What does a Sound Designer do?

A Sound Designer is responsible for creating all sound and audio for a production. Depending on the requirements of the show, this can include sound effects, music, building atmosphere and how the performers are heard.

The Sound Designer will initially work with the Director and the rest of the creative team to ensure that the sound supports and enhances the production’s storytelling. The sound design may represent everything from specific noises created by actions on stage, sounds that convey the show’s setting and time, and music and soundscapes that build atmosphere, mood and the characters’ emotions. They will also consider the quality and clarity of speech and singing through performers’ microphones and audio levels.

What are the main responsibilities of a Sound Designer?

  • Working with the creative team and attending production meetings
  • Designing all sound required for the show, including pre-recorded and noises created during the performance on a technical system like Qlab
  • Sourcing all sound effects
  • Working with other teams e.g. the props team if something on stage needs to make a sound
  • Making a cue list and liaising with the Stage Manager
  • Working with the Sound Technicians to ensure everything is set up as required
  • Attending required rehearsals, especially technical rehearsals

What qualifications do I need to be a Sound Designer?

There are some courses, qualifications and degrees that specialise in sound design for theatre, and more that focus on sound more generally, including audio production and music technology.

However, you don’t need formal qualifications to start a career in sound design; you could enter the industry by working as a Sound Engineer, Stage Crew, Theatre Technician or Composer.

School subjects that could help you on your Sound Design journey are:

  • Music 
  • Physics 
  • Maths
  • Computer Science
  • Drama and Theatre Studies
  • Art and Design
  • Electronics

Further education at colleges or universities:

  • Sound Design
  • Technical Theatre
  • Music 
  • Composing

Find training opportunities for sound design from across the theatre industry here 

What skills do I need to be a Sound Designer?

  • Strong research and pitching skills
  • Familiarity with sound equipment and acoustics
  • Knowledge of how to record sound effects
  • Musicality, including an understanding of musical genres, rhythm, and melody
  • Experience with sound systems and computer software such as QLab
  • Teamwork
  • Networking skills

What does a career as a Sound Designer look like?

Sound Designers are often self employed and work on short-term contracts for each production. Some Sound Designers can be employed by specific theatres, although this is rare. Networking and building good relationships is important, as that may lead to future work.

Ensure you keep a portfolio of all of your previous work to show to potential employers. Find out about being a freelancer in theatre here.

How much does a Sound Designer earn?

Salaries and fees can vary depending on the scale of the production and/or size of the theatre. An entry level or apprenticeship Sound Designer salary is around £18,000 per year. Experienced Sound Designers can make much more and fees can also vary depending on your experience and the show.

The above is a guide. Pay, salary or fee can vary depending on the theatre or company, as well as your personal experience. National institutions or commercial productions can pay in excess of the above, with profit-share or community theatre paying less.

You can find theatre jobs via The Stage Jobs here 


Photo: Shutterstock

Published: 3rd June 2024

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