Do you know what a light saber sounds like? What about the growl of a Tyrannosaurus Rex? If you’ve seen the Star Wars or Jurassic Park films, then you probably answered those questions with a loud “Yes!”

Now think about it for a moment. Are light sabers real? Do T. Rexes still roam Earth? Nope! They only exist and live on in movies. So how do we know what they sound like?

Thanks to sound designers and sound effects engineers, our favorite movies, television shows, and radio programs come to life with the sounds of things that aren’t even real! It just makes sense. If you’re going to make a movie about things that aren’t real or no longer exist, you’re going to have to create the sounds you think they made.

Of course, sound effects are also used in movies and television shows featuring real people and things that do exist. Sometimes it can be hard to record the sounds that things make in the real world.

For example, a door closing might make only a small sound. If the plot requires that you notice a door closing, though, a sound effect may be recorded that magnifies the sound of a door closing or makes it sound a particular way.

Sound effects have been around for a long, long time. In fact, they’ve been around since the earliest days of radio. Early radio programs often featured dramatic productions. People relied on their ears instead of their eyes to receive the story from the radio. Good sound effects were necessary to tell a story in a lively, engaging way.

Today, big-budget movies have taken sound effects to a whole new level. With digital surround sound systems in many theaters, movies have become a feast for the ears, as well as the eyes.

But how do they make those sounds? Let’s take a look at some sounds you may be familiar with and the sometimes-surprising way they are created!

The laser blasts in Star Wars aren’t from the future, and they didn’t get their start as computer-generated synthesizer sounds either. A sound designer created them by hitting tightly-strung metal wires with a hammer!

And those dinosaurs in Jurassic Park? They’re not real dinosaurs obviously. No one really knows what dinosaurs sounded like, so sound designers had to come up with sounds that people might believe would come out of such ferocious creatures.

The result? The T. Rex’s “voice” was a combination of sounds from various real animals tweaked by computer technology. Its breathing? That’s a whale! Its roar? That came from lions, alligators, tigers, and elephants. Its grunt? That’s a koala bear!

As you can see, sound effects can come from a wide variety of sources. They often have nothing to do with the real — or fake or imaginary — animal or object being portrayed. With a little imagination and some computer trickery, our ears can be treated to sounds we never imagined we’d hear!

94 Join the Discussion

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  1. From now on we will always watch movies and tv shows diffrently and WONDER how the sounds were made. We really enjoyed this wonder!!

    • That’s music to our ears, Mrs. Roddy’s homeroom! We’re so glad you shared your comment with us today, thanks for starting your Friday with us! It’s super cool to learn about the talent behind the sounds we hear everyday! We really enjoyed WONDERing with you today, Wonder Friends! Keep your ears open for awesome Wonders around you! :)

  2. Sound effects are cool. I can’t believe that sound effects help a movie so much! Sound effects make the movie seem alive, they all seem so real, even though someone is making the noises. I still wonder if they use some real noises like a real horse noise, or do they just make the noise?

    • Hey McKenna! We can’t imagine watching a movie or TV show with out music or sound effects! They really make it feel real! Thanks for sharing your comment about what you learned today!

      Sometimes the sounds that are recorded don’t sound loud enough, so sound effects are used. Other times, multiple microphones are used to capture the real sounds in action! :)

  3. That I do this well, making YouTube videos I had hit things to create funny sound effects or remix videos I like.

    • We’re glad you’ve been creating sound effects of your own, Elijah! How cool that you’ve already been WONDERing about sound effects- and using your imagination to create them! Way to go, Wonder Friend! :)

    • Thanks for answering our Wonder, Timothy! We were so excited to learn all about the different ways sound can be made! :)

  4. We kids make sound effects all the time! Even animals make sound effects I thought! They make sound for movies mostly all things make sound! In Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back ( my favorite move ) it has a lot of sound effects in it!

    1. Animals
    2. People
    3. Items
    These things all make sound so yea!!!

    • Ahola to all our Wonder Friends! You’re right, kids and animals are great at making all kinds of noises! We’re glad this Wonder was right up your alley, Wonder Friend, and we’re glad you listed some of the different ways sound is made! :)

  5. I really liked today’s wonder. Now I am probably going to think about what might have made sound effects in movies whenever I watch a movie. What are other wonders related to this wonder? I want to learn more.

