if you are looking at tools for creating songs, this post may not be the answer.
Before starting in podcasting, I always recorded and wrote music. I used ‘normal’ recording with microphones, as well as plugins for computer music. I’ve tested many different sequencers and solutions, but in the end, decided to limit my tools and work with a minimalistic setup.
Just like for mixing, I prefer to work with only a handful of plugins but to know them inside out, to understand how far I can push them.
Limitation often offers more freedom than we think.
For some time I used software instruments in Logic, Native Instruments Komplete with 500GB of synths and Omnisphere on top of that. Before writing and recording, I often found myself sitting in front of the screen thinking what I should use as a cue. By having so many options, I was paralysed with choice and too many possibilities – until I decided to simplify the workflow and my system.
I moved everything to ProTools and stopped using Logic altogether, I’ve deleted Native Instruments and got rid of 500GB of synths. I was left with my favourite synth of all time – Omnisphere. From there, I’ve upgraded to Omnisphere 2 and for months just used that for scoring, nothing else.
Surprisingly it gave me freedom and unleashed more creativity than I imagined. Even during script reading I immediately knew what patch I would use for a particular scene, what kind of sound.
Unfortunately, Omnisphere wasn’t enough. It’s an excellent solution for scoring however it missed a vital element of writing music – pianos.
When Spectrasonics released Keyscape, I watched all the videos and tutorials on it. However, it still took me a long time to purchase it. I wanted to be entirely comfortable working in just one synth – Omnisphere, before opening another one.
In the end, I got Keyscape, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For now, these are the tools I use for scoring – Omnisphere for atmospheric sound and general cues and Keyscape for melodies, themes and building blocks for underscore.
I often start in Keyscape; I heard a long time ago that by learning the piano you learn how to play all instruments, I think that’s somewhat true.
Keyscape is often a starting point for creating cues, even if I write simple acoustic piano melody I can always use the MIDI and play it through Omnisphere crazy sounds, making the initial themes virtually unrecognisable.
Another great thing is that by using two products from Spectrasonics I have everything in one window – Omnisphere plugin window supports Keyscape libraries as well as other sounds such as Keyscape Creative.
For now, these tools are more than enough to create amazing scores and themes. The other solution that I could use would be an orchestral synth with possibilities of creating full orchestrated music that sounds as good as Keyscape pianos (I’m looking at you Spectrasonics!)
The take away from this (apart from my obvious love for Spectrasonics products) is that you don’t need much to get working and create great sounding scores. Frankly, sometimes too much choice is more limiting than having one or two solutions that you know better than anything else.
I’m not an expert in creating new patches or making sounds with Omni, but if you ask me to score something, be it a podcast, audio drama or even a film – more than likely I will be able to do it with what I got.
I’m not affiliated with Spectrasonics and this is not paid advertising – I just love their products!
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