Introducing Sydney Sounds, an ongoing collection of free sample packs for Ableton Live users. Curated by local artists and producers, Sydney Sounds aims to be the largest collection of audio representing the city and all its colourful noises.
The packs are created alongside artists chosen by Happy Mag. Each creator chooses a location, spends a day armed with field recording gear, then drops back to their studio to catalogue the sounds.
Each Sydney Sounds pack contains at least one 16-sample drum rack, longer ambient samples, plus more.
A name you’d recognise from festivals such as Pitch, Beyond the Valley, and Splendour in the Grass is Made In Paris, one of Australia’s finest techno DJs.
But when she’s not producing, playing shows, or delivering mixes to radio stations around the world, Paris spends a solid portion of her day-to-day life breaking a sweat in the gym. Every creative has their own way of finding their zero – be it meditation, a special place to hang out, or simply thrashing about on stage – and for Paris, it’s exercise.
“Being a creative, we have so much emotion. I feel like I always need exercise in my life – exercise is just something that gets you completely out of your head and gets you fully present. I find that’s what music does for me too, so it’s pretty exciting that we get to combine those today.”
When asked to produce her very own Sydney Sounds sample pack, Paris knew exactly where to go. New Life Health Club in Caringbah is decked out with all the equipment she’d need to record a menagerie of interesting sounds, plus it’s located right next to an oval – perfect for grabbing some lengthier outdoor samples.
“I tend to produce electronic sounds between deep house and techno, so going into this I’m hoping to get some cool samples that are really gonna resonate in that sort of realm.”
Not to mention, there’s a natural link between the gym and electronic music. Fitness junkies everywhere blast house and techno through their headphones to help get a pump on, and the rhythmic, perpetual nature of dance music is perfect for repetitive exercise such as weightlifting, running, and more.
“Some of the sounds I feel like I’m going to capture today are going to be a lot of metal, clanky sounds, some of the weights banging against each other or putting them onto other bits of equipment, using the treadmills, ramping those up, maybe a couple of those beepy sounds… even running on the treadmill could be a beat in itself.”
Once Paris had procured her recordings from the gym and the great outdoors, she returned to her home studio, booted up Ableton, and began building the pack. Running the raw sounds through her choice tools, she narrowed down the pack into a set of samples that will be perfect for anyone producing their own beats – not just artists who align with the Made In Paris sound.
“What I come up with will tend to be more on the dark side of electronic, being that there’s a lot of machinery. There’s definitely going to be a lot of elements in there that’ll definitely resonate well in a dance track.”
“My go-to plugins in Ableton… there’s a lot of great stock ones. I really like the echo, you can get so creative with that. I also use a lot of FabFilter third-party plugins.”
Made In Paris has created one of the largest Sydney Sounds sample packs yet. It includes a wide selection of percussive samples sorted into kicks and hits, plus two sampler synths, 12 percussion loops, 7 longer atmospheric samples, and a selection of miscellaneous FX.
“For anyone that downloads this pack, I just want them to get really creative with it, and maybe even come up with something that I haven’t done with it. Dive in, enjoy yourself, and see where it takes you.”
Download Made In Paris’ Sydney Sounds sample pack below.
Montaigne is an ARIA-winning songwriter who will shortly represent Australia at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam. Her music harnesses elements of baroque and hyperpop alike, a thrilling tapestry of wild sounds held together by Montaigne’s incredible vocals.
For her Sydney Sounds sample pack, Montaigne embraced her newfound love for skating. Heading to the iconic Maroubra Beach skate park, she sliced together a collection of samples including the thwacks and clangs of boards hitting metal or concrete, a skateboarder nailing a grind, the panicked scream of someone stacking it, and more.
“I chose a skate park because very recently I started getting into skating because of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 remastered on the PlayStation. After a few plays of it I was like, “skateboarding is really cool!””
“I was really devoted to going to the skate park really regularly, and then Eurovision started, so lots has been happening… so that’s why I chose a skate park.”
Whether you’re a skater yourself or a casual observer, it doesn’t take a trained ear to know that the sonic qualities of skating are totally unique. If someone played you the noise a board makes as it strikes concrete or rolls down a ramp in a vacuum, you’d be able to pick it at once.
And despite how archetypal those sounds are, there’s a lot of variation to be found.
“…the many things you can do with the board, with all the surfaces of a skate park. That was exciting to me, especially being into hyperpop music at the moment, a lot of the sounds are brash and loud and intense… and rude.”
“I thought skateboard sounds would fulfil that.”
“I think a lot of [the sounds] will be quite percussive probably, which is exciting because beats form a huge amount of production in hyperpop. Minimal layers but maximum effect.”
“Some of the sounds I’m hoping to get are your standard skateboard rolling along sound, skateboard grinding on a rail… I myself will not be doing that grind.”
