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the role of the SOUND designer

If you chose to serve on the   SOUND DESIGN TEAM for this semester's Advanced Acting show, you are responsible for participating in design team meetings as well as growing as a designer during the rehearsal and performance process.


If serving on the Sound Design Team, you are ALSO responsible for independently learning about the role of a sound designer as outlined below. 


Please be sure you have your Acting/Design Binder (to collect/document your learning) and your  Process Journal (to reflect on your process/journey).

learning about SOUND design



Video: Designing Sound for Theatre (6:55)

Journal Entry:  Role of a Sound Designer

  1. What is the role of a sound engineer? (stated right away)

  2. What is the role of a sound designer? (stated right away)

  3. This designer at the beginning of the video says that she doesn't just "pick sounds to go in places".  Instead she does what?

  4.  In what ways does the sound designer work WITH the cast and director?  Describe the collaboration PROCESSES you observed, and think about the way YOU can stay connected with rehearsals and the director in our show.  

  5. What advice does the sound designer give? List several.  (5:25-6:44)

Video: The Sound Designer - In the Wings - Stagecraft 101 (6:52)

Journal Entry:  Sound Design

  1. What is a sound designer responsible for?  (stated right away - list all stated)

  2. A sound designer is "trying not to be" what?

  3. What skills do you need as a sound designer?  (2:45)

  4. What does a sound designer need to be able to do when (s)he reads a play? (3:30)

  5. What sounds does a sound designer START with?

Video:  The Beautiful Lies of Sound Design | Tasos Fratzolas | TEDxAthens (17:01)

Journal Entry:  The lies of Sound Design

  1. What did you learn about creating your OWN sound effects by watching this video?

  2. Describe how the SOURCE (where the sound is coming FROM) does/should impact sound.

  3. What are ambiances?  (Think about if any may be needed in our show.  Keep in mind, this is more important in film than on stage, but they could still be needed for some stage shows.)

  4. How can sound effects tap into emotional memory? (Think about if there are any emotional memory sound effects that could be effective in our show.)

Video: The Magic of Making Sound (6:32)

Journal Entry:  Making Sound Effects

  1. What did you learn about creating sound effects by watching this video?

Video:  Creating Frankenstein: Sound Design | Abbey Theatre (4:40)

Journal Entry:  Sound for the Stage

  1. What does sound design do? (stated right away - list 3 ways)

  2. What does the designer look for in the script?  

  3. Where does the designer "work" during REHEARSALS and why?

  4. What can sound design create on stage?  (3:30)

Video:  Qlab Tutorial | Basics Episode 1 "First Steps"  (7:51)

Journal Entry:  Qlab Notes

​(Take notes on the basics of Qlab, which is the program used to run sounds cues during a show. You will be learning more from John, but you need to know the basics first.)

Task (Formative Grade):  AFTER learning all of the above, create your own Sound Needs spreadsheet (by carefully reading the script).  Consider all the information shared above as you (re-)read the script.  Include on your spreadsheet (in order) the Act, Scene, page number, setting, and specific sound needs.  You will also want to have a column in your spreadsheet for your thoughts on whether you plan to find or create the effects.  Remember to consider 1.) sound effects needed,  2.) whether sounds are "source" sounds* or not, 3.) transition/scene change music needed, and 4.) possible "soundtracks" (for scenes that would benefit from emotional build, etc.)    When finished with your Lighting Needs spreadsheet, turn it in to KP for a grade.

*source sounds = those that need to sound like they're coming from a specific sources on stage (such as a radio or phone) rather than through the overhead speakers

Task:  Discuss your Sound Needs List with your Design team (if you have one). As a team you will use everyone's list to compile one FINAL (Google sheets) Lighting list that you will "share" with each group member as you build and revise it.  (Don't forget to "share" with KP, also!)  

Task: Schedule a time to meet with the John Schmidt to learn more about speaker placement, Qlab, and how to use your design ideas to create effective sound design in the black box for our show.  Be sure you're clear on what you'd like to accomplish (overall) with your sound design when you met with him.  (I'd assume you'd want to meet with him to learn technology first, and meet with him later to discuss your artistic design in order to get help executing it.  Be sure you schedule these meetings AHEAD of time.)  Note:  ALL effects and sound choices MUST be approved by the director far enough in advance to make changes if needed.  You are responsible for meeting with the director before, during, or after rehearsals to share your sound choices with her.  (Usually during an early run-through is the best time to share your sound design choices with the director.)


Task:  As a sound team, create a Deadline Calendar for your sound meetings, choices, programming, and run-throughs with sound.



The design PROCESS starts with the script.  All designers must  read the script.Realistic and interesting designs can not be created without knowing exactly what the script requires.


