Free Materials For Teachers
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Sounds For All Projects

You may have wondered where I get some of the sounds used in the activities you download from Annie’s Resource Attic. Have you discovered Freesound? It is one of the most valuable resource sites on the web, a tremendous and growing database of sound effects to use in all your projects.

The Freesound Site

This web site,, is a collaborative effort by contributors from all over the world. Because I’ve found it so useful, I’ve had a link to Freesound in the sidebar of my site from its beginning. Sounds in the database are licensed through Creative Commons, so they are free to use and adapt, usually requiring only that you include attribution information. It wasn’t always so easy to find good sound effects!

When I first started building activities, I mostly had to use sounds that came with whichever application I was using or try to record them myself. There were sound effects online, but it was difficult to find sounds licensed to use and adapt freely. Freesound, which started in 2005, changed that completely. Now I simply sign in to Freesound and quickly find what I need for a new project.

A Bit Of History

The Freesound Project was born from an idea by Dr. Xavier Serra, director of the Music Technology Group of the Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona. He envisioned a web site where composers could exchange sounds for an upcoming International Computer Music Conference. His student Bram De Jong quickly cobbled together a site, got some friends together, and began adding sounds. Their invitation to upload more sounds had an immediate and overwhelming response. The Freesound Project was off to a very promising start.

Ten years later, the project has grown into a massive online community and a wonderful, well-organized database of over 240,000 sounds!* It has over four million members, and more than 50,000 people use the site each day. Because it is truly collaborative and international, you will find sounds here that you can find nowhere else. Drilling through ice in the Arctic, a tropical thunderstorm, a subway train arriving in Oslo, the Australian desert at night, a submarine dive horn, sounds from the African savanna at midnight: all these sounds and thousands more are in the current collections of Freesound.

*Update: Freesound database passed 400,000 sounds three years later, at the end of 2018. It’s still accelerating! For more details, including the distribution of license types, see their blog entry summarizing 2018 in numbers.

All these sounds are tangible evidence of the tremendous generosity shown by the many contributors to Freesound. In some cases, people have donated entire sound libraries! One of these is Craig Smith, who uploaded 1,233 vintage optical sound effects from various Hollywood productions ranging from the 1930s to 1950s. These sounds are part of the USC Optical Sound Effects Library, which Smith is working to preserve by digitizing and organizing the sounds. I’ve put a link to the page where you can download these Vintage Hollywood Sounds into the sidebar. Trolleys, trains, elephants, Tarzan’s yell? All present, and organized into separate sound packs. For the fascinating story of this project, click here.

Using “Sounds Like”

It’s easy to search for the sounds you need, using “sounds like” keywords. For example, I wanted a sound for hanging the washcloth in my Showertime! activity. I searched for the word (?) “flump” and there was actually a sound by that name! I also searched for “thud” and chose one of many thud-type sounds for the shampoo bottle hitting the shelf. Sometimes you have to use a bit of imagination. I needed a sort of click for the sound of hanging a brush on a peg. After listening to various clicks, the one I used was actually the sound of hanging up an old-fashioned telephone!

Free Membership

Membership in Freesound is, of course, free! Signing up lets you upload as well as download sounds. There might be a student project hiding in the option to make and upload sounds! In addition, Freesound maintains a list with the attribution information for all sounds you download organized by date. You can download all or part of the list in either text or html format to save time creating attribution information. Another helpful feature is being able to bookmark sets of sounds for later download.

A Little Technical Info

Sounds are uploaded in a variety of formats, but you can easily convert them into whatever format you need with sound editors such as Audacity. You also may find Audacity handy for combining or otherwise editing sounds. For example, I was working on an activity where the action moved through a cave. I wanted cave echoes and drips, along with the sound of footsteps on rocks. I was able to download those two sounds from Freesound and combine them easily in Audacity.

Once you see what a tremendous selection of sound effects are available on Freesound, you will want to add them all. A good soundscape makes a story more compelling and gives logical feedback to users. Freesound makes it easy!

Applications needed:Web Browser, (optional) Audacity or comparable sound editor.
Subject area: Sound effect resources.
Level: Author.

Online Link-Resources link Click Here. Collaborative database of sounds licensed for use and adaptation.

Vintage Hollywood Sounds link Click Here Individual packs of sounds from vintage Hollywood optical tape, digitized, organized into packs, and uploaded to Freesound by Craig Smith.

October 10th, 2015 at 7:43 pm


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