Though many of the sounds were as obtuse as Montaigne hoped, that didn’t stop her from taking them back to her home studio for a bit of processing. Using Ableton as her DAW of choice, she began to create what would become a thumping techno track for her sample pack’s demo beat.
With a heavy use of iZotope’s Trash 2 distortion plugin, the skate park field recordings became a suite of thudding kicks, harsh snare sounds, and other brash percussive elements.
“I don’t think I operate with any intentionality, the intention starts to unfold as the thing takes shape.”
Montaigne’s Sydney Sounds sample pack contains a conventional drum rack as well as a selection of other samples she recorded and processed during the day.
Download Montaigne’s Sydney Sounds sample pack below.
Kat Harley is a Sydney-based musician who’s played in more bands than you can count on all four limbs. Currently repping The Laurels, Prudence, Gravel Pit, Lorelei, No Cake, and Warehouse Preservation Society, it’s a miracle she even found time to record a Sydney Sounds sample pack.
Apart from music, a great love of Kat’s is beer – and who can blame her? Sydney is a city ripe for the picking when it comes to brewery culture, with exciting new joints opening every other weekend. Not to mention the brewing process is a goldmine for interesting sounds.
“When Happy first asked me to do this I guess I thought about something that represents me and the things that I’m into, and I most definitely love beer. Breweries in particular are something that are so very Sydney, especially in the Inner West.”
“[I’m] trying to come up with a pack that is the complete package of all the different sounds that you need to make a track. It should be both beautiful sonically and visually.”
The Grifter Brewing Co. was where it went down, a huge, sun-drenched Marrickville brewery where everything is made on-site. They were kind enough to let Kat and the crew be privy to their brewing process, letting her capture what goes on “before a beer gets to you”.
In her Sydney Sounds sample pack, Kat includes a number of obvious sounds – glasses clinking together, tinnies cracking open, production lines rolling, and the sloshing of taps to name a few – as well as a few samples that’ll be harder to pick.
“I hope that I can get a bit creative with it, let the space speak to me and tell me what to do.”
Some of these choices include samples with big natural reverbs gathered from placing a mic inside a brewing keg, blowing on the top of a bottle for a melodic woodwind-esque sound, and more.
After a few hours at the Grifter (not to mention a cheeky beer or two), Kat returned to her inner west warehouse space to build the pack. Booting up Ableton Live, she packaged the lot into a session that includes all the percussive samples in a drum rack, some MIDI-ready melodic samples, and a demo beat to kick off your creative brain.
“I’ve tried using Pro Tools and Logic before, and they have their good sides about them, but Ableton’s just the one that makes sense for my brain. It’s the layout of it, but also the way that you can manipulate sounds I really enjoy. Stretching out sounds, warping things and pitch-shifting them – it’s what I’m about.”
The pack is now yours for the taking – both Kat and Happy Mag can’t wait to see what you make of it.
“I really hope that someone might download this pack and find some sound in there that they didn’t think they’d ever put in a song.”
Download Kat Harley’s Sydney Sounds sample pack below.
Matt “xiro” Fioravanti is a producer known for his work with Kwame, Phil Fresh, and Tasman Keith. He regularly accompanies Kwame as a live sound engineer, a gig that’s flown him all over Australia, from Splendour in the Grass to BIGSOUND.
But when he was tasked with putting together a Sydney Sounds sample pack, he looked far closer to home. Timezone is Sydney’s iconic arcade chain, originally established in 1978, and a key part of many of our childhoods.
“When I think of Timezone I think of a cacophony of sounds, like lots of things happening at once. A sensory overload – it’s like acid for children.”
“[Timezone] just means a lot to me. Growing up as a kid in western Sydney you can’t go to a beach or anything like that, so you go to a shopping centre and spend all your coins at a Timezone. I can just remember the sounds and good times had there.”
There’s no way to sugar coat it, arcades are an absolute gold mine for samples. 8-bit trills, inviting little melodies, and mechanical thunks assault the ears as soon as you step inside.
Matt’s Sydney Sounds pack takes these noises – nostalgic as they are – and isolates them, building them into several drum racks based on their individual character.
“People don’t even notice the hitting of buttons, or the pressing of pedals, or changing gears on a Daytona machine… that all makes noise and those noises can be really cool, I’m really looking forward to explore all the sounds that happen that you don’t even notice when you play.”
It wasn’t quite all fun and games, though. Recording in an environment as full-on a Timezone comes with its own challenges.
“I think mic choice becomes super important. I want to try and use mostly a shotgun mic which has a super narrow polar pattern so I can really focus in on sounds.”
