Answering Your Questions: Glossary of Sound Effects

In the original post, we get a ton of questions asking what keywords should be used when trying to find very specific sounds. While a quick peruse through parts 1,2, and 3 of this series would help, I decided to relay a few of these questions to our editorial team. I’m very curious what buzzwords they will recommend. Continue reading to see if your question was answered!

Let’s start off easy

What do I write when someone quickly grabs someone’s arm?

Brad: face slap

Tess: pat

Katie: body hug, impact body, skin, smack, slap

What should I search for if I want a sound effect for grabbing a bag of chips?

Brad: cellophane

Tess: crinkle, plastic bag drop/impact

Katie: mylar, crinkle plastic, foil, crumple, junk bag

What sound would you use when someone starts to walk?

Sometimes it is easy to overthink search terms when trying to find the perfect sound effect. A lot of the time there isn’t a fancy word for the sound you’re looking for. For example, a footstep would do just fine for this request.

Brad: For this, you’d need to know the surface, but I’d start with a quick scuff or foot drag if you’re trying to highlight the sound

Tess: scuff, skid, lino squeak, basketball squeak

Katie: scuffle, scrape, dirt slide, a cement slide, gravel

What sfx do I use for quickly grabbing an elevator door to stop it from closing?

Brad: metal hollow, metal ring, metal lock, metal latch

Tess: metal hit/impact

Katie: metal duct, container hit

I need a sound for someone sitting on a bed except for the word “creak”.

Sometimes you need to get creative with the words you use when searching for a specific sound. If you are looking up “bed” and not finding anything, think of works associated with a bed or a similar material.

Brad: couch sit, couch plop, cloth hit, cloth impact, cloth movement

Tess: hinge

Katie: springs, pillow hit, cloth drop, laundry, couch

What sound would a bouncing grenade make?

Tip: Doing a quick search on youtube for a reference clip can really help spark inspiration. Listen to examples of the sound you are trying to replicate and try to deconstruct what you hear. A lot of the time there is no one specific sound and what you’re looking for requires a build of multiple sfx’s. Don’t limit yourself!

Brad: metal drop, gun drop, metal hit

Tess: tink

Katie: shell drop, bullet case, metal debris, shiny, solid

What sound would you use when someone grabs your hand and it startles you?

How do you translate emotion into sound? Sometimes trial and error is the only way to find the perfect sound effect. Let’s see what our editors came up with…

Brad: horn, violin pluck

Tess: In my head, this needs to be a build of sounds, maybe a BONK plus a TWANG, and a COWBELL. Other options are POINK, DOINK, or PLUCK

Katie: gasp, surprise, shock, emote, fear, anxiety, curiosity, inhale short

What sound does sushi make?

Context is everything. This type of sound could go in multiple directions; realistic, toony, surreal.

Brad: goop, goo, slime

Tess: splat

Katie: rice cake, squish, wet, slimy

What would I write for an angelic noise?

Brad: angel chorus

Tess: choir, ethereal

Katie: heaven, drone, symphony, gliss, harp, ascend


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