Source your Sounds
Some Ideas for basic sound design are starting with not just where the sounds are going to be coming from but HOW they come from that sound. As an example say you want a nice round organic thumping kick sound. So you decide a nice car tire will do the job. This is a great place to start but where do I record the sound at to get that real thump? Try different techniques such as placing a mic behind the tire close to the middle of the rubber on the side wall to get the reverberating 808 style sub bass. And if then mic up the tread to get the higher smacking sound as you hit the tire with various instruments, a rubber hammer, your palm, a drum stick, a wooden spoon, a piece of metal rot iron. Etc. once you have these sounds you can take them into your DAW or sampler and layer the sounds on top of each other. Make sure to pay attention to the phase of the sounds so that you don’t cancel out your bass waves.
Another way in which how you choose to mic and record your sounds comes into play is when you get down to the editing process. If you record multiple takes of one sound it allows you to really thicken up a sound with layering that you may not be able to achieve with just micing one area. When layering these sounds filtration of certain frequencies and also tuning (pitch up and down) can help thicken and create the sound your looking for. The style of microphone can also enhance certain frequencies and the color of your sound so if you have access to more than one mic, try a few out.
The flip side to this is what materials you use to produce this sound. Sure you can hit things with drum sticks, but let’s not forget other options. Excellent drone sounds can be produced by using a string instruments Bow to vibrate the source. Try using a bow on a large copper pipe, on the outside of the pipe you can receive the harmonics and higher frequency characteristics while on the inside of the pipe you can grab a more deep rounded sound. Inexpensive tools of the trade can be anything from broom handles to their bristles used as a drum stick brushes. There are tools all around you for sound at all times. Do you need to get some higher snare like frequencies to layer into the sound? Grab some rice or wax paper and lay that on top of whatever you are sampling. Flux with it!
Techniques such as using smaller sticks tend to produce a nice thin sound while a mallet can give a round full sound. These differences on the same source can be very useful when looking for just the right sound in a mix(and save you a lot of mixing trouble).
You can make your own mallets very easily by taking a drum stick, wooden dow rod, or even a nice pencil and wrapping a rubber band several times around the end. For a soft head mallet also try tightly wrapping some cloth like an old t-shirt you’ve ripped up and fastening it with string or rubber bands.
This can be very effective to attain that elusive sound you are searching for. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it only matters how it SOUNDS.