The “scacciapensieri” makes the foley sound funny – Let’s see how

Foley is defined as the process of replicating everyday sound effects. A typical example of foley recordings are the sounds of footsteps that are commonly added into movies in order to increase the realism of the scenes that otherwise would remain awkwardly silent.
Needless to say the way in which foley is made depends on the sound signature that we want to achieve.

Our game, Battle fur bamboo, aims to keep a humorous approach among all the gameplay, sounds will then have to be coherent with this style underlining a specific type of characteristics.
There is a huge difference in between realism and coherency when it comes to sound. A bow shooting an arrow, for example, could be recorded in a real life situation and that would sound realistic, although in a game like Battle fur bamboo it won’t be coherent because it would break the humor built until then.


The scacciapensieri

A solution that I’ve adopted to solve a situation like this has been recording instruments that would also sound “funny”, one of them is the so called “scacciapensieri”.
The scacciapensieri belongs to the family of jew’s harp instruments, which are lamellophone instruments and they are played by plucking them with a finger while using your mouth for changing the pitch of the note (more precisely the harmonic content is the thing that changes since the fundamental note stays constant).
The scacciapensieri was originally born in Valsesia, in the north of Italy but its use is more common in the folk music of Sardinia and Sicily where it can be still spot during popular music festivals.

Its sound is characterized by a distinct metallic transient that somehow reminds the plucking of a metal spring, a very fast vibrato, physically  generated by the fast oscillating metal, gives it its peculiar “funny” signature, while the pitch changes articulated by the mouth movements guarantee a total freedom for the pitch choice.

For the recording process I opted for a shotgun microphone, usually my goto choice for most of foley effects, and thanks to its polar pattern I could equalize the instrument simply by moving around the microphone.
This gave me the freedom to have a more bass rich and powerful sound while being in front and close to the microphone while having a more airy one if I decided to move off axis or further away.

The scacciapensieri springy sound is not as realistic as the recording of a real bow shooting an arrow, although in this situation it is way more coherent, fitting perfectly within the humorous style of our clumsy yet willful furry warriors.
Hope that this suggestion has been helpful for you sound designers out there, scacciapensieri are also quite cheap or easy to make and they should be a part of your instruments arsenal.  Be careful when you play them tho, there is a concrete risk to hit your teeth while pulling the metal band and a “Wilhelm scream” is not what we are aiming for during this recording session.

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