Readings: Sound Design

Alten, S 1994, Sound design, Audio in media, pp5-11, Belmont: Wadsworth

– Mainly useful for understanding the different elements of sound and how to achieve the desired effect you wish to communicate. 

In sound, the emotion communicates the idea, which is more direct and therefore more powerful. All sound possesses a quality which communicates a specific emotion or idea to the listener.

Sound crew select and operate microphones, operate the production consol, production recording, producing and recording sound effects, producing music, recording and re-recording dialogue, editing, and mixing.


Microphones can affect the tonal quality of a sound source.

If a mic is situated close to people speaking it can create an intimate, warm sound. Father away could create a sense of distance and, perhaps, coolness.



-highness or lowness of a sound

– high pitched sound often suggests something delicate, bright, or elevated.

– low pitched sound may indicate something sinister, strong, or peaceful.


Loudness or softness.

Loudness- closeness, strength, importance.

Softness- distance, weakness, tranquility


the charactersitic tonal quality of a sound.

Identifies sound source- reedy, brassy, tympanic

Identified sonic qualities – rich, this, edgy, metallic.


The speed of a sound – fast tempos can agitate, excite or accelerate; slow tempos may suggest monotony, dignity, or control.


sonic time pattern – can be simple, constant, complex, or changing.

simple rhythm can convey deliberateness, regularity, or a lack of complication.

Constant can convey dullness, depression, or uniformity.


the way sound begins – hard, soft, crips, or gradual.


How long a song lasts


how fast a sound fades from a certain loudness.


Sound design represents the overall artistic styling of the sonic fabric in an audio production.” pp5

“If you are not listening, sound remains part of the environment; it does not become part of your consciousness.” pp7

“The more significant elements common to all sounds include pitch, volume, timbre, tempo, rhythm, duration, attack, and decay.” pp10

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