Once  the NEEDS of the script are determined, all designers take the time to  INTERPRET the script:  What does it MEAN?  What's MOST IMPORTANT to convey through design?  What is the HEART of the production?  What should it FEEL like? What's the THEME?  Is there a STYLE that should be considered when designing?  Is there an important or implied METAPHOR that could be shown through design?  What COLORS, IMAGES, and COMPOSITION on stage may best support the director's telling of the story?

Watch the video below in which Tony-winning set designer Bunny Christie shares her design for the play, INK.  Notice all the ways that she references the feeling, mood, and heart of the production which she reflected in her design.


Video:  Design on Stage (Bunny Christie)

Journal Entry:  Reflections on Design (Ink)

  1. What did YOU find visually interesting in Bunny Christie's design?  Why?

  2. In what ways did the designer's SCRIPT INTERPRETATION and/or RESEARCH assist in the creation of her final design?  (List at least 3 specific ways.)

After a designer has INTERPRETED the script (which is shared/discussed with the director), (s)he then goes                                      in search of  rESEARCH & INSPIRATION for the design.  This is often done by researching various aspects of the script/story, including the setting, the time period, historical references within the script, the style or genre of the piece, photos from the time period or setting, source material, etc.  A designer may also research her/his own ideas for design.  See an example of what I mean by this HERE.

Spend some time exploring sounds, and finding inspiration for your own design.  (Every other design team will be creating Design Boards, but you are NOT responsible for this step in the Design process.  You ARE, however, responsible for your own research and inspiration prior to creating your Sound Design.)

planning/executing the design  

Once a designer has carefully read the script (to determine what's needed for design), and has both interpreted and researched important aspects of the script and design (which also involves design meetings with the director), (s)he can then BEGIN DESIGNING

In order to design anything, a new designer must become comfortable with failure, and leave plenty of time for it during the process.  All creative work involves multiple attempts before arriving at the best outcome.  If you "get it right" the first time, you're probably not involved in creative work, and should re-consider what you've created.  Failure is natural, accepted, and expected in this course.  However, waiting until the last minute to fail is not, so please watch your calendar closely and plan ahead!  Theatre is ALWAYS on a timeline.


Designing and creating anything that's original requires planning.  How this planning "looks" is up to you, but you need to make sure that you make your designing/planning VISIBLE.  You will do this planning in your Process Journal, and it may include sketches and notes  about your designs, sound effects sources that you discover, and/or anything that you explore while planning your design.This documentation process could also include a catalog of tutorial videos on how you learned to do an aspect of your role (such as videos on how to load things into Qlab, or other teaching videos outside of those listed above), interviews with experts, or documentation on mentoring you received on skill development in order to create your sound design.  

Task (Formative Grade):  YOUR Process of Design

  • Track your process of design in your Process Journal, including any relevant research, sources, sketches, or further learning you did to create your design.  You must make your design process visible for this grade.  (See paragraph above.)

Task (SUMMATIVE Grade):  YOUR Completed Sound Design (for the actual show)

dress/tech rehearsals:

Tech/Dress Deadline (Formative Grade):   Prior to Dress/Tech rehearsals, all sound design must be loaded in Qlab and tested (with director-desired levels), and speakers must be hung, tested, and ready for the Tech rehearsal.  It's preferable that a dry run (with the SM/ Director) has been completed PRIOR to the first tech rehearsal, in order to ensure that the tech rehearsal runs more smoothly and everyone's time is respected.


Video:  Behind the Scenes at Disney's Aladdin

Journal Entry:  Calltime​ / Pre-Show Checklist

1. In professional theatre, as shown in this video, what are the (specific) tasks performed by YOUR (assigned) role prior to a show?  

2.  What are some of the things that YOU could put on YOUR Pre-Show checklist to be sure our show runs smoothly?  (Think of ALL the things necessary from the time you enter the black box until the show starts, including things like "Where do I put my personal belongings?" or "Where should this prop be pre-set?" or "What's the best place for this quick change to happen?" Etc.  Don't forget to include "sign in" on your checklist.)

Task (Formative Grade):  You will create YOUR Pre-Show & Post-Show Checklist with ALL tasks (that pertain to sound) to consider prior to the show.  This MUST be well-thought out and completed/hung up PRIOR to the FIRST dress/tech rehearsal.  Type and print your checklist (with your name in large font at the top) and tape it to the sound board.  (Keep in mind that you will most likely need to add to this list from things you learn or are reminded of in dress/tech rehearsals.



GO DEEPER (optional):


(This list will be added to over time.  Let KP know if you find any helpful information that could be useful to future Advanced Acting students.)

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