5 Ways to Get Creative With Organic Foley

It’s all too easy, when producing these days, to get stuck inside the box and, whilst you may have a dope tune on your hands, it can be missing, well, something...


There’s a natural movement to real-world sounds that even the best synths can’t recreate, and without this, your mixes can end up sounding lifeless and a bit static. This is where the art of Foley comes in; it can be a breath of fresh air in helping to elevate your mixes and add another dimension.

And by Foley, we don’t mean it in the same way as used in film-making; where Foley artists attempt to recreate the sounds that need to be dubbed over in the post-production of a film. It has become a broader field and, with the proliferation of genres like Lo-Fi Hip Hop, which lean heavily on the use of reclaimed, old dusty, vinyl crackles, has swiftly become a staple of many producers' techniques.

Organic Textures

The general basics to this technique involve capturing raw field recordings; using anything from your generic iphone, through to a high-end field recorder. The results of which you can then edit into usable samples that you layer into your tracks. These sounds may sometimes be barely audible in the mix, but when you remove them, you will realise how much they add in terms of feeling and filling out the mix. You can even time-stretch, or speed them up to reveal interesting and unique rhythmic patterns that can replace the more generic percussion loops that you may usually reach for.

This technique can be taken as far as you feel works for your track, and you can layer up sound after sound, for example, wind, rain and vinyl crackle can all sit together perfectly to encapsulate that warm and cosy, hiding-inside vibe that Lo-Fi Hip Hop often perpetuates. The longer your recordings, the more they will change over time, which also subtly helps to maintain a level of ongoing interest to your productions.

Foley Percussion

You can also use any particularly percussive elements that you have recorded to create your own drum hits. Anything can be used, such as the sound of breaking glass, which would be good layered with a snare to add more texture and, with a touch of reverb, an interesting tail end. Or hitting a steel drum with a piece of wood could generate a fat low end that could be blended with a kick to make it sound huge.

The best thing about this is that you can take any old drum one-shots and make them completely unique and your own! Aside from the obvious, you are likely to find small rhythmic sections which, thanks to tools such as Ableton’s warp mode, can help you nudge things into time and, all of a sudden, you have your own unique fill or percussion that sits between your kick and snare!

Check out Robot Koch making great use of this technique here:

Get Creative

The uses for Foley can extend way beyond these few examples and is only limited by your own imagination. Things such as a car flying by could be reversed, then used as a sweep, you could scrape a wooden spoon over a cheese-grater and then drench the audio in reverb and delay, then you have your own atmospheric SFX! You could even layer with a synth to add more movement and an organic touch to your sound. The key is, don’t feel restricted with what you can do with these sounds, just let your creativity run wild and experiment. Play with modulation, EQ, tranposition, warping, panning, the dynamics, saturation and more!

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