Imagination in Action  
About "Imagination in Action" | Activities
Make a Sound Effects Kit

sound effects

For a good Sound Effects (SFX) kit,  start with:

CRASH BOX --made from a metal Christmas popcorn container.  Fill it with junk , but not glass.  Roll it around in all directions for a variiety of sounds.
                         
OLD DIAL TELEPHONE  - and ringer bell box -- the kind companies use for delivery doorbells. Don't bother trying to make the old phone ring--it'll cost hundreds for a step down transformer to deliver the 84 volts necessary to engage the phone ring circuit. Just build a $10 ringer box. (See the "advanced SFX" listing below).

THUNDER SHEET  - 2x4 foot 16th inch high-impact polystyrene. Look in your local yellow pages for "Plastics" and call around. It'll cost about $10.

WALKBOARD   - 2x3 foot doubled 3/4 inch plywood for footsteps. Put tile on one side to get a different sound.

SMALL DOOR   - Ideally, cut a regular door just after the latch and make a door frame to fit. 

GRAVEL BOX  - Wooden drawer-type box with gravel--for horses/dirt. Also, coconuts and short 2x4s as "boots"--with spurs!

CAVEMAN CLUBS -- Large hollow caveman style toy clubs--great for fights and bodies dropping to the floor.
                                       
STIFF PLASTIC BAGS  - For fire, static, even marching feet.

CLIP BOARDS  - For gun shots or a metal trash can.

TOY RATCHET  - Plastic New Year's noisemaker. Good for handcuffs, winches, drawbridges... ratchets.

VIBRO PEN  - A "Dizzy Doodler" pen that writes wobbly--for planes/jackhammers. Turn it on and apply the top (not the pen) to a cardboard box for a convincing airplane. Do the same on a stack of saucers and you'll have a great jack-hammer.
The KB Toy liquidator chain sells them for $4.

TOY CELL-PHONE  - For radars, space beeps, even cell-phones!
                             
SLIDE WHISTLE  - Besides eeeeeYOOOP, it can also be quickly slid back and forth for radars and space sounds.

PLASTIC EGG MARACAS  - for jungles, rattlesnakes, weirdness. You could make some with plastic easter eggs and rice, but many music stores sell them. 

WIND MACHINE  - also useful for other mechanical sounds--machine guns, cars, rotors. 

TEACUP SAUCERS - Good "dishes" sound. Apply vibro-pen to two stacked saucers for a great jack-hammer.

METAL SPOONS/SPATULAS -- Get a really big pancake flipping spatula and some large metal cooking spoons for great sword fights.

PLASTIC TUMBLER - For pouring water. Drop AA batteries in empty tumblers for ice cubes.

CIRCUIT BREAKER - A home circuit breaker (the kind that go in electrical panels) gives you that old fashioned, LOUD click of a light switch.

COMPILED SOUND EFFECT “HOW TO”:

     
          sound BIRDS CHIRPING:
                 Twist a little bird call. (Not too often, though). Available at camping outfitters.

    sound BLACKJACK:
     Plastic club hits once on wooden walk board.  (Large “Flintstone” toy clubs)

    BLOWGUN:
     Blowing through a cardboard tube, then slapping the tube.

    BODY DROPS TO GROUND:
     Plastic clubs beating on cardboard box.

    BODY DROPS:
     Two plastic clubs fall on cardboard box.

    BREAKING THINGS. (FURNITURE, BOXES):
     Maniuplate a crash box. (A giant potato chip/pretzel can filled with wood, metal and stones)

    BUBBLING VAT:
     Blow bubbles into large drinking cup. Close to mic.

    CABIN DOOR OPENING AND CLOSING:
             WINDOW SHUTTERS CRASHING:
             CAR CRASH:  Crash box.

    LAMP CRASHES:
             FURNITURE BREAKING:
     Shake the crash box.

    CAR DRIVES OFF:
    CAR DRIVING:
     Electric car driving toy.

    CHAINS RATTLING:
     Drop chains in wooden wagon. (a wooden box using old roller skate wheels)

    COOKIE TIMER RINGS:
     Triangle and striker. (one time) “Ding!”