  6. I didn’t know that’s how sound was made. The sounds are made by other sounds that are put into the movie.

    • How cool, Wonder Friend Zach! We’re glad you learned something new about how sound is made– it’s super awesome to check out what happens behind the scenes! :)

  7. How do you become trained in Foley? Do you go to college or apprentice at a studio? Can we have more info please. Thanks.

    • That is a SUPER question, Mrs. C’s Class! Many Foley artists have a mentor and work as an apprentice under a skilled sound effects professional. Other times, people may go to school to study sound effects and editing and they become a Foley artist! :)

    • SUPER guesses, Mrs. M’s Class! We think you’re in the right area, indeed! Tomorrow’s Wonder is going to be a salty one! :)

    • We can’t share the Wonders before they are posted, Wonder Friend L, but you can check out the “Wonder What’s Next” section on Sunday to guess Monday’s Wonder! :)

    • That’s one way to create special sound effects, Damaris! Check out the rest of today’s Wonder for even more information! :)

  8. This was a cool wonder I thought that it was cool how they made sound effects by other sound making things making sound.
    :) :) :) :) :)

    • Thanks so much, Dillon! We’re glad you liked hearing and seeing our Wonder today! We are going to listen with extra care the next time we watch a movie or TV show for sound effects! :)

  9. Wow! I never knew all of that about sound effects. I can’t believe that not just anyone can do sound effects. That video was awesome. The horse sound effects were my favorite.
    Why do people drive cars and not ride horses?
    Are there cowboys today in real life?

    • WOOHOO, it’s so much fun to Wonder and learn something new, isn’t is True Cowgirl? It takes lots of practice and keen listening skills to get those sound effects just right! Thank you for sharing your awesome comment and predictions for the next Wonder, too! :)

    • We’re so glad this Wonder made you smile, Ttnugent!! Perhaps you can try creating some sound effects of your own! Let us know how it goes! :)

    • Isn’t it cool, Tifiny? Sound effects are made in a studio, but they sound so real! We love WONDERing about what happens behind the scenes! :)

    • YUM! We like what’s cookin’ in Mrs R’s Class today! Thank you for sharing your awesome predictions for tomorrow’s Wonder! We are excited for our trip to the Mediterranean! :)

  10. How do the objects make those sounds? Is it hard to make the sounds? When the people make the sounds is it loud or quiet?

    • Awesome questions, Brooke! We are so impressed with what we learned today, and we’re thrilled that you shared your comment! Have you ever stomped your feet as you were going up the stairs? What if you had some bells in your hands? If we closed our eyes and used our imagination, that might remind us of Santa Claus! Sound effects can be created in all sorts of ways, and sometimes the sounds are SUPER loud, while other times they are very quiet and difficult to hear. It all depends! :)

  11. I think it’s really awesome that you can make random sounds with random things. I think this was an awesome wonder.

    • Thanks so much, Mason, we’re really glad to read your comment! We Wonder if you will use your awesome imagination to create some sound effects of your own? :)

    • Computers are a big part of sound effects, you’re right Andrew! However, many sound effects are created the way we saw in the video today! With computers you can alter those sounds, make them louder or softer and layer them on top of one another! Computers work great when it comes to creating sound effects! :)

  12. I never knew sound effects were made that way. That’s very interesting. I think it would be hard to have that job, because you have to time the effect right. I wonder if one day they’ll have sound effects off the Internet, maybe some movies already have that. But maybe one day all the movies will have that.

    • We’re glad you enjoyed this interesting Wonder today, Amme! You would have to practice quite often, and it might take many years to fine tune your sound effect skills. It sure seems like fun, though! :)

    • Great Wonder, Michael! With the help of computers and technology, sounds can be layered over one another. In today’s Wonder video, we saw how the Foley artist recorded the sounds individually. After that, he put them all together using the computer! :)

  13. I think this is really cool! Most of the sound effects I thought were just made in the computer and they kept on editing til it sounded like it needed to be (like dinosaurs, light sabers etc.) I find it cool too that they use normal stuff to use for sound effects as well! :)

    • We are glad you liked our Wonder today, Paula! Computers are definitely a big part of sound effects, but many sounds are created with everyday things, like we saw today! Perhaps you can test some items from your house to create some sound effects of your own! :)

  14. Sound effects are not made by computers. They’re made by people! I didn’t know that! People have to have a good education to make a sound pro style.

