Sound Design Basics

Download
Listen to “Sound Design Basics”

After teaching documentary storytelling for seventeen years, I feel confident in the advice I give students, most of the time. But, as soon as someone brings up sound design, I’m flummoxed. I feel like my advice is next to useless.

Typically, what happens is this: a student feels like their story is boring so they want to throw some sound in — something from a sound effects library. They think it will make the story more dynamic.

And, typically, I respond by saying, “If your story is boring, write better. Or, play around with the structure. Or, find better quotes. Don’t expect to solve a problem by tossing in some sound. It will end up sounding cheesy.”

I do think that’s solid advice. But, in reality, there are times when a bit of sound design might actually help a story. Not to make it less boring, but to drive home a point or help the story be more visual.

That’s when I return to my problem as an instructor: I don’t know how to help.

But here’s the good news. I produce a podcast about audio storytelling and I can actually ask people for advice! And so, I did.

My first stop was Matthew Boll. Matt works at Gimlet as a lead producer and music composer. Of particular interest to me was his work on Crimetown, a podcast on crime and politics in Providence, Rhode Island, that uses a lot of sound design.

Matt and I covered quite a bit of ground but I feel like I’ve only started to understand how sound design works. So, consider this the first in an ongoing, from time-to-time, set of episodes on sound design that will appear over the next few months.

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Website

  • Jason

    9.20.17

    Reply

    Excellent episode. Crimetown is one of my favorites and I’m waiting in earnest for the second season. The first four episodes created nearly the opposite of a “driveway moment” for me, Great information on how and why the sound is done the way it’s done.

    Thank You

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*