3 Changes That Will Improve Your Sound Library


Joshua Tree National Park at Sunset 2

In the last article I wrote that knowing your audience is the first, key step in knowing how to make small changes that will have a big impact on your sound library. It helps you focus a new sound library or correct the course of a library you may already have.

In this article I’ll mention specifics changes you can make.

3 changes and how you can accomplish them

What small changes will give your sound library greater impact? Here are some suggestions:

1. You want to make your library more useful

Cater to your audience. Do your research. Discover what your audience needs, and how they work. When you know this, you’ll see small tweaks you can try to make your library more useful.

In my case, I began recording with editors in mind. Previously I was capturing explorations in sound, the foundation effects everyone first records: doors, footsteps, cars.

The small change I made was how I recorded. I decided to record specifically for film and TV editors. I had worked in TV a little. I had learned what sound clips were useful to them, and how they need them delivered. Then I provided them that way.

For example, one small change I made was recording at a slightly increased distance from the subject. Closely recorded sounds often don’t work well with picture. I also recorded multiple perspectives to allow them flexibility in the mix theatre.

2. You want your library to have more impact or farther reach

This means more listeners. If you’re selling your library this means you want more income.

The key to knowing which small change will have the best effect is knowing how your audience uses your sound effects.

  • creative: working with multimedia firms? You’ll want to spend less time recording ambiences. Stock up on plug-ins and hone your production skills. Want to share with a nature sound group? These people will appreciate a transparent microphone and unobtrusive mastering.
  • technical: Mac or PC? WAV or MP3? What editing app do they use?
  • organization – I’ve imported or ‘ingested’ over 200,000 sound files and hundreds of libraries on my clients’ web sites. I’ve seen that organized libraries do better. Some ideas:
    • use consistent names. If your users have a shorthand, use it (ex. Feet or FTS or footsteps?)
    • use consistent categorization
    • if your audience uses Pro Tools (prior to version 10), it may be more useful to provide the sound files split instead of interleaved
    • do they use asset management software like Soundminer or NetMix Pro? Most sound pros have terabytes of sound files. You want to make the library easy for them to use. Know their standards and deliver sounds to match

One of the small changes I made to my library was altering language. I started naming sound effects provocatively. But I was also precise. From my sales reports I saw that customers responded to certain file names more than others, even if the sound effect was similar.

3. You want to create better sound effects

The key to recording better sound effects is to focus. Specialize. As they saying goes: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Amplify your strengths. Don’t improve your weaknesses.

You can do this by picking and mastering one category of sound effects. You will begin slowly but as your experience increases you’ll produce better sounds with increased speed.

How do you do this? Repetition. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that an expert is someone who has spent 10,000 hours in their profession. Spend more time on the effects you want to record. Your knowledge will deepen and those sound clips will improve.

Example: the small change I made was to stop designing sound. I suck at sound design. I once tried to improve my skill with samplers and plug ins but it just doesn’t resonate with me. I prefer to be in an ambient environment instead. When I focused on atmospheres, nature recordings and other real-world sound effects, I received a better response.


I mentioned in the last article that a tipping point occurred when my library grew to 5,000 sound effects from 2,500.

Initially I thought the effectiveness of my library came from breaching a number: 5,000. I imagined that it had something to do exposure, or saturation.

I now believe that what caused my library to do better was not related to an exact number.

Better, more fundamental improvements to a sound library arrive from something deeper – making your sound library more helpful to your audience.

Think about how your audience will use the sound clips. Think about what you can do to make the sound effects easier for them to use.

In other words, it takes a trick of the mind: instead of thinking about what your library can do for you, you have to think about what it will do for others first.

It’s natural to want your creation to have a the best effect for yourself. After all, creating a sound library can be very personal. It’s often a record of your life.

However for the strongest effect and the farthest reach, the best place to begin is by thinking about others first: your audience.

Have you made any small changes that have greatly improved your library? Share them in the comments below.

To stay in touch, receive free updates by email newsletter or RSS feed.  |  Follow on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or SoundCloud.