What are sound effects?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 3, 2022

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Sound effects (or audio effects) are artificially created or enhanced sounds, or sound processes used to emphasize artistic or other content of films, television shows, live performance, animation, video games, music, or other media.

In motion picture and television production, a sound effect is a sound recorded and presented to make a specific storytelling or creative point without the use of dialogue or music.

The term often refers to a process applied to a recording, without necessarily referring to the recording itself.

Recording sound effects for later use

In professional motion picture and television production, dialogue, music, and sound effects recordings are treated as separate elements.

Dialogue and music recordings are never referred to as sound effects, even though the processes applied to them, such as reverberation or flanging effects, often are called “sound effects”.

How to use sound effects in music

Sound effects can be used in a number of ways in music. They can be used to create atmosphere, to add interest or energy to a track, or to provide comic relief.

Sound effects can be created using a variety of methods, including recorded sounds, synthesized sounds, or found sounds.

One way to use sound effects in music is to create atmosphere. To do this, you might use a sound effect that evokes a specific place or environment, such as the sound of a forest, to create an eerie mood.

Or you could use a sound effect that evokes an activity, such as footsteps on gravel or raindrops falling on leaves, to convey movement and energy in a track.

Another way to use sound effects in music is to add interest or energy to a track. This can be done by using sound effects that are unexpected or out of place, such as a car horn honking in the middle of an otherwise quiet piece of music.

Or you could use sound effects that contrast with the tone of the music, such as a lighthearted sound effect in a track that is otherwise dark and serious.

Finally, you can use sound effects to provide comic relief in a piece of music. For example, you might use a sound effect that is silly or childish, such as a whoopee cushion sound, to add levity to a track.

Or you could use a sound effect that is in direct contradiction to the musical elements, such as a heavy metal guitar riff played over deliberately light and whimsical music.

Although there are many ways to use sound effects in your music, it’s important to be thoughtful and intentional when doing so.

This will ensure that your choice of sound effects contributes to the overall mood and feel of the track, rather than feeling like a random or out-of-place addition.

It’s also important to make sure that the sound effect you’re using is of good quality, as poor-quality sound effects can cheapen the overall sound of your music.


When used thoughtfully and sparingly, sound effects can be a great way to add atmosphere, interest, or energy to your music. So don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with them!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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