    COOKIE TRAY DROPPED:
     Drop metal tray with coasters on walk-board.

    COWBOY BOOTS WALKING ON DIRT:
    FOOTSTEPS RUNNING ON A DIRT FLOOR:
    FOOTSTEPS ON UNDERBRUSH:
    MEN DISMOUNTING FROM HORSES. (JANGLING SPURS, FOOTFALLS):
     Use wooden “feet” in a hoof box. (A wooden box 14 x 18 x 4 filled with gravel.)

    CRAWLING IN UNDERBRUSH:
     Crinkle large plastic bag.

    CUTTING NOISE.
     Scrape butter knife against some metal.

    DOG BARKS:
     Vocalize it. “Rarf Rarf Rarf!”

    FACE BEING SLAPPED:
     Slapping hands together

    FACE SLAP:
     Slap stick. (two 15" x 3" boards connected by a spring loaded hinge)

    FIGHT BELL RINGS:
     An old school bell--about 15 inch diameter

    FIGHT:
    BODY FALLS TO THE GROUND:
    MEN STRUGGLING DURING A FIGHT:
    PUNCH:
     Whack two plastic clubs together or on a leg. Grunt.

    FIRE BELLS:
     Triangle and striker.

    FIRE:
     Repeatedly crinkle a stiff plastic bag.

    FOOTSTEPS on UNDERBRUSH:
     Twist straw (hay) or a broom's brush..

    FOOTSTEPS:
     Shoes on wooden walk-board. (walk-board is 2'x3' doubled 3/4 plywood)

    GIFT WRAPPING PAPER CRINKLING:
     Crinkle a stiff plastic bag.

    GLASS DROPS:
     Knock drinking glass on table. (So it does NOT break!)

    GLASSES CLINKING:
     Drinking glasses clinking.

    HAND CLAPS:
     Clap hands three times.

    HAND PICKS UP PHONE:
    HANG UP PHONE:
     Rattle phone receiver (handset) on phone.

    HANDCUFFS LOCKING:
     Handcuffs locking, first one then the other.

    HORSES GALLOPING, TROTTING, WALKING:
     Use coconut shells in gravel hoof box.

    ICE CUBES IN A GLASS:
     Drop Christmas tree light bulbs into a glass. (Carefully!)

    NATIVE AMERICAN DRUM (ONE-2-3-4, ONE-2-3-4 ETC.):
     Use bongo drum with hand (or toy drum with beater).

    JACKHAMMER:
     Apply vibrating toy pen to 3 tiny plates on table.

    MEN YELLING:
     “Hey!” “Look out!” “Here they come!” “Get ‘em!”

    CAR DOOR SLAMS:
     Old metal ice chest  - open then shut

    OPEN/CLOSE WINDOW:
     Roll wooden cart or old fashioned roller skate back and forth on table.

    OVEN DOOR OPENS:
     Roll wooden wagon across table.

    POURING WATER:
     Pour water from pitcher into a glass. Close to mic.

    RAIN:
     Shake a rain stick or bucket with BBs. 

    RAY GUN BLAST :
     Toy light saber.

    SIREN:
     Blow on siren whistle.

    SLIDE WHISTLE DOWN:
     Pull plunger on slide whistle. “Eee-yoooooop!”

    SWORD UNSHEATHED:
     Scrap a metal cooking spoon against a large pancake flipper.

    TAPPING ON WINDOW:
     Tapping on glass sheet.

    TELEPHONE RECEIVER PICKED UP:
    TELEPHONE HANGS UP:
     Rattle phone handset on cradle. 

      THUNDER:
     Shake a 3'x4' 1/8 inch thick plexiglassc sheet. Use the crash box first for the thunder crack.

    TRAIN CHUGGING:
    TRAIN SLOWING:
     Drummer’s brush on an old fashioned wash-board. A metal pie tin with holes punched it could substitute for the wash
     board.

    TRAIN CRASH:
     Crash box SFX device. Shaken a lot.

    TRAIN WHISTLE:
     Wooden train whistle. "Whoo-whoo!"

    YOO-HOO WHISTLE:
     Human whistles.

Information from:  Re-creating Radio Workshop