The Pen Challenge!

Every once in a while I come across (or create!) some cool little audio exercises, and I’ve got one today for you to take a crack at!

It’s called “The Pen Challenge”, and as the name would have you believe, it involves simply a pen (and a microphone, of course). I very much like restriction, so I’ve put a ton of them on this one. Every part of a pen makes noise, so let’s see what is in there!

Step 1) Record up to five minutes of any sounds you can make using your pen and your pen alone (don’t write or hit it on other things – things you do to it are fine though). Be creative – take it apart, find what makes it tick, blow across tubes, etc.  You cannot go back and record more later!

Step 2) Take your recording into a DAW (I used Audition), and cut it up into small little beats and patterns. Do not use any processing unless it’s room noise reduction.

Step 3) Organize your clicks and pops and sounds into…something. I chose to make a beat pattern out of them. Use panning, gain control, and bussing to affect the mix. YOU CANNOT USE ANY DSP HOWEVER (No reverb, distortion, compression, etc). I preferred working with a time limit so I took two hours.

Step 4) Upload it and show me the link! 🙂


  • Allow re-recording of additional sounds
  • You can only add sounds by overdubbing entirely new recordings – you cannot edit the recordings however once they are made.
  • Allow other objects to be incorporated (Write on paper, hit parts on different materials, etc)
  • Using VST’s
  • Avoid making patterns, so that you create some sort of soundscape.
  • Using several pens with different  tonal qualities to get different timbres.
  • Create a dry version with no DSP according to the instructions above, but then go back and make a DSP’d version without changing the placement or track bussing routes.
  • Anything else you can think of.

Here’s two of the ones I made:

In this first one, I focused on a short set of clicks which I used sort of like a drum pattern, then layered other stuff around it.

In this second one, I got a little more complex. I used a lot of the FFT filter that I discussed last week (that’s the chimes you’re hearing) and some other reverby and stretchy goodness.

Anyway – that’s what I got this week.

This Ain’t My First Rodeo

I was once told by a great teacher that if I ever wanted a career in the game industry I would have to never, ever stop learning. He told me that the most valuable thing I could ever have is the understanding that my learning should not stop at the end of my graduation ceremony. He recommended that, in order to begin standing out, I should start standing up and showing what I know.

He casually mentioned that a blog would be a great place to start. And, well, a few short days later…here it is.

A new blog. I never quite know what to put here. An introduction? A statement of purpose? A funny gif? I’ve done this before – setting a new blog up, I mean, and it’s always been pretty much the standard fare introduction, as if I were introducing myself to a stranger or something: Hi. I’m Chris. I’m a would-be game sound designer, who just graduated from Columbia College Chicago, and I currently play bass for both a hardcore punk band and melodic death metal band. They’re pretty rad musical acts and it’s all pretty mega exciting, right?!


The purpose of this blog is pretty simple: Audio. All of it. Let’s talk about it. What am I up to? What are you up to? What have I learned? What can I still learn? How can I teach it to you? This will be sort of a collection of musings, ramblings, demos, retrospectives, tutorials, cool little hacks, lessons, and of course projects and clips that I’ve worked on. It’ll all be really cool, I PROMISE! The second purpose is that it will offer a way of remaining motivated. That’s a pretty important thing too.

Beyond that short intro, I really think that the best starting point is actually the ending point, though. Where do I want to end up? Well,  It’s not enough to want to BE a sound designer. I already am one. And I want to work on sound design for video games. It was while watching the “making-of” bonus disc which came bundled with Halo 2 when I realized that this was what I wanted to do for a living. While watching the clip of a few sound designers invent the engine of the Warthog, and playing in some test levels, I realized that what I was seeing was, without a doubt, the most exciting thing since the history of ever. I was 14 years old at the time, and I had just made a major life decision. At 22, I’m almost ready to tackle my mid-life crisis!

But yeah…There you have it, my new readers! My life goal is to basically…create the next Warthog sound.

So why not start now?
Here’s a short exercise I just did in Adobe Audition….so without further ado, I give you, my quick sketch of what the M12 LRV WARTHOG could have sounded like!

If you’re curious, what you just heard was created by combining the following:

  • My beat up ’93 Buick Regal GS revving in neutral at 2am in my parents garage for the whine layer of the engine
  • A gasoline-powered lawnmower cutting at grass for the “mech” sound layer
  • Some revving sounds from a ‘911 Porsche in 24 hours of Sebring, to give the final dirt skid and the engine rev some power
  • This Vespa PX 200 GS ( as the main sound and character
  • A ’90s Grand Am from the general-6000 library, kicking up some dirt and gravel for flavor, as well as to add some motion.

I roughly eq’d it, gave it a quick mix…and that’s it! There it is in all of its’ glory. Sort of. Like I said, this is a learning thing.

I’d like to say that this is it – I’ve accomplished my dream goal. But not yet…Stick around. I’ve got a lot of cool things in mind. There is much work to be done.

–Chris Prunotto

PS: I’m sorry if nobody actually says rad anymore.