Once the day’s recording had been completed, Matt booted Ableton to package the lot. The samples are mostly percussive, with a few longer one-shots for flavour. No matter what genre of music you’re making, you’re likely to find a use for these, but anyone creating retro or 8-bit tunes will find Matt’s Sydney Sounds sample pack especially useful.
As with every Sydney Sounds pack, both Matt and Happy Mag are excited to see where you take it.
“I want to try and provide some clean sounds just for other people to do their own thing.”
Download Matt’s Sydney Sounds sample pack below – included are nearly 100 samples separated into kicks, snares, hats, miscellaneous percussion, and one-shots, a two-and-a-half minute ambient stereo recording, and a demo beat.
Olympia Henshaw goes by the producer name Mookhi, “or Olympia, depending on how I’m feeling.” She’s been making tunes in Sydney for years now, an intricate, cerebral kind of electronic music that heavily employs sampling.
When she took the reins on another Sydney Sounds sample pack, she knew exactly where to go.
“To be able to marry Reverse Garbage where it’s all about reusing, repurposing, recycling, with sampling… I think it was the perfect relationship.”
“When Happy Mag approached me and asked for me to be a part of this I was so stoked, because this is essentially what I love doing. I love collecting sounds and samples, and I love using them in my production.”
Reverse Garbage is a Sydney institution. Since 1974 they’ve been saving materials destined for landfill, finding new homes for all the wacky, interesting bits and bobs most people throw away without thinking twice about.
It’s a beautiful mess of plastics, discarded educational models, crafting materials, and about a billion other random objects. Some of them, you won’t even be able to place.
“My aim today is to get a variety of the most absurd or bizarre samples that people will definitely not be able to pinpoint the origin.”
In other words, Reverse Garbage is the perfect place to collect a bunch of samples. Every piece of metal, every ceramic bowl, every item of glassware has a timbre that’s waiting to be teased out. With a whole range of sticks and poles to bonk things with, there’s a practically endless supply of sounds to be found.
“I would say the items are quotidian, so they’re everyday items but they’re en masse. You could spend hours there, it’s like a black hole. Bottle caps, some weird models or manikins, door knobs, buttons, test tubes… definitely weird bits of plastic.”
Sampling at its core is about giving sounds a second life. You’re transforming them, processing them, warping them until they fit a track you’ve already conceived – or in some cases, a sample can be so utterly unique that it’s a point of inspiration in itself.
That’s exactly what Reverse Garbage does, but for objects. These things, like the sounds they make, are there to be rediscovered and reimagined by a new owner. What can a sheet of bendable metal be in the hands of the right person? How will those buttons look when sewn into a new garment?
“As a kid I really loved the whole concept of it. Being resourceful, recycling, and finding new meaning and purpose to items that would otherwise be completely discarded or put into landfill.”
Complete with multiple drum racks, a demo beat, and a ton of sounds, Mookhi’s Sydney Sounds sample pack is yours to experiment with. Download it below, and give these sounds a new home.
Lupa J, real name Imogen Jones, has been producing music since the age of 15. Now 21 years old with their third album on the way, Lupa J has carved out a reputation for making dark and intricate pop, consistently being name-dropped as an artist to watch by a score of Australia’s leading tastemakers.
They’re also totally independent; managing, producing, and releasing their music themselves – often creating their own album artwork too.
“I am a solo artist, and I produce all of my music and currently perform totally solo. I really need to be involved in every element of creating the music because I think the production element is what’s most special to me, it’s really where I can express myself completely.”
When approached to create a Sydney Sounds sample pack, Imogen’s mind went straight to their childhood home in Asquith. Surrounded by nature and industry in equal parts, it captures the dichotomy many love Sydney for. One moment you’re walking through a serene national park, the next you’re witnessing the passing-by of a Centrelink train or watching a commercial airliner fly overhead.
“The sounds I’m really hoping to record today would be an industrial freight train,” Imogen shared.
“They’re super long and have heaps of carriages that are all kinds of sizes and materials, and sound different as they go by. They go forever so you could probably get a whole drum rack out of one – if you’re lucky.”
“There’ll be a bunch of metal-y, clunk sounds that I can use for snares or hi-hats, and then some thudding noises you could make into a kick drum, especially by adding some distortion and compression.”
Once the day’s field recordings had been completed, Imogen sat down to package the sounds for Ableton Live. “I’ll probably cut them up heaps and run them through a lot of different effects,” they explained.
The resulting Sydney Sounds sample pack is a boon for any producer who wants to add a touch of iron to their projects. Thundering 100-tonne trains, the metallic trills of telephone boxes and vending machines, and the beep of Opal card readers are all ripe for the picking.
The Sydney Sounds pack is totally free, coming with full recordings of all samples, a 16-instrument drum rack, and a demo beat crafted by Lupa J. Download the pack for yourself below.