If you've learned to record and edit audio specifically for the purpose of podcasting, then keeping it simple in the early days is key.
Once you get more comfortable fiddling around with pieces of audio inside your editing software though, you might begin to get a little more adventurous. Would it be worth adding some sound effects and other elements to level up your podcast?
With more and more new shows being launched every day, there's an increasing need to make your own one stand out.
Of course, you'll do this best by building your show on a solid foundation, and creating great content that your listeners will love. But the production values of your show can really make or break it too.
So over time, you might want to start adding in those additional sound effects, as well as things known as “stingers”, “sweepers”, and “transitions”.
Or, you might even want to go down the route of creating highly-produced documentary or audio drama-style shows.
Whatever your reason, one big question you'll have is – where can I find good sound effects that I'm allowed to use in my podcast?
As you'll no doubt be aware by now, that's the entire purpose of this article, so read on and find out…
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Can I Just Make My Own?
Absolutely, and many producers do. In fact, if you enjoy it enough you can even try to build a career or business around it.
If you want to go down that route, then there's no better place to start than by getting a copy of The Sound Effects Bible by Ric Viers.
Remember though, that you'll either pay for something with your money or with your time.
Making your own sound effects can be “free” – as well as fun. But it can also be a time-consuming distraction that takes focus away from actually working on your content.
So if your time is already limited, then sourcing sound effects online is going to make much more sense.
Can I Find Free Sound Effects?
You can. The most popular free sound effect resource on the internet is probably The Free Sound Project.
It's a collaborative resource where anyone can upload their own recorded sound effects, and make them available for use on various “Creative Commons” licenses (commercial, non-commercial, etc).
There's some excellent stuff available on Freesound. But there's also plenty of low and poor quality audio on there too.
This means that you can end up spending a lot of time searching for the sort of audio you're after – and that could put you right back to square one.
Another great free resource out there is ZapSplat. They have a library of over 67,000 sounds.
You can use ZapSplat for free, with some caveats. For example, you'll need to credit them in your shownotes for every sound you use. You'll also be limited to MP3 downloads, and can download a maximum of 3 per 10 minutes.
ZapSplat offer a Gold membership which removes the need to give credit, and allows for unlimited WAV downloads. As a member of The Podcast Host Academy you automatically get access to a Gold membership account with ZapSplat.
Paying For Sound Effects
Buying your sound effects is the best way to save time, and to guarantee quality.
The exact way you buy them will vary from site to site. Some work on a subscription basis where you have a monthly download limit. Other sell individual effects, or entire packs or libraries.
So where are some of the places you can get premium quality podcast sound effects?
One of my favourite resources is ASoundEffect.com. ASE is something of a one-stop shop for browsing sound effects and collections from a multitude of creators.
Here you'll find a library for every scenario, ranging from footsteps and household noises, to sci-fi space battles and cinematic horror.
They have very clear and simple licensing, which means you don't need to constantly be checking where and when you're allowed to use a particular sound.
ASE is ideal if you're making audio drama or fiction podcasts.
If you're going down the audio documentary route though, then Storyblocks might be more suited to your needs.
Storyblocks have some great musical collections available on top of their sound effect and ambient tracks.
They operate as a subscription service, and you can get unlimited music and sound effects there for as little as $12.41 a month.
Use our link above for a 7-day free trial so you can test them out before jumping in.
Music Radio Creative
If it's sound effects for radio-style jingles, swooshes, and stingers you're looking for, then check out Music Radio Creative.
They're the medium's audio branding specialists, and will produce custom made effects and transitions for your show.
If you run an unscripted conversational or interview show, and you'd like to add a layer of professionalism to your sound, MRC are the go-to folks!
Organising Your Podcast Sound Effects
As you accumulate more and more audio, it can get harder to manage. With the best will in the world, having clearly-named files in well-organised folders still isn't the best way to search for something.
I recently discovered Soundly, and it's absolutely superb for this sort of thing.
It's basically a desktop app that acts as a search engine for all your audio. You can use this to search through your own sound effects, as well as access their huge cloud library of royalty free material.
You can start using Soundly for free. The only caveat is that it'll limit the amount of audio you can work with in there. Upgrade to a pro account costs $14.99 a month, which is well worth it in my opinion.
Soundly works in a ‘drag & drop' manner. You can drag files into it so that they're listed in your library. Then you can search through and drag out the audio you want into your editing software.
On top of that, you can also see a preview of each file's waveform along the bottom. In fact, you can even drag out small sections sections a clip, which is just one of Soundly's many intuitive features.
More Help With Podcast Sound Effects
Hopefully this article has given you a few options for finding the perfect sound effects for your show.
If you plan on working with multiple audio elements in your episodes, then I'd recommend checking out a couple of resources too.
- How to Create a Highly-Produced Podcast (Season 9 of Podcraft)
- How Do You Edit and Produce an Audio Drama Podcast?
And, if you'd like some more tailored help with your podcast, please check out The Podcast Host Academy. That's where you'll have access to our weekly live Q&A sessions, as well as all of our helpful courses and downloadable resources. You'll find everything you need in there to create the best sounding content for your audience!