A while back I posted some links to useful resources on lighting and promised a follow up on sound so here it, finally, is!
First a couple of texts you can download as pdf documents on sound design and amplifying live performances.
Theatrical Sound Design Understanding and designing theatre Sound
This is a teaching guide and gives an overview of the design process and implementation and is a good place to start.
The Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook is a technical guide to amplifying live performances
This, although first published in 1987, it is still an excellent guide to the theory of amplification etc. It covers the issues you will encounter if you stage musicals, pantos, concerts or any production where you use microphones and aim to achieve a high volume level. Its pretty technical and if you’re not into maths you can skim over these bits – the chapter ‘Sound Indoors’ is an explanation of what happens in an auditorium and will be useful to those of us – and it will probably be all of us, who have experienced the dreaded feedback. My own club uses a Sabine feedback suppressor and has made sound deadening panels which we have yet to test as the Covid situation arose before we were able. Some further advice on reducing feedback can be found here, here and here.
Sound cueing systems
Sound has traditionally been played back from tape, CD and minidisk. These are becoming rare though and more and more people are using computers to play back digital sound files. There are several software products you can use. Many are high end and designed for the professional theatre and are priced accordingly. Free software is scarcer but here are two. I’m sure that we will get comments suggesting others.
If you use an Apple Mac, then the obvious app is QLab.
Sadly QLab is not available for a PC but here is a couple of possibilities. I myself use CSC Show Control Free version which does pretty well all I need. Its updated fairly regularly – most recently November 2019. It’s the same package as the paid for version but has fewer features (I don’t think you would miss them). Another possibility is Multiplay but it has not been updated since 2013.
Sources of sound effects
FreeSound is a database of browsable, downloadable sounds under a Creative Commons License.
Royalty-free sound effects. Partners in Rhyme
The world’s largest archive of wildlife sounds. Macaulay Library from the Cornell Lab of Orinthology
16,000 BBC Sound Effects are made available by the BBC in WAV format to download for personal, educational or research purposes. (Commercial uses require a license.)
Includes over 600 audio examples of English dialects from England and Wales.
“The International Dialects of English Archive was created in 1997 as the first online archive of primary-source recordings of English dialects and accents as heard around the world….Professor Paul Meier established the archive in 1997 to enable actors to hear real-life models for their characters’ accents and dialects.” The materials in the archive have applications in a number of disciplines. Includes audio recordings of speakers from around the world, all speaking in English, with an extensive collection of North American voices.
For PC, MAC and Linux, Audacity offers pretty well all you need and is free.
Feedback – the useful kind!
Please use the comments below to ask questions or proffer advice.
Tony Flisch 18 May 2020