Ryan Lott: Designing Sample-Based Instruments

Inject a new dose of creativity into your music by composing with your own custom-made digital instruments, with Son Lux's Ryan Lott.

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Piano, guitar, bass, drums — most artists turn to common instruments in an attempt to make uncommon music. But why not start with totally unique source material to write new songs? What happens when you throw those expected instruments out the window completely? Discover what's possible with self-designed digital instruments.
In this course, Ryan Lott, composer, film scorer, and bandleader of Son Lux, will show you how to find and construct inspiring, unpredictable sounds, and turn those sounds into playable instruments. Learn to write music in response to instruments that emerge through experimentation, rich with contour and variation. And see what kind of music you can create when you move beyond the limits of traditional instrumentation.

Ryan will walk students through the boundary-pushing techniques he uses in his music — whether experimental pop tracks, scores for films such as Everything Everywhere All at Once and Looper, video game soundtracks, or dance collaborations — to catalyze new creative ideas and build music that evokes complex emotions.

This course was designed for producers looking for more control in their sound design, composers who want to add evocative and otherworldly qualities to their music, and anyone in search of an inspiring new tool to drive their songwriting forward. 

Ryan Lott

Son Lux, composer, producer

Ryan Lott is a composer/film scorer, producer, songwriter, and bandleader. In 2007, Ryan founded Son Lux, releasing music that “works at the nexus of several rarely-overlapping Venn Diagrams” (Pitchfork) and in 2014, the band became a trio with the additions of guitarist-composer Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang. Son Lux scored A24’s highly-acclaimed film Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), which features collaborations with Mitski, David Byrne, André Benjamin (aka André 3000), Randy Newman, and Moses Sumney, among others.

An avid collaborator, Lott has worked with choreographers Stephen Petronio, Gina Gibney, and Jodie Gates, and dance companies like Ballet de Lorraine, National Dance Company of Wales, and BalletX. His film scores and arrangements include The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014), Paper Towns (2015), Mean Dreams (2017), and the iconic sci-fi film Looper (2012). He is frequently commissioned by new music ensembles, including Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, yMusic, and even Paul Simon. Lott also created the original game soundtrack for “Tell My Why,” heralded as “the new gold standard for trans characters in games.”

Ryan's online course, Ryan Lott: Designing Sample-Based Instruments, is available now exclusively on Soundfly.

More About Ryan
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creative process
film scoring
son lux
instrument design
ryan lott
sound design

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Watch the Trailer Video

Make music that's surprising and compelling by unlocking a limitless new world of musical instrumentation. Watch the trailer to see how Ryan approaches virtual instrument design and uses those instruments as creative catalysts. And then preview a few lessons for free.

Unlock Dramatic New Potential in Your Music

Learn how to take simple sounds and transform them into rich, captivating virtual instruments that can drive your songwriting.

Curate & Capture Sounds

Identify sounds that would make successful instruments and record and process them to their fullest effect.

Invent New Digital Instruments

Transform individual recordings into a spectrum of playable sounds.

Find Fresh Inspiration

Catalyze new musical ideas with the limitless songwriting potential of custom digital instruments.

Keep Audiences Guessing

Understand the evocative emotional impact of composing with unplaceable sounds.


Course Outline

  1. Preview
    Section 1


  2. Preview
    Section 2

    Getting Started

  3. Section 3

    The Pianist

  4. Section 4

    From Idea to Instrument

  5. Section 5

    The Vocalist

  6. Section 6

    The Drummer

  7. Section 7

    Time and Discovery

  8. Section 8

    Endings and Beginnings


Who is this course for?

This course is for composers and/or producers interested in improving their sound design skills and looking for a new tool in their arsenal to battle writer's block or create evocative sounds. It will also be of particular use to those interested in scoring for films, TV, ads, or other media. 

What will I learn in this course?

You'll learn how to identify sounds that have the potential to be transformed into dynamic instruments, to record and process those sounds and use them to build custom instruments. You will witness Ryan approaching the capturing and editing of sounds from a piano, vocals, and a drum set, and turning them into something completely unrecognizable. You'll follow along as he demonstrates how he composes and arranges using the digital instruments he creates in his own music — including going inside how he continually uses custom digital instruments in Son Lux's music.

Are there any pre-reqs?

You must be reasonably familiar with your DAW of choice. If you aren't yet comfortable working in the DAW, consider our courses Intro to Making Music in Logic Pro X and Intro to Music Production in Ableton Live first.

What gear is required? 

At a basic level, you'll need access to a DAW and a sampler. Ryan uses Kontakt as his sampler of choice throughout this course, and we'll spend a lot of time exploring the functionality of Kontakt, so that's our recommended software. That said, you will still be able to take the course with a different sampler, like Ableton Live's Sampler tool. It will also help to have access to a MIDI keyboard.  

How long does this course take?

This course can be taken at your own pace. If you go start to finish without doing the activities, you could finish it in a day, but we don't recommend that. To learn most effectively and be able to put what you've learned into practice in your own music, we suggest taking the course over multiple days or weeks and creating music as you go.

This course includes roughly 39 videos, ranging in length from 3 min to 20 min each, as well as lessons, graphics, demos, activities, and downloadable learning materials and samples.

Is there a specific start date?

You can start the course anytime. If you'd like more accountability and guided feedback from a professional, you can request to work through the course and your own goals with a Soundfly Mentor for four or six weeks, and get a more personalized experience for a specific period of time.  

Learn more about custom mentorship here.

How many lessons are there?

This course includes more than 70 lessons, including videos, graphics, text, activities, demos, creative prompts, downloadable tracks, stems, and much more. There's more than 4 hours worth of video content with Ryan.

What do I get if I enroll as a subscriber?

As a subscriber, you'll get unlimited access to all courses on, including this and all our other premium courses, to go through at your own pace. This includes all the videos, tutorials, demos, quizzes, activities, downloads, and other materials within our full suite of courses.

You're also entitled to a 25% discount on our custom mentorship program, you will be invited to join our exclusive community Discord group, you'll be able join subscriber-only Study Groups, artist Q&As and workshops, annual contests and giveaways, and you'll have access to a growing list of exclusive discount perks courtesy of our partner brands. Cancel anytime.

You can find out more about subscribing here.

What is your refund policy?

Our mission is to support musicians, not to rip anyone off. If you realize after subscribing that it's not what you wanted, email us as soon as you can with your reason for cancelling. Our policy is to issue refunds within two weeks of a purchase, for either a monthly or annual subscription, if the courses didn't meet your expectations.

Note that we cannot offer refunds on monthly subscription payments beyond a single month of payment because of the residuals we pay out to our instructors and artists.

Can I take this course with a mentor?

Yes, absolutely. If you would like to go through the course with support, accountability, feedback, and guidance from an expert, you can request a mentor by filling out this form. A Soundfly teammember will reach out within 48 hours to learn more about your goals, your music, and your skill level, and pair you with a mentor who can help you achieve your next musical milestone. Our mentorship program uses our science-backed learning model designed to help you learn more efficiently and effectively. Your mentor will tailor the course to your experience and interests, offer detailed weekly feedback on your work, answer any questions you have, help you blow past obstacles, and keep you on track to accomplish your goals.

You can find out more about mentorship and our expert mentors here.