Some Thoughts On UI Sounds

Just playing around with audio feedback and UI tones this morning and it got me thinking about what connects a tone or sound to it’s function.

I came to the conclusion that a UI tones, much like most musical elements, consist of the character of the sound (it’s timbre if you’re getting calssy) as well as what notes are playing and in what order.

These are just my thoughts and I’d be happy to hear what anyone else thinks

In the above collection, I start with three basic combinations of notes in a triad.

All the tones in this example are in C major, a triad of which, in it’s simplest form, uses the notes C (1st), E (3rd) and G (5th).

0.00 - If we arrange them in ascending order (C,E,G), we get what I think is a positive and friendly sound, something that suggests opening a dialogue or a “happy” interaction

0.02 - if we arrange them in descending order (G,E,C), we get something that, I think, sounds more like a negative, the closing of a dialogue or window

0.04 - if we arrange the notes 1st/5th/3rd (C,G,E) I think the sound is more neutral, suggestive of information or fact. The same seems true, imo, of 5th/1st/3rd.

You can even cut out the middle man so to speak and go straight from 1st/5th (0.08)

0.26 - Obviously single notes have simpler meaning and I guess rely more heavily on the character of the sound (e.g. the sound of starting up Resident Evil) but i guess the user is informed by any visual feedback too.

0.13 - if we repeat the notes we can get a kind of universal “error” or “this isn’t allowed” kind of sound. The more intense the sound (0.24), the more intense the suggested error!

0.37 - a repeated sound can be used to indicate speed of movement, this section here is supposed to suggest a scrolling list of items moving at varying speed

Final Thoughts, Yo

You made it this far? Great! you are my favourite :)

Not only is it worth considering what a sound effect (ahem) sounds like, but the volume of an effect is important - if a player or user is going to here something over and over (and over) again, it shouldn’t be too loud or grating. One of my favourite sound design evarrrr is the sound of text in Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. I could fall asleep to the first act.

Finally, consider your SFX design: does something need a sound effect? If everything has a sound effect does it make it harder to highlight important moments or information? Have you spent long enough creating and tweaking your sounds? Only you can answer that my friend :)

Flynn out.

[ BLEEP! ]

  1. nebulousflynn posted this