Archive for theatre

Free and Cheap Theatre Sound Software

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by fgitler

I just happened to find this treasure trove of free and cheap sound software:

USITT Sound Wiki

“a project sponsored by the Sound Commission of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology”

Well done! It’s particularly well-timed as I’m just starting a new sound design project.


My Sound Design for Buried Child

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , , , , on March 10, 2011 by fgitler

Tomorrow (March 11th, 2011) is the opening performance of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child, directed by Timothy Trimingham Lee.

It is being performed at Upstairs at The Gatehouse in Highgate, London.

Buried Child

For this show I was asked to create several different kinds of rain sounds, including a sort of rain symphony of the sound of rain on and around an old farm house, for 20 minutes of Pre-show. Creaky porch doors, birds, and electric clippers transformed into a nightmare were other sounds required. I’ll try to describe more about the construction of these sounds in another post soon.

Tickets and more info

Sound software for free (or cheap)

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , on May 4, 2010 by fgitler

In my post on recorded sound effect sources, I mentioned that you’ll need software to edit and manipulate audio. Below are listed a number of free (or almost free) software packages for manipulating (and creating) sound effects, speech, music — any audio. Many of the programs listed will be designed with musicians in mind, but anything that works with sound is a potentially useful tool for a sound designer.

I have not used most of these programs — these listings are a resource, not an endorsement.

Apple’s cross-platform, ubiquitous audio library software has many good features for sound design. It can burn CDs, sequence tracks, adjust track volumes, play mp3, wav or aiff files, and it can import files in multiple formats. I’d write a whole post on these features except they’ve done that job already:
More about iTunes features

An open source iTunes-like product that’s “part music player, part Web browser, and all about music discovery, management, and playback.”
More about Songbird

Audacity is a very basic, very useful sound editor. I use it all the time. It’s limited, but easy to use.
More about audacity

Reaper is a full-fledged audio and midi music production system, that is priced at $60 for personal/unprofitable small-business use, $225 for commercial use. The demo version is free, full-featured and does not expire.
More about Reaper

Let’s Mix Editor
A.k.a. the Pacemaker Editor, this free software is intended as the desktop component of an iPod-like DJ device, and is an easy way to line up multiple songs in a row, overlap transitions, even beatmatch and add effects. A quick way to build a pre-show program of music if you want it to be more ‘seamless’ than you might get straight out of an iTunes playlist.
More about the Let’s Mix Editor

“Wavosaur has all the features to edit audio (cut, copy, paste, etc.) produce music loops, analyze, record, batch convert.” Windows only.
More about Wavosaur

Another all in one package like Reaper, developed collaboratively. They ask for donations/subscriptions, but allow you to download without.
More about Ardour

A “customizable sound triggering device and realtime digital audio performance tool.”
More about Soundplant

“A complete music studio”
More about MU.LAB

Kristal Audio Engine
A “multi-track recorder, audio sequencer and mixer” (Free for non commercial use.) Currently Windows only.
More about Kristal Audio Engine

From here on I’ve listed some additional software resources that have been recommended to me by musicians, audio engineers, and sound designers, but may be beyond what a theatrical sound designer is going to find useful. These links are just the tip of the iceberg–there are new sound programs being created and updated every day.

Pure Data
A “real-time graphical programming environment for audio, video, and graphical processing”. Sound complicated and open-ended? I’m sure it is, with limitless possibilities.
More about Pure Data

Buzz Machines
“Modular software based synthesizer.” Free, unless you want to use VST plugins, then that version is $35. Again, not for the faint of heart…
More about Buzz Machines

A “networking system between max patches”. Programmers making sound modules.
More about Ppooll

Linux apps
29 music making applications for the Linux OS
from Audiotuts+

“If you enjoy droning, ambient sounds that go on forever and ever, then this just may be the right app for you.” Mac only
More about Mlooch

Collaborative music making — in a browser.
More about Audiotool

KVR Audio
News info and more about audio plugins.
More about KVR

Thanks to the forumites at Ninjatune and Propellerhead for their help in assembling this information.

this link also has good info on this type of thing: free music software

Sound (Design) Poetry

Posted in Theory with tags , , on April 26, 2010 by fgitler

I liked what this person had to say on the topic of sound design…

“the goal of all productions is to be meaningful.

no one rule can describe the creative role sound design has in theatre.
the rules describe themselves from production to production.”

To me it’s not about agreeing with him (or me either) but about provoking thought, having an opinion, proceeding with intention, communicating…

much, much more at the link below.

Transporting a Place

Posted in Theory with tags , , on April 26, 2010 by fgitler

Director Tim Lee has had to hear me go on about these concepts and their execution many times, so it seems right to put it into [pixels].


A room full of seats, set aside for the enactment of a  staged performance, is just that – a room. People arrive in the room and sit in the seats, having walked in off a street, in a town full of cars, after their day at work, where their lives and the world they inhabit all around them, and they carry all that in with them.

This ‘Place’ inside is not that place outside. A fictional story is going to unfold. The fictional place is not a room just off a street. Directions on how to get to the building are written down. Directions on how to get to the fictional place are heard.


Sound Designers have an opportunity to assist the Director by transporting the audience from the place they have entered, to the created place where the performance is located. Pre-show music (or recorded atmosphere, speech, etc) can help create this other kind of place. The pre-show has the function of transporting the audience, and setting the mood for the performance that is yet to come.

I strongly advise against using familiar music (although some directors will strongly disagree with me on this). Even when it seems to make perfect sense, and seems appropriate, use caution. A piece of music that the audience may already know will carry with it associations to something outside, earlier, other, which takes them away from the place you are trying to create. Also, it is comforting to hear something familiar. That is not necessarily helpful. A pre-show sound design that has elements that create uncertainty, or tension, can prepare the audience for the journey ahead. Tension creates attention. Not to say it has to be painfully loud or dissonant, but it should be present, and have a specific purpose.

The first scene, the first lines, the first action – all of this will help inform you what it is that you are aiming towards. Where it is taking the audience, and how, is something you will need to help your director find, and they will help you.