How to make Sound Effects - Part 1

2 shotgun microphones

Creating your own sound effects from scratch is a great way to elevate your sound quality on any project. You don’t have to settle for sounds you found online that kind of match your subject. Subtle inconsistencies can hurt your project more than you think.

Believe it or not, there are 3 main styles of sound effects in sound design such as foley (sound of footsteps), designed FX and backgrounds. Below are some great places to start when creating your own design and how to make foley sound effects. The key to finding the right sound is thinking outside the box. Check out How to make Sound Effects - Part 2 for more!

How to Make Rain Sound Effects

Create relaxing rain or stormy weather sounds at home with these methods: 

  • Grab a cooking tray along with rice or sand. Lightly sprinkle your item of choice on the baking tray.
  • You can cut/shelf out some highs to make it sound like you’re inside.


How to Make Ice Skating Sound Effects

Add this winter themed sound with a few easy items:

  • Find some cardboard or use a wooden floor, then run your nails in circular motions.
  • Lightly compress for a fuller sound.
  • Cut/shelf out lows to sound further.
  • Lightly boost around 5k for more excitement.


How to Make Car Crash Sound Effects 

You can create the screeching, crashing sound of a car crash in a few different ways.

  • Ideally find some scrap metal, you can also use rocks and empty pop cans.
  • Smash around your items.
  • Layer your smash sounds, stagger them.
  • Use compression to help glue your sounds together.


How to Make Wings Flapping Sound Effects

Make the sound of birds’ wings flapping with these techniques. Bonus: layer your sounds to make a flock of birds. 

  • Find a pair of gloves, a heavy blanket or an umbrella.
  • Flap your gloves.
  • Rapidly open and close your umbrella.
  • Flap the heavy blanket.
  • Filter out some low end to help control the intensity.
  • Gloves are great for bird take offs.


How to Make Bone Breaks/Crush Sound Effects 

Here are less painful ways to achieve dynamic gore sounds:

  • Snap celery or carrots.
  • Freeze them for a more dramatic effect.
  • Snap uncooked pasta, experiment with dampening the pasta for close up shots.
  • Smash acorns, walnuts and small apples on a wooden surface.


How to Make Cartoon Sound Effects

Create dynamite fuses, squish and splat sounds for cartoons.

  • Use your mouth.
  • Narrate your action “burp, blink, squish” dramatically.
  • Try using a harmonizer for a more processed sound.


How to Make Airplane Sound Effects

Get airborne with a simple household item for your plane sounds.

  • Record a large fan at different speeds.
  • Close mic technique (record 1 ft away).
  • Add some distortion and cut out some low end.


How to Make Dynamite Fuse Sound Effects 

A less destructive way to create a fuse burning sound effect.

  • Record running faucet.
  • Experiment with water pressure. 
  • Try placing your fingers in the water stream to alter the sound.


How to Make Elevator Door Sound Effects

Learn how to make elevator door sounds from your old rusty cabinets.

  • Open and close a filing cabinet.
  • Combine with a hotel bell.


How to Make Monster Sound Effects

Create scary monster growls and other sounds using these sound design techniques: 

  • Pitch and distort your burp or animal sounds like tigers growls, elephant bellows, snake hisses and even burps.
  • Experiment with non animal sounds like creaking or scraping sounds. 
  • Rubbing plastic scan product a nice high pitched sound for a screech


How to Make Seashore Sound Effects

Feel like you’re by the ocean, even when you’re in your living room by making seashore sounds with these easy methods: 

  • Take a carbonated drink and pour it slowly.
  • Pouring the drink on concrete works best.


How to Make Ice Freezing Sound Effects

Here’s how you can make the sound of ice freezing quickly and easily:

  • Use a wire brush on a metal object.
  • A wide brush with long stiff bristles works best.


How to Make Stone Tomb Door Sound Effects

Create the sound to that scary, ominous tomb door opening by:

  • Rubbing 2 stones in a circular motion
  • Slowing the sound down and boosting the bottom end.


How to Make Growing Plant Sound Effects

When you want to give the illusion of plants growing faster than normal, use these easy foley creation techniques:  

  • Squeeze vegetables like iceberg lettuce, green petters or asparagus.
  • Add some pasta sauce and whoosh sounds for a rapid growth sound.


How to Make Fire Crackling and Campfire Sound Effects

You can simulate the sound of a warm and cozy campfire by: 

  • Finding some tin foil and gently wiggling it for a warm crackle.
  • Cut/shelf out some highs if it sounds too intense.


How to Make Ground Crackling Sound Effects 

You can create the sound of ground crackling in a few different ways: 

  • Crack some wood and slow it down.
  • Rub inflated balloons slowly.
  • Slow down metal creaks and ice breaks for seismic sounds.


How to Make Arrow Fly By Sound Effects

You can make arrow whoosh sounds by:

  • Whip a bamboo stick by your microphone.
  • Use compression to make it stronger.


How to Make Tree Falling Sound Effects 

You can make trees falling in a forest sound with:

  • Find some potato chips and karate chop them.
  • Pitch the recorded sound down.


How to Make Chainmail Sound Effects 

Make medieval armour sounds with everyday objects.

  • Dangle keys on a keychain.


How to Make Space Doors Sound Effects

Create sci-fi door sounds by:

  • Find and envelope and a piece of paper.
  • Slide the paper in and out of the envelope.


You might have noticed making sound effects with household objects can be easier than you think. The only limitation is what you can think of so be sure to really experiment. Hit surfaces, flick objects, throw things, you might be surprised in what you might come up with. You don't have to be Jack Foley to make something cool. You can learn more about foley sound effects by reading 3 Fundamental Elements of Foley.