    • Thanks for doing a great job of summarizing what you learned with us today, Alex! You did an awesome job! Great WONDERing! :)

    • Hey there, Justin, thanks so much for telling us all about what you learned today! We’re going to keep our ears open for sound effects the next time we watch TV or a movie! Perhaps we can pick out the items that were used to create the sound effects! :)

    • We’re so happy you shared your comment with us today, Macy! Sound effects are hard work, indeed! We learned so much about what goes on behind the scenes! Thanks for visiting us today! :)

  15. I thought today’s wonder was really cool. Now when I watch a movie I am going to think about how the sound effects were made in the movie.

    • Hey there, Laura! Thank you for sharing your comment today– we Wonder if you can spot how the sound effects were made? :)

  16. Wow so cool I thought they just made the sounds in the movie rather than just recording them in a studio !!!!!!!!!!

    • Isn’t it awesome to learn about what goes on behind the scenes, Chloe? Thanks for sharing your WONDERful comment! :)

  17. In the video, I learned that the way there is so many different sounds in the movie and in T.V. shows and a lot of them are made by Foley. I have going to movies before and watched T.V. shows, and I’ve heard the Foley in them. I think it is cool how sound engineers do Foley.

    • Hey there, David! Thank you for telling us all about what you learned in today’s Wonder! We are so glad you’re here today, and we hope you keep your ears open for awesome sound effects in the future! :)

  18. You have a stereo and you can change the sounds. You can also make whatever sound you want. I think sound effects are best, they use them in movies

    • That’s super cool, Bob! Thanks for telling us all about your awesome stereo, we love your connection to today’s Wonder! :)

  19. That was an amazing wonder of the day! We look forward to the wonders each day as we start our class.

    • Well that’s super news, Mrs. Burton’s homeroom! Thank you for sharing your comment and starting your day with Wonder! :)

  20. Thoughts, Connections, Questions: All of us thought this was a really cool Wonder! The video was awesome to watch!!! We learned a lot from the video and the rest. We had always thought that sound effects were created by a computer or a machine, not a person actually making those noises.
    Bryan- Wouldn’t it be easier to have a computer do all of this? Sierra- At my old school, my principal used to create his own sound effects over the P.A. system. Aaliyah- I thought the sound on movies came from when the movie was shot.

    Predictions: David- Why do people eat Greek food? Michael- Does Greek yogurt actually come from Greece? Bryan- Does Italy sell Big Macs? Erica- How do you make Greek food?
    The clue for tomorrow stumped us a little bit!

    • WOOHOO, what a fun Friday to Wonder with Mrs. VanDusen’s Class! It sounds like we all learned some really neat things today about sound! We like knowing what goes on behind the scenes!

      Bryan, Sierra, Aaliyah, David, Michael and Erica: thank you for sharing your thoughts, questions and predictions! It sounds like you’ve been doing an awesome job of using your imaginations for this Wonder, and tomorrow’s, too! It’s going to be a salty one! :)

  21. Thank you Wonderopolis for today’s great wonder! I have always been interested in the career of a sound producer and enjoy learning about sound effects in movies and T.V. shows. I bet that tommorow’s wonder will be related to technology. Have a WONDERful Friday!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your comment, Katrina! We are so happy to know that this Wonder is right up your alley! Please let us know how you get involved in sound production and effects! We believe in you! :)

  22. Good afternoon Wonderopolis,

    Today’s wonder sure sounds great! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    We couldn’t wait to try and make our own sound effects just like we saw in the video. We got out our computers and microphones and made some!

    We created sound effects for lots of different things. We made car sound effects, squeaking door sound effects, and even animal sound effects for pigs and baby chicks!

