In this sound design article, you'll learn how to create a whoosh sound effect — perfect for your song's transitions.
Inspired by great music producers like Zedd. Watch the video above to listen to the audio examples.
You'll be able to create your own variations of that effect, using only a few drum samples and some stock effects from your DAW — no matter which one you use.
The layers of a Whoosh Effect
Even though there are specific plugins to make the Woosh effect — later in this post — it's fun to design them from scratch.
We're going to do that in four steps.
Four layers are the least for making an exciting whoosh effect encompassing the entire frequency spectrum. From subs to high frequencies.
The four steps to achieving this sound are:
- Reverse a snare sample.
- Reverse a crash cymbal sample.
- Layer a sub-oscillator.
- Create basic automation on the volume, panning, and pitch to emulate a doppler effect.
Let's do the whole process step-by-step together.
Step #1: Reversing a snare sample
Check your sample library for any snare sample — one with good low-end content.
I picked a snare from my library with good content at around 100 to 200 Hertz in the example above.
That's a nice body for our whoosh sound effect.
Now reverse that snare sample.
If you're in Ableton Live, double-click the snare clip. Then click these arrows to reverse the sample.
Now, pick whatever reverb effect you have.
I used Valhalla Vintage Verb — a personal preference — but it could be any reverb. Even the ones that come with your DAW.
Add this Reverb to your snare track, and ensure it has a nice tail.
The mix knob can stay at 100% reverb, or you could use a drier setting. That would make your final result punchier.
Now, resample this snare with the Reverb because we will reverse it again.
In Ableton Live, freeze and flatten the track.
Once you've flattened it, duplicate the track. We'll use the snare in two different positions.
The first layer stays the same.
Reverse the second layer.
We're only going to use a small part of it to anticipate the first layer, which will make the sweep a bit longer.
Try to align the loudest parts of the waveform — the transient — but don't worry about getting it perfectly aligned.
Then cut this second layer short and add a fader to smoothen the rise a little.
At this point, it should already sound good.
You could use it in your song, and it would work.
But let's make it fancier by adding a crash cymbal layer.
Step #2: Adding a reverse crash cymbal layer
This one is super easy.
Find any crash sample you may have and align it with the snare's transient.
Now duplicate the clip, reverse one of them, and move it to connect the samples.
Then shorten the one you reversed, and draw a quick fade.
You may want to add Reverb or not. Whatever sounds best to you.
In this case, I used a hall preset, with the mix knob set at 50%.
This layer gives the effect a nice sparkle.
The next layer is the bass pitch bomb to give your woosh effect much more power.
Step #3: Sub-bass layer
Create a MIDI track and load any synthesizer on a simple sine wave preset.
If you're in Ableton Live, select "Operator > Components" and pick the Sine Waveform preset.
Then draw a long MIDI note at C1 or in the key of your song.
Then modulate the pitch. Here's an easy way to do it:
- Click transpose
- Turn automation mode on
- Draw automation from -24 semitones to the original pitch, ensuring it's aligned with the transient.
- Drop the pitch again, but at a slower rate.
Your synth will go up in pitch quick, then drop slowly.
Also draw volume automation similarly to the pitch automation:
Quickly hitting the peak volume at the transient, then dropping slowly.
This will cause the impression that the bass is passing by the listener.
The following step is the cherry on the cake.
Step #4: The doppler effect
If you don't remember what a doppler effect is, try to think of a time when you were driving. Suddenly, you hear a truck hitting the honk as it passed by your car.
You know what I mean now, right?
The honking sound gets louder and higher in pitch as it approaches you. Then pitch and volume drop as it drives away.
Group the layers up so you can process them together — but don't include the bass layer.
Leave the sub frequencies in the center.
First, draw panning automation, so the sound starts at the left side and crosses to the right side.
A good starting point is 30 Left, then quickly getting to the center when the effect reaches maximum loudness, and finally moving to 30 Right.
You can customize this curve however you want. Make it go from:
- The right to the left or;
- Center to the sides or;
- Sides to the center.
In the example, I reduced the stereo width by a little, so this effect was not too wide, and you could perceive the panning movement better.
To emphasize the approximation effect:
Ensure the volume increases sharply when the whoosh sound effect reaches the center.
My volume automation starts at -2.5 dB, peaks at 2dB, then drops again.
Now it's time to draw a pitch-shifting curve to resemble the doppler effect.
It goes from a higher pitch as it approaches the listener to the standard pitch when it gets to the listener, to a lower pitch after it passes.
I like to automate that using the Frequency Shifter effect subtly.
But you can get it done with any pitch-shifting plugin.
Try starting at +50 Hertz, then going down to zero, which is the standard pitch, then keep falling for another 50Hz.
It's easy to overdo this one, so you may want to keep the frequency shifter range between 100 hertz and 200 hertz.
Alternatively, use a higher frequency number to make this more noticeable.
It will sound like an object falling really fast.
To make the passing-by sensation even more noticeable, add an equalizer sweep.
Let more high frequencies pass as the sound gets closer, then filter them out as it moves away.
That's how it works in real-life sounds too.
We don't hear as many high frequencies from sound sources far away from our ears — high frequencies don't travel too far.
So pick your favorite equalizer, add a low pass filter, and create a sweep that opens up at the center.
The correct frequency to start the sweep depends on your samples.
Still, a good starting point would be at around 2kHz, quickly going up to about 12kHz, and slowly back to about 7kHz.
You can start there and tweak it according to your taste.
At this point, you can get creative with adding any effects you like to level up your whoosh sound design.
Customizing your Whoosh sound effect
For example, you could add distortion or any modulation effect like a chorus, a flanger, a phaser, a tremolo, or a delay to bring out a different spice.
Or you could add more layers with different reverbs and create a more complex-sounding woosh effect.
Feel free to use it in your songs, customize it to match your production, and have fun.
Whoosh effect VST plugins
Some plugins create this effect if you want to invest and save time.
So far I've seen Whoosh and Motion Designer by UVI.
And Whoosh by Tonsturm.
They both seem cool, even though I haven't tried them yet — since I've been creating my wooshes manually.
Check them out and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Now it's your turn
You are ready to create your own Whoosh sound effects.
Want to learn how to create a flutter vocal effect like Billie Eilish? Read that!
For more effect tutorials and music resources, visit my website.