How to Create Retro Sound Effects (Windows)

If you love the nostalgic sounds of old video games then its the time to create your own. Here we’ll learn how to use Sfxr to create your own sounds for Windows.

Sfxr began as a quick and easy way for video game programmers to add custom sounds to their games. It includes a bank of present sounds, but it’s also an easy way to create unique effects. It works a little like a synthesizer – the keyboard-like instrument that’s synonymous with electronic music.

The sounds it creates are short bursts of noise, wich are perfect replacements for Windows own alerts. Instead of the default sounds you can create interesting and unique blips for opening and closing programs, or when Windows starts and shuts down.

If you love customizing your desktop wallpaper or screen saver then you’ll love sfxr.

Step by Step Become a sfxr maestro

Step 1: Get sfxr

Install sfxr, enter www.drpetter.se/project_sfxr.html in the address bar. When the page has loaded you’ll find a bit of backstory on the project, and towards the bottom you’ll find links to download it. We want the Windows 32 version, so click ‘sfxr.zip’. you can also hear some samples if you click ‘sfxdemo.mp3’.

Step 2: Sound installation

When asked whether we want to save or open the file, select ‘Open’. The file will download and open automatically. Next, click ‘Extract all files’ to the upper left and the files will be unzipped into a new folder. For easy access, right-click on the sxfr application and choose ‘Send to’ followed by ‘Desktop (create shortcut)’. This will create an icon on your desktop.

Step 3: Volumising

Next, open sfxr by double-clicking the programs icon. Begin by clicking ‘Play sound’ to the right. This will play one of the present noises. If this sound is too loud or too quiet, you can set the volume by clicking and dragging the slider above. Click ‘Play sound’ again to check it’s okay. You can also play sounds by tapping the space bar on your keyboard.

Step 4: The music generation

To the left you’ll see the generator, which is designed to create random sounds based on a number of common video game actions, such as Pickup/Coin and Explosion. Click on one once, and a sound will be generated in the right-hand panel. Click on it again to create another randomised sound. You’ll see the sliders change each time you create a new sound.

Step 5: Mutate and Randomise

The Mutate setting at the bottom changes the sound’s setting ever so slightly, altering the pitch or tone. If you’ve created a sound you like using the generator but feel it’s lacking a certain something, click the ‘Mutate’ button until it sounds just right. The randomized setting throws everything up in the air and creates sounds that range from range from interesting to unlistenable.

Step 6: Manual labour

Now you’ve seen how the basics work, you’re ready to get stuck into the nitty-gritty of sfxr. The four buttons to the top – Squarewave, Sawtooth, Sinewave and Noise – create different types of sounds, from techy and clean to messy and noisy. Click one and choose ‘Play sound’ to hear it, then select another and play again to listen to the difference.

Step 7: Slide away

For more control, you can use the sliders to alter a sound;’s properties. Attack, Sustain and Decay set how long it takes for a sound to peak and trough, and Start Frequency allows you to alter its pitch. There are many other options here too. We recommend setting them to maximum one at a time and then finding the middle ground that sounds just right.

Step 8: Save and load

If you create or stumble across a sound effect you particularly like, click ‘Save sound’, choose a directory and type a filename before clicking ‘Save’. If you want to use a sound for alerts in Windows, click ‘Export WAV’ and then follow the same procedure. It’s a good idea to do both in case you want to change a sound later.

Step 9: Noisy Windows

To play your sounds in Windows, click ‘Start’, choose ‘Control Panel’ then ‘Sound’ and finally select the ‘Sounds’ tab at the top. Next, choose the sound you wish to alter (for example, ‘Close program’) then click the ‘Browse’ button and find the sound you created in sfxr. Next, click ‘Open’, then ‘Apply’ or ‘OK’. you can change your sounds at any time using this method.

Step 10: Sounding off

Well done! You now have a firm understanding of every function of sfxr, from creating randomized sound effects to altering levels to make your own custom noises. You also know how to replace Windows’ default sound effects with your own. The best way to get to know sfxr is to simply play around with it. It’s lots of fun, and you’ll be surprised how much you can do.


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