Static noise is characterized by the idea that it doesn’t have any musical content. But does it? Or is it secretly possible to make music from noise? Let’s find out!
Can you make music from noise?
A few months ago I have done an interesting experiment. I wanted to see if it’s actually possible to make a melody out of pure white noise. You will know if I failed or not at the end of the video attached to this post.
But to understand what the heck I’m talking about, let’s first see what the noise is about.
What is noise?
Noise comes in different forms, like white noise, pink noise, or brown noise. They all have slightly different characteristics, but for the sake of this post, let’s ignore all types and focus on white noise only.
White noise is a sound that contains all the frequencies in the spectrum. That is, between 20 and 20000 Hz. All these frequencies are about equally loud but occur in a random fashion. So, white noise is simply a random distribution of frequencies, which sounds a little bit like: sssshhhh.
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How random frequencies can still produce music
Now back to randomness. Randomness, as you may know, is the highest state of disorder. This means it doesn’t contain any information. Musical information in this case.
However, very interestingly, random noise still has the potential for music. All the frequencies are already there. Yet, there’s no pattern in which they occur. But the pattern is what creates the music. After all, music is based on frequencies that occur consistently, not randomly.
The amazing sleep experiment
Now, let me share a fun anecdote. Usually, when I go to sleep, I turn on a smartphone app that produces a white noise sound. I do this to mitigate any noises from the outer world which helps me sleep better. Seriously, try this out and comment below how well it works for you.
Funny enough, when I spend a couple of hours making a melody in FL Studio and go to bed after, I can actually hear that melody within the white noise sound. My mind, as amazing as it is, is simply used to hearing a particular musical pattern, you know, because of repeating it over and over again, and automatically finds this pattern in the noise signal.
This works, because white noise already contains all the frequencies and the potential for any melody to exist. So theoretically, and with a slight stretch of the imagination, every song you will ever hear already exists within a white noise sound. Now, let that sink in for a while.
While it’s sinking in, make sure to grab your free copy of my hardstyle sample pack. Just click the link to start your download.
Find patterns in noise to make music
Anyhow, to get music from noise, all we need is a way to draw out patterns and thereby diminish the noise. And the better we eliminate the noise, the clearer the musical result gets. But how the heck do we do that?
To show you a unique way, I’ve already prepared a plain project in FL Studio. Just watch the video and follow along.
How to make music from noise
First, we need to start with a synthesizer that can produce an annoying white noise signal. For instance, the 3x Osc in FL Studio can do that job very well. Just select the noise waveform and you’re good to go.
However, because we’re dealing with a white noise signal, it’s impossible to draw a melody on the Piano Roll. No matter which notes you pick, you will always hear the same random sound. As we’ve just discovered, white noise doesn’t contain musical information, thus will simply sound the same on each key.
How to play musical notes with a white noise sound
That’s why we cannot make a melody on the Piano Roll and have to find a way to work around it. So instead, we need to filter out a musical pattern in the white noise sound. By filtering it, we can remove the frequencies we DON’T want and emphasize the frequencies we DO want. That is, at a specific time. So, by filtering the right frequencies at the right times, we can actually create beautiful music.
This is what I meant by eliminating the noise as good as possible. It’s very difficult to do this perfectly, but let’s give it a shot anyways. Now, don’t expect superb quality, but definitely a distinct musical tune. So, let me show you how.
STEP 1: Produce a signal by drawing a long note
First, instead of drawing different notes on the Piano Roll, just draw one long note with the duration of your melody. For example, 16 beats, 32 beats or whatever. This will produce the raw signal we always need to have. You could also draw shorter notes with certain pauses or intervals. It’s completely up to you.
STEP 2: Use an equalizer with a narrow band
Next, make sure to send your synthesizer to the Mixer (for example Mixer Track 1). Open the Mixer, select the right track and then add an equalizer to one of the free slots.
Now, most importantly, disable all bands but one and make it very narrow. So, select the bandpass option on your equalizer and find the steepest slope. This will filter out all the frequencies, except a very small range.
