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Examples:

How to make this synth sound in the background around 0:15?

How to create a sound like the opening of this song by Mac De Marco?

Are these, and the occasional questions like them, on-topic?

Do we want them to be?

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Are these, and the occasional questions like them, on-topic?

I think moderators have previously been clear that they are off-topic. Your question covers quite similar ground to my question here: Our on-topic page currently says that 'identifying a... technique' is off topic, but does that reflect our current feelings? ...which was answered by a moderator in no uncertain terms.

Do we want them to be?

I personally do think that answering questions along the lines of 'how do I make this musical sound' would seem to be one of the core purposes this site could serve.

As per some of the comments in my linked question, I do understand some of the concerns about these questions - they'd require work from the community to look for duplicates and keep the questions as searchable (and, perhaps, browsable) as possible.

One concern I don't really understand is the worry about questions turning into 'gear search' questions. If (as is most often the case) a sound is most straightforwardly produced with a particular class of equipment, then we can say so without needing to focus unnecessarily on particular makes and models, or allowing tedious 'what is the best'-type questions. If there are times when it really is only a specific bit of gear that will do the job, then on those rare occasions, we can be honest about that. (Gear search questions are only 'bad' when there isn't actually a right answer, IMO.)

Redirecting these questions to 'Sound Design' may work in practice - it rather depends how good they are at answering them. Last time I was over there, their site was a little quieter than this one.


Edit 2019 - I notice that How to make "plastic" sounding distored guitar was well-received and well-answered here, as was the more general Question about re-creating the sound of a specific recording.

It really does seem to me that these kind of questions fit fine here. I would question the 'official line' that these questions should go over to Sound Design.

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  • The first "well received" example has a dead link in the question making it much harder for new people viewing the question to hear what the OP wanted. This in general is one of the bigger problems on the site and encouraging questions that are prone to have link rot isn't sustainable as the site ages. As for the question being "well received", I must point out it was on the HNQ which means it was just exposed to more people off site and not necessarily "well received".
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 9 '21 at 14:26
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Thoughts:

  • They strike me as being quite similar to identification questions, just with longer answers. E.g., instead of being able to say, "that's a G minor chord", it's more like, "that's a square wave and a saw wave with a 20 ms VCA attack and filter emphasis at 50%", etc.
  • They seem like they would rarely be useful to future readers.
  • Many sounds are only possible or are much easier with a specific synth or plug-in, which then makes questions about those sounds practically gear-search questions.
  • Extremely specific questions seem a lot worse to me than more general sound design questions. In other words, "how do I make this exact sound from this exact song?" seems much more problematic than "how can I create a soft brass pad with an analog subtractive synth?" Frankly, I'd personally prefer the latter kind of question be on-topic. The former, not so much.
  • I'd be more Ok with "I've been struggling to approximate this particular sound with my gear. Here's a sample of my goal and another sample of what I've been able to craft so far. What can I do to make my sound more similar?" That seems like a more interesting and useful question.
  • Maybe these questions would be reasonable if we required askers to state the specific equipment/plugins that they want to use to create the sounds. That would firmly remove the possibility of a gear search and turn it into an answer to a specific problem that can actually be answered.
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These type of questions are really only suitable for Sound Design, and there are some very smart sound engineers there who manage to help most people.

As Andrew T commented, the replication tag is most relevant.

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