You’ve scoured the web for the perfect sound effect for your podcast or video. But you’ve come up empty-handed. The noise that perfectly captures the moment you need hasn’t been recorded yet.

This is where the fun begins.

It’s time to take a deeper dive into sound design and explore Foley sound effects, or the practice of creating your own custom sounds.

Foley artists are mad scientists of sound, using whatever they can find to create the perfect crash, squeak, or scream. How do you join the ranks of Foley sound designers and create awesome, never-before-heard sounds for your viewer or listeners?

The Foley beginner guide below will get you started with a bang.

Assembling a Foley Team

It’s hard to do Foley on your own. Creating just one sound effect requires artists, mixing, and editing. Plus, it’s good to have feedback to ensure that the sound effect you’ve recorded actually sounds like the thing it’s supposed to.

If you want to create some Foley sound effects, grab at least one friend to help you out. If you’re lucky, they’ll know how to do more than just snap celery stalks. Try to partner with someone who compliments your production abilities with some sound mixing experience.

Gearing Up

What do you need to start making Foley sounds? First, you need a good mic. Luckily, you can get a pretty good one for less than $100, such as this Logitech mic. If you make videos or podcasts, your current mic may be fine.

You’ll also need some decent software that allows you to sync Foley sounds with visual images (if you’re making videos). Adobe Audition is the go-to for Foley artists.

Lastly, you’ll need access to plenty of props. These are what you’ll use to develop new sound effects. So, make sure to record in a place where you can easily access stuff that makes noise.

The Three Pillars of Foley

The art of making Foley sound effects is usually broken down into the following three categories:

  • Walking: Foley artists spend loads of time recreating the sound of footsteps. It’s not all glamorous work!
  • Props: This is the fun stuff, like bashing watermelons with baseball bats (for an exploding head) and banging coconut halves together (for galloping horses).
  • Cloth: Clothing makes a sound whenever you walk, and Foley artists need to recreate it—whether it’s the swish of a silk suit or the harsh rub of denim.

You may only need to focus on one of these pillars for your DIY Foley sound effects, but it’s good to keep them all in mind as you grow as a Foley artist.

Seeing with Your Ears

Foley artists need to see the world differently. Some say they need to learn to “see” the world with their ears.

For example, when you look at a thing, such as a balloon, what do you hear? You might hear it popping or deflating quickly. A Foley artist may hear car tires skidding along a track. In fact, balloons are often used to create the sounds of skidding tires.

In the world of Foley sound design, the most unexpected objects often create the most accurate sound effects. An empty bag of chips might create the sound of a crackling fire, or sizzling bacon might become the sound of rain on a rooftop.

If you want to make true-sounding Foley effects, you must learn to see with your ears and consider everything as a potential Foley prop.

Getting Started

The theoretical stuff above is good and all, but how do you actually get started making Foley sound effects? Don’t run to the studio just yet. If you’ve never tried to make a sound effect from scratch, you’ll save money by practicing a bit first.

Start by watching your favorite show on mute and attempting to accurately recreate some of the sounds in real-time. This will give you an idea of what it takes to be a Foley artist.

Next, set up your mic and try to produce some simple effects like footsteps and cloth sounds. It’s tougher than it seems!

Once you’ve got the basics, you can incorporate some props and start generating new, unique sounds of your own.

Become a Mad Sound Scientist

There are not many Foley artists in the world. Creatively, the job is super demanding. But at the same time, there is something gratifying about being an inventor of sound. Whether you want to create one simple DIY sound effect or work in Hollywood, the tips above will help you make some noise as a Foley artist.