When you play the sound now, you can actually hear something that represents a tone. However, this tone must be located at the right frequencies for a melody to arise. So, all we have to do now is finding the right frequencies of our melody.
STEP 3: Know the notes of your melody
And yes, this means you must have a melody. Or at least, know the notes of your melody. We need to know all the notes in order to find the right frequencies. So, find a simple melody as it will spare you a lot of work later.
If you don’t have one and want to learn to make your own melodies today, get my book The Ultimate Melody Guide right now by clicking this link.
In my case, I have used one that I’ve made a couple of years ago. The melody is mostly on-beat and has a few chords and layers, which I’ll play for you at the end of the video. But for now, let’s keep it simple. All we need are the exact frequencies of the notes in our melody.
STEP 4: Find the frequencies of the notes in your melody
Luckily, this is super simple to look up. Just open your original melody on the Piano Roll somewhere to see all the notes. For example, if you have the notes A#, A and F, you can look those up online to find their frequencies. Here’s a list of all notes on Wikipedia.
Though, some equalizers already have a convenient built-in feature to select any key for a band. If your EQ provides this option, by all means, just use it.
STEP 5: Position the EQ band at the right frequencies
Once you have found the exact frequency of each note in your melody, it’s time for the magic. Go to your equalizer and position the band at the frequency of the first note in your melody. If this were an A# for example, the corresponding frequency would be 932 Hz, so you would position the band at 932 Hz.
Makes sense? All right. But this only captures one note. So, how can we capture multiple notes and sequence them to play at the right time?
STEP 6: Automate the EQ band
Surprisingly, the answer is automation. Using automation can give us perfect control over the position and timing of the frequency band. So, we can determine WHERE the band should be and WHEN it should be there. This allows for the melody to arise.
In order to do that, we must create an automation clip for the band on our equalizer. Luckily, this is a piece of cake. Just click on the band and wiggle it around a little bit. Then, go to “Tools” in the menu, select “Last tweaked” and select “Create automation clip”. This will put an automation clip for the equalizer band on the Playlist.
STEP 7: Draw the right value in the automation clip
Now, when you go to the Playlist, you will have to use your automation clip to make a cute drawing. This drawing should represent the frequencies and the times they occur. Therefore, we need to find the exact values for each frequency and put those values at the correct moment. We don’t want to mess this up.
One easy way to find an exact value is again, by wiggling the band on your equalizer a little bit and then click “Tools” in the menu, select “Last tweaked” and select “Copy value”. This will copy the current value of that band into memory.
Though, make sure that the position of your band is correct after any wiggling. Else, you will copy the wrong value.
Lastly, go back to the automation clip, right-click on a point and select “Paste value”. This will position the point at the exact height that corresponds with the right frequency.
We can do the same for the second point in the automation clip. Just right-click in it somewhere to get a new point, right-click on that point and select “Paste value” again. This will position the second point at the same height as the first one, producing a straight line between the two.
STEP 8: Rinse and repeat for all notes
This line basically represents the duration of a particular note. But at the moment your melody jumps to the next note, you will have to create a new line in the automation clip that represents that note by giving it a new value.
And this way, you can easily repeat these processes for all the notes in your melody. Find the values, copy the values and paste the values on your automation clip. When all of that is done, press the play button and your melody will magically appear.
As I said, the quality is not that spectacular of course, but that’s not what this is about.
Make music from noise with different layers
Now, if you want multiple musical layers and chords, you will have to use multiple synthesizers and equalizers. Each synthesizer and each equalizer can only produce a single layer with this method. So, you can make it as simple or complex as you desire.
Though, if you have no idea what the heck chords and layers are, again just get The Ultimate Melody Guide by clicking this link. It will teach you everything you need to know about that as fast as humanly possible.
There you have it. This is how you can make music from noise. It’s probably not as practical, but maybe this unique perspective gave you an “aha” moment. If you have learned a thing or two today, I’m more than pleased.
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