Sound effect

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Equipment collection of the Greek National Radio for the production of analog sound effects
Digital sound effect that could represent a pulsating, low-frequency wobble
The dry recorded word “yes” followed by the same recording with massive digital reverb - a standard sound effect
The recording of a blackbird, followed by the same recording in which the blackbird sings in five voices

A Sound Effect ( English sound effect ) short SFX (ambiguous with SFX - special effects ) is a naturally or artificially uncreated or technically modified acoustic signal that the listener an altered reality suggest should.


A distinction must be made between:

The purpose of sound effects is the intended improvement, change or modification of the sound quality or the listening experience of sound recordings. Sound engineers , music producers and arrangers are primarily responsible for the use of sound effects .


The use of sound effects goes back to the theater , whereby mostly simple noises like thunder or the clatter of horses' hooves were created. It was only with the spread of radio and the transmission of radio plays in the 1920s that the production of noises became more important. At the latest with the change from silent to sound films , the sounds of the noisemakers became an indispensable instrument in the film industry. Today the media designer for picture and sound is a recognized training occupation.

In its 1931 yearbook , the BBC published the first major specialist article on the use of sound effects in radio: “It would be a big mistake to look at them like punctuation marks and accents in printed works. Sound effects should never simply be 'sprinkled' into an already existing program, but rather should be seen by the author of a program as building blocks on which to base his work; they have the same meaning for him as language and music. ”The article lists six“ completely different primary genres of sound effects ”, including the“ realistic, affirmative ”effect, which underlines what is mentioned in the text, but also "Symbolic" and "impressionistic" effects that, detached from the text, can trigger associations and feelings. The sound of a Morse code device is given as an example to indicate a long journey by ship into the distance. According to the author, the basic condition for good sound effects is that the listener understands them immediately. If not, you should definitely do without it.


In film and television productions , sound effects are mostly used to create or support a certain atmosphere . Sound effects are therefore an important artistic means of expression alongside dialogue and film music . A distinction is essentially made between the following categories of sound effects:

  • Natural sounds (only sounds) related to actions that can also be seen in the picture, such as B. slamming doors , gunfire or the noise of driving cars .
  • Background noises (Atmos) that are not synchronized with certain actions , but are intended to make a special situation clear to the audience . These sound effects are typically noises from the forest , rain , animals , machines or background traffic noise .
  • Artificial sound effects (SFX) occur in nature in some cases only weakened or not at all and must therefore be created by a noisemaker . For example, a futuristic technology can be given a suitable sound.


In addition to synthesizers and effects devices , digital sound software is increasingly being used to create sound effects . However, many sound effects are based on everyday noises. The well-known was lightsaber sound stage from the Star Wars films by combining the sounds of a television and a projector engine. But also the noisemaker, who arrives with a big suitcase full of things that he needs to create noises, can still be found in the big film and television studios.

The most important techniques and effects in music include:


  • Roland Enders: The home recording manual. 3rd edition, Carstensen Verlag, Munich, 2003, ISBN 3-910098-25-8
  • Thomas Görne: Sound engineering. 1st edition, Carl Hanser Verlag, Leipzig, 2006, ISBN 3-446-40198-9

See also

Web links

Commons : Sound effects  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The BBC Year Book 1931, pp. 194ff.