How do you set the mood to concentrate, especially in times of distraction and anxiety? Adjust the light, open a window to allow some air flow? Here’s a unique set of sound design tools and music to match that accomplishes that with audio.

Okay, first – I don’t know about you, but I hate the supposedly relaxing music beds that play at spas and yoga classes and whatnot. For the most part, working with music and sound and hearing actively is a gift, but when you’re meant to let your mind go…

Tonepaper is different – ambient music beds composed by an expert musician/sound designer, and a sound pack so you can build new textures however you like.

Francis Preve with his Symplesound project has been exploring for some time new ways of thinking what even defines sound packs. Tonepaper is the latest wrinkle in that concept. Like a lot of Fran’s sound design work, this gets back to the fundamentals – absolutely dead-on creations of essential elements. But that also means if you want to treat these sound packs as building blocks, you can. And Fran always delivers the 6 x 2 LEGO block, even, the thing you can build everything else out of, not the fancy “this is the outrigging of a pirate ship in space” custom part.

There are multiple levels of this project, and they all give you the power to find the dimmer and shade you want.

Tonepaper, the album. There are three hours of music here, divided into ten-minute blocks. (If you’re a Pomodoro fan like me, you can assemble three ten-minute tracks into a 25-minute work session + 5-minute break – for example.) And since for everyone I think this sort of music has a different line between refreshing, relaxing, and cheesy or annoying, you can find just the bits that appeal. And even if you don’t, of course, there are the sound packs…

Tonepaper for Ableton. Francis assembles Device Racks like no one else can – rigorously constructed with serious discipline to be easy to pull apart and modify. These require Live Suite 10 because they use the Grand Piano collection, but otherwise you’ll find custom Operator and Collision presets and smart processing.

Tonepaper for Serum. This is the one I’ve found myself getting lost in. Serum as an instrument may be associated with garish EDM or something like that, but injected with these atmospheres and textures, you can open up all kinds of new sonic ranges. It’s a wonderful tour of Serum’s physical modeling and the potential of motion, spectra, and processing.

Fran’s Tonepaper creations for Serum are essential additions to this instrument – whether you fancy your own ambient creations or want to use these elements to produce something altogether different. Heck, you could even make something stressful with them, if you so desired. Just… anticipating where my productions tend to go.

For your ringtone: there’s even Tonepaper Rings, so you finally don’t trigger a Pavlovian panic every time your phone goes off – keep that zenlike calm you’ve just achieved.

I asked Francis for a tour of some of the track selections:

Meditation Four is soft and optimistic. Dawn on a lake?

Meditation Eight has a curious “sentimental pop” feeling. Think Brian Eno producing Peter Gabriel, mid-80s.

Meditation Nine Thoughtful, pensive, with moments of blue, quickly replaced by warmth. More obviously Eno-like with a touch of Sakamoto.

Meditation Fourteen might be the closest to ”cinematic”, thanks to the high strings and oboe-like tone. Verdant. Lush.

Meditation Eighteen closes out the album with a soft landing into FM and Physically Modeled chimes. Almost vaporwave.

I really can’t say enough about the sound packs, though. Apart from it’s nice to put on the tracks for meditation or focused writing (or really chilling out about tax and VAT paperwork), I think it’s best to understand the album as being an outgrowth of these sonic tools.

So you can easily get in an Eno-esque headspace just by calling one of them up and noodling on a MIDI controller. Or you can use them to add organic elements to a new Serum sound exploration that goes somewhere very different from anything you hear here.

And speaking of Serum – don’t miss the article below, as putting Fran’s tips together with these sound elements will take you into the stratosphere.

And check all the Tonepaper stuff:

At top: Photo by Matheus Natan from Pexels.