Soundscape is a broad term. It applies to both music and science, such as acoustic ecology. Soundscape in music has a complicated structure that refers us to its real life manifestation. Environmental soundscape consists of both background (wind and ocean waves) and discrete, easily distinguished sounds (footsteps or shrill call of seagulls).
When it comes to music we recreate those components by musical means. Ambient swells and drones imitate background while melodic line or sound FXs stand for foreground.
In performance practice we create soundscape step by step layering sounds with a help of delays and loopers. It’s for us to choose where to start from – background or foreground.
We can start from a melodic line and back it up later with a harmony/drone or we can do it vise versa.
|Pad → Drone → Melody
|Sound FX → Harmony Pad → Drone → Melody
|Melody → Drone → Harmony Pad → Sound FX → Melody 2
The best way to make a complex soundscape that covers a broad spectrum of frequencies is to use a multiphrase looper. I would suggest you to explore the whole potential of unsynchronized multiphrase looping. The environment consists of many looped sounds like birds singing patterns or rolling waves, but they are never synchronized with each other.
Unsynchronized looping might be tricky in sense of concurrency of harmony and melody, but surely deserves trying, since you will end up with ever evolving soundscape that never repeats itself.
This is the basic principle of looping: Loops (or Phrases) consist of Layers that we record while Overdubbing (Stacking is another term for that). We can record as many loops as our looper let us doing it (up to 8 loopers in case of software Mobius looper). Usually any loop can be overdub with an infinite number of layers. Furthermore we can delete one loop and record a new onewhile the other loops are playing. Some loopers let us manipulate loops recorded: reverse them, change their volume and speed, add FXs etc.
This is an example of how soundscape structure may look like:
|Loop A (Layer A1 → layer A2 → layer A3 → layer A4)
|Loob B (Layer B1 → layer B2)
|Loop C (Layer C1)
Let’s start with a simple one-phrase soundscape. There are going to be no melody, but only accidental notes within one chord. I will end it up with a low drone.
One loop Soundscape. Pad + Drone
Now I’ll try another simple one-phrase loop. First of all I will record a pad that creates a chord then overdub it with a drone and finally add a melody to it.
One loop Soundscape. Pad + Drone + Melody
Finally I will create a complex soundscape starting with a Sound FX loop. The second loop will be two chords harmony pad. The third loop will be a melodic line. These are going to be non-synchronized loops living their own life and making new interactions with each other all the way the soundscape plays.
Three loops soundscape. Sound FX + Harmony + Melody
As you see you can construct soundscapes in many different ways. There are no limits – you can try to incorporate field recording, start with a percussion rhythmic pattern, reverse or overwrite loops and change their playback speed, volume levels… The only idea you should keep in mind is to be musical. Pay attention not to overload a piece that intends to be ambient with too many notes. Remember – the less is more. Read more about Soundscapes in ABC section.
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and Socials to stay in touch and be informed when new tutorials, lessons, tips and tricks are published.