As with lighting
, a good sound design
can contribute vastly to the artistic success of a show despite rarely being consciously noticed by the audience. The scope of the sound design
for a show can vary drastically, from a small number effects (in which case the role might be taken on by existing members of the production team), to a full-blown musical
with many live sound
Many common sound
effects can be found on one of the CDs in the ADC Theatre's sound
effect library. There are also several good websites including [www.freesound.org/
] where decent effects can be obtained (A list of some online sound
effect suppliers is available at Sound Effects
). Recording specifically for the production another possibility, but may be impractical depending on the sound
required. A test of a good sound
effect is to play it to someone who doesn’t know what it’s meant to be. If they can’t tell what it is (it’s often surprising), the effect is probably no use.
Being able to perform some basic recording
, editing and manipulation is a big advantage in creating the sound
desired, particularly for longer, more complex “atmosphere” effects. This is normally done on computer – even a basic model is capable of recording
and playback of sufficient quality for use in theatre. There are some great tools available free of charge, particularly the editor Audacity . Other commonly used (but expensive) editors include Wavelab, Adobe Audtion (formerly known as Cooledit) and Cakewalk Pro.
In the ADC Theatre, the most common method of playing back sound
effects is using QLab, a powerful piece of software which allows sound
cues to be accurately plotted in a cue stack. The software also supports video and MIDI cues, and can be set up to be triggered automatically by the lighting
desk. The ADC has a Macbook and an audio interface which can be used for this purpose. In other venues, it may be necessary to transfer the sounds
to another medium (such as minidisc or CD), in which case overlapping effects need to be premixed, or if the timing of the second is important, replayed from separate machines on the night. The ADC also has 2 CD players and 2 minidisc players if this method of playback is preferred.
Musicals generally require live amplification to achieve a better balance or just to make them louder! A sound design
for a large musical
generally involves organising the hire of radio mics, setting up mics for the band and arranging a system of foldback speakers so that the cast and the musicians can hear each other. During the shows it is usually the sound designer
who mixes the show from the sound
box. It is necessary to become very familiar with the music of the show and to liaise closely with the show's musical director
to ensure the front-of-house mix matches their vision for how the music should come across. Many learn the specialist techniques required for this by working as an assistant sound designer
before designing their own shows.
Last edited Sat 13th Aug 2011 by Peter Hoyes
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