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 

BBC Sound Effects

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.)

British Library: English Accents and Dialects 

Includes over 600 audio examples of English dialects from England and Wales.

IDEA: International Dialects of English Archive 

“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.

Sound editing

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


9 comments on “Tech Talk – Sound

  1. Peter Miller

    Playit Cartwall is useful for sound effects playback on a PC. It is free. It emulates a ‘jingle cart’ system that a radio station would use before computers came along. You can play effects over each other. The only drawback I’ve found is that if playing effects over each other, there is no way to control the relative level of each effect – only the overall level can be controlled.

  2. Stephen Smart

    I use Multiplay v 2.5.5 as it not only plays sounds but controls all the lighting too for our shows via midi. Although it has not been updated since Aug 2013, the software author is currently updating it to ver. 3 with lots of bells and whistles including video. It is free for beta testing. Available here as well as the current version – https://www.da-share.com/software/multiplay/

  3. Andrew Murphy

    Another site that might be of use for finding royalty free music is https://freemusicarchive.org

    Lots of Royalty Free Music covering every genre you can think of. However you do need to check the Licensing Agreements for the individual tracks to see what is allowed. Some tracks are free for all uses, others are free as long as the original creator is acknowledged while others are only free for Non-Commercial uses

    1. Tony Flisch

      Thanks Andrew and Peter too for this useful additions.

    2. Carole Williams

      That is so helpful, thanks Andrew. I will also put this link into the useful links section of the website. Hope you are staying well. Carole

    1. Carole Williams

      Thanks Nigel – it is so helpful when people add to these blogs with their own suggestions. Best wishes Carole Williams

    2. Tony Flisch

      Please note that this is not free software but actually is pretty expensive for amateur use. QLab and CSC Show Control have a free version.

  4. Peter Esson

    For IPAD or IPhone , “go button” is free for a single production version with a lot of functionality. Used if for the first time this year and found its easy to use and pull a set of sound effects together.

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