Six of Our Favorite Bits of Sound Design Advice

Prompted on Twitter by our friend Wayne Marshall, we’ve put together a list of essays and radio episodes that focus on contemporary radio sound design.

Here are six of our favorite bits of advice:

The Truth’s Jonathan Mitchell wrote a Transom feature on the difficult choices a producer makes when using music in their pieces.

Whenever I have a hard time deciding what music to use or where to put it, usually that means I don’t really understand why I’m putting music there in the first place. But a good reason tells me so much: where it should be placed, what style it should be, what mood it needs to convey. If music really belongs in your story, it won’t be hard to find clues that tell you what kind of music to use.

HowSound often touches on sound design. Here’s one episode that focuses on the amazing sound work that went into Kathy Tu’s piece “The Fighter Pilot.”

Sound Design from Hell. Film sound designer Steve Boeddeker explores how sound can be used to enhance the emotional impact of a scene. Produced by Jonathan Mitchell for Studio 360.

– One of my favorite pieces discovered on PRX is from Paolo Pietropaolo, and while this one doesn’t directly comment on sound design, it boasts excellent design as Paolo explores the story of his tinnitus which affects his ability to enjoy silence.

– John Biewen praises the pause.

– Producer Julia Furlan, tipped us off to this Transom manifesto from Oscar-award-winning film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, who was behind such films as The Conversation, The English Patient, Apocalypse Now, Cold Mountain and Jarhead.

Conceptual density is something that should obey the same rules as loudness dynamics. Your mix, moment by moment, should be as dense (or as loud) as the story and events warrant. A monotonously dense soundtrack is just as wearing as a monotonously loud film. Just as a symphony would be unendurable if all the instruments played together all the time.

Check out Transom, Third Coast or PRX for more, then let us know what’s missing from this list.

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