OUTTS: Sound Workshops: Part 1

In Michaelmas Term 2022, I delivered a series of workshops for OUTTS, the Oxford University Technical Theatre Society. Here are some condensed notes, based on those workshops.

Software Recommendations

Contact Microphones

The discussion of contact mics I made in the session was only an overview - there is so much to say on the topic. Contact mics are cheap and fun DIY projects. The parts you need to make one can be bought very cheaply: https://www.zachpoff.com/resources/building-contact-mics/

Some further advice on their usage can be found here: https://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/the-first-rule-of-contact-mic-club

One local maker of contact mics is Jez Riley French - he’s a respected UK based sound artist with lots of interesting and inspiring writing on field recording and more! https://jezrileyfrench.co.uk/contact-microphones.php

Sourcing Sound Effects

Some of my go-to websites for free, public-domain or otherwise permissively licensed sound effects are:

  • Freesound - these can be of variable quality, but there is some really good stuff on there too.
  • Song Work - an archive of the sounds of workplaces, factories, and more. Plenty of CC0 content.
  • National Parks Service
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service - small collection of public domain recordings of various fish and wildlife.
  • BBC Sound Effects - not public domain, but free for non-commercial use.
  • aporee ::: maps - mix of CC-licensed sounds, all geotagged.
  • xeno-canto - a mix of CC-licensed wildlife recordings, mostly birds. This link will take you to a search that finds public domain licensed sounds.
  • Sound Jay

I generally advise against finding sound effects on YouTube. When browsing free sound websites, keep an eye out in particular for public domain licenses such as CC0, CC-PD and similar - these licenses are very permissive compared to, for example, CC-NY-SA or similar. Even if they are free to access, you must always respect the license conditions associated with downloaded sounds.

PRS and Music Licensing

It is your responsibility to make sure your sampling of music in performances is legal. Gareth Fry wrote a fantastic guide to managing this.

Further Reading