Monday Apr 24, 2023

ESB 24: Reverse-Engineering Artoo (Minutes 116-120 with Justin Leo Kennedy)

Justin Leo Kennedy is back for another sound design deep-dive! 🎉 Today, it's all about R2-D2. Using a virtual ARP 2600 synth emulator and a recording of his baby crying, Justin attempts to reverse-engineer Ben Burtt's iconic Artoo beepspeak, teaching us a lot about sound synthesis along the way. 

We also discuss minutes 116-120 of The Empire Strikes Back, which feature two of Justin's other favorite sounds –the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive failure and Artoo's scream.

Check out the YouTube version of this episode to follow along with the live demonstration! 


  • 0:00 - Hello there!
  • 10:48 - You may recognize this music from when we were on Hoth.
  • 18:19 - Added Vader scene that cuts into a cue.
  • 39:37 - Little motifs and punctuation sprinkled throughout the orchestra.
  • 44:37 - Cloud City visual comparisons. (This is the timestamp I promised, audio listeners!)
  • 46:43 - Hyperdrive malfunction sound design.
  • 53:47 - Semiotics.
  • 1:03:23 - Band Batch shoutout.
  • 1:14:50 - R2D2 sound design deep dive begins.
  • 1:19:42 - Introduction to the ARP 2600 and ARP 2600 plugin/emulator (It wasn't showing up on screen yet).
  • 1:29:25 - It's showing up now!
  • 1:30:00 - Tour of the virtual ARP 2600.
  • 1:39:43 - Recording of Justin's baby crying.
  • 1:49:03 - Closer examination of the modular synth, patch cable routing, oscillators. Justin's 3 attempts at making the R2 sound.
  • 1:58:41 - Justin's third and best attempt at making the Artoo sound.
  • 2:00:38 - Modulating the speed of the sample and hold with a low frequency oscillator (LFO).
  • 2:09:30 - Shoutout to anyone who is still listening.
  • 2:19:46 - Yearning Vader and heartbroken Luke.
  • 2:33:17 - Artoo's scream.
  • 2:43:44 - SWMM Questionnaire.
  • 2:53:05 - Shoutout to Justin Scheid.

Things Mentioned:


  • 12M1 "Losing A Hand"

Musical Themes:

  • Pseudo Bald Mountain motif
  • Dark Side (Melody)
  • Dark Side (Ostinato)
  • Leia
  • Droids
  • Imperial March (Theme)
  • Main Theme (A Section)

Where are we in the soundtrack?:

  • "Rescue from Cloud City/Hyperspace"
  • "Yoda And The Force"



1. In exactly 3 words, what does Star Wars sound like?

  • New answer: mrrrm mrrrm mrawww. R2D2 beeping sounds.
  • Previous answer: pwsh vrrrrum shhpt

2. What's something related to Star Wars music or sound that you want to learn more about?

  • New answer: More about the recording sessions. What kind of relationship did John Williams have with the engineers? What was it like in that studio? What kinds of conversations took place?
  • Previous answer: "Duel of the Fates" orchestration.

3. What's a score or soundtrack you're fond of besides anything Star Wars?

  • New answer: TRON (composed by Wendy Carlos)
  • Previous answer: I, Robot (composed by Marco Beltrami), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) (composed by John Du Prez), Spirited Away (composed by Joe Hisaishi)


Justin Leo Kennedy


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