How To Use White Noise For More Creative Tracks

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White noise is commonly listened to as a sleep or relaxation aid. It's an even mix of all audible frequencies, producing a flat 'shhhh' sound many people find soothing. 

It's also one of the most versatile music production tools. You can hear it in tracks by everyone from Tycho to Trent Reznor to Maceo Plex

In this article we'll look at three ways you can use white noise as a creative layer in your tracks. 

 

Buildups

When you send white noise through a high-pass filter, it can be easily shaped into sweeps that act as buildups in your tracks. 

In your DAW—we're using Ableton Live—load the white noise sample into a sampler. Scoop out some of the low end using EQ (anywhere from 300-500 Hz), and draw in volume automation that brings the sample from quiet to loud. It should sound like this:

Then add in frequency automation, that slowly opens up the sample, creating a rising effect. Turning up the resonance will give the white noise more body. 

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To take it one step further, add an LFO for more movement. In this example, I set the LFO to affect volume, but feel free to experiment with pitch, panning and filters. 

 

Rhythmic

White noise is also helpful as a percussive sound. It can be shaped into just about any drum sound, making it useful when you're building a beat. 

Either program a simple beat to start, or begin with your white noise as a foundation. Load the sample into a sampler and start arranging it into a pattern.

Play around with filter frequency, resonance, note length, and add effects as you see fit. 

Here's what I put together using some drum samples from Outro's 808 pack

With an added white noise rhythm, the beat takes on a whole new energy. 

Experiment with different patterns and sampling styles to find a process that works best for you.

 

Ambience

If your track is sounding a little bare, white noise is there to fill it up. Combining the first two methods—filtering and rhythm—white noise can act as an ambient layer, glueing together all the separate elements of your track. 

Drag a white noise sample into your DAW as an audio file and EQ out the bottom end to avoid muddiness. Then, apply some basic effects like reverb, chorus or a phaser at low dry/wet settings for some excitement. From here, adjust the volume of the white noise so it sits nicely in the background. If it's too present, it will sound harsh. 

In this example, I added in filter frequency and resonance automation that matched the rhythm of the sample, resulting in a quirky whooshing sound.  

Listen here: 

The white noise fills up the space between the notes, adding movement and energy. 

 

White Out

White noise is a handy production tool that can be used at multiple steps of the music creation process. Minor tweaks are all you need to make white noise really pop, and this article is just the tip of the iceberg.

How do you use white noise in your music? 

Daniel DixonComment