Most areas listed below will have sound files attached that you can download and listen to, or use in your own work. Information about the sound files is at the end of this page. To hear the files, you must have a sound card, and the software to run it.
John L. Bracewell's book Sound Design in the Theatre (copyright 1992, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey), provides the best definition I know of of what a theatrical Sound Designer does. He lists seven areas in a designer's work.
This means that everyone, from cast and crew to audience members, must be able to hear the play. The audience must hear everything that the director wants them to hear, and no more. For instance, the audience wants to hear all the dialogue and song lyrics, but not the moving of the scenery or sets. To accomplish this, the designer uses sound technology like microphones and speakers, as well as acoustic materials such as wave modifiers and bass traps.
While sound designers are often called on to play back prerecorded music, many designers are also composers. They write music to establish a mood or to transition between scenes.
This refers to "plot cues": a sound which moves the plot along. For example, a play called "Frankenstein" may call for the sound of electricity being discharged. (There are many reasons why you don't want bolts of electricity streaking around the stage.) The actor may have lines like, "My creation LIVES!!" You then hear the sound of the electricity, the monster sits up, and the play continues.
This is a recent electronic development. Imagine "the Beast" in "Beauty and the Beast." He is so big and magical that an ordinary human voice simply won't do. So the designer may be asked to change his voice to sound more "magical". The voice of "the Phantom" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" was altered to sound more "magical" by using reverb and equalization.
Suppose you want the "hear" what a character is thinking. The sound designer may record the voice of the actor for playback during the play. The actor won't say anything, but the sound of his voice will come to the audience. Another example is "lipsyncing", where actors move their lips, but the sound is provided by electronic playback. This is useful when actors are dancing, and they are working too hard to sing at the same time.
Certain sounds strong emotional feelings with them. For instance, thunder is a powerful sound which often provokes fear or dread. For other examples, imagine a scary forest, or a wind-swept mountain top.
How do you know what time of day it is in the play? Or where it is happening? Hearing crickets on a dimly lit stage immediately reminds us of an outdoor evening.
Professional audio files can get quite large. Please note the difference in file size between "Professional" sound files and the DEMO versions. I'm trying to find ways to get them smaller by using ZIP'ed files. But I'm still experimenting. The sound files included here have not been "Zipped".
These sound files were sampled from my own digital audio recordings, and an audio CD demo disk available from The Hollywood Edge. I sampled the sounds using a Kurzweil K2000, and converted the files to .WAV format. They are very useful "bread and butter" FX for Sound Designers. This Web site is still under construction. That means that I'll be putting up additional FX periodically. Care to contribute to this list? Please contact me via e-mail.
Some of these sound effects are courtesy of The Hollywood Edge, Premier Collection. I am not a salesman for Hollywood Edge. But I have used their FX, and I like them. I have permission from them to share a few FX files with you. If you want more, please contact them directly. I will only put up FX on this page that I have been given permission for by the designers. You can put these hard working people out of business by pirating their sounds!
Comments, e-mail, pleasantries etc. to MediaDwarf@comcast.net