    • Hey there, PA 1st Graders! We love your comment today, and we are so very impressed with your very own sound effects, too! What an awesome way to Wonder! You ROCK! Have a WONDERful weekend! :)

  23. A cruise, an activity or sport? OR maybe a popular subject in the region. Maybe a seafood or hmmmmm something famous?

    • Great Wonder guess, Mrs. S’s Class! We are so glad you’ve been thinking about tomorrow’s salty Wonder! :)

  24. I think that the people who make the movie records what they hear then make into diffrent words and sounds. What do you think makes sound effects?

    • That’s an awesome guess, Kendall! Thanks for telling us all about how you think sound effects are created! We learned all about the different ways sounds are formed, including sounds that are made my people! How cool! Check out the Wonder video and article for more awesome information! :)

    • Well thank you so much, Alison! We are thrilled that you enjoyed our Wonder about sound effects! We think you’re totally awesome and we can’t wait to Wonder with you again soon! :)

  25. I really liked this because I love technology. I’m only 12 and I have put a computer together from scratch with no parents’ help. Can you put a wonder about smartphones?

    • Hey there, Jacob! Way to go, Wonder Friend! We are so glad you told us all about you awesome job of building a computer on your own! We are so proud of you! Keep WONDERing and building, Jacob! Thanks so much for sharing your comment and idea for a new Wonder! :)

  26. This article is really amazing! My dad knows how to make sound effects from his own mouth!!! And he taught me how to do them! But any other way I can relate to this article!!!!

    • Hey there, Diana! It sounds like your dad is one talented man, thank you for telling us all about his cool sound effects! We are glad you know how to do sound effects of all sorts, too! What is your favorite sound to create? :)

  27. Hey wonder friends I want to say

    HI I am having a wonderFul day and I want to know how are you guys are cause I am in a wonDer day. ;) BYE!

    • Alright Madalyn, that’s the WONDER spirit! We’re doing great here at Wonderopolis, thank you for asking! What did you enjoy from this sound effects Wonder? :)

  28. good moning the video was cool can sound rele travlle . vare was the cools thing I have evr hrd in my light hop to here back

    • Good morning, erins659! Welcome back. Thank you for sharing what you liked about this Wonder of the Day! We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us! :D

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How are sound effects made?
  • How long have sound effects been around?
  • Can you make your own sound effects at home?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Does exploring a few fun activities with a friend or family member SOUND like fun? We think so! Check these out:

  • Who makes better sound effects? Guys or girls? Jump online to watch Bleep Blap Bloop and judge for yourself. As you watch, try out your own sound effects for each of the items. Can you do a better job of creating sound effects than the people in the video?
  • Do you love science fiction and action movies? They present some of the biggest challenges to audio engineers. Blockbuster action and science fiction movies can require thousands upon thousands of sound effects to create the eye-popping, ear-pleasing scenes that make us want to head to the theater. Head to the Internet to browse through the 50 Greatest Movie Sound Effects. You probably haven’t seen all the movies, so feel free to skip to the movies you have seen. Or you can always search online video sites to try to find the scenes mentioned. Take some time to think about your own favorite movies. Do any of them have incredible sound effects that you think should make the list of the best sound effects of all time?
  • Up for a challenge? Can you make your own sound effects at home? You bet you can! If you’re making a home movie, for example, wouldn’t it be fun to edit it on the computer and add in your own homemade sound effects? For example, maybe your movie takes place on a dark and stormy night. It’s easy enough to make a couple of simple crafts, such as Rain Sticks and Storm Clouds, to create unique sounds to accompany your movie. But you can be as creative as you can on your own, too. Take a look around the garage. What tools and materials do you have to work with? If you can find a metal can, a hammer and a block of wood, there’s no end to the number of unique sounds you can come up with. Have fun coming up with your own unique sound effects at home. Ask a friend or family member for help if you’re trying to create a certain sound and you just can’t seem to come up with the materials to make it happen. A little imagination and some simple supplies can go a long way!

Still Wondering

How do composers “hear” outer space? How did Beethoven compose music when he couldn’t hear? Use ArtsEdge’s Acoustics and Sound lesson to browse lessons and multimedia that explore the art and science of the world of sound around us.

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Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a closer look at a Mediterranean favorite!

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