What does a Sound Designer do?

A Sound Designer in theatre 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 creative team to ensure that 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.

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What are the main responsibilities of a Sound Designer?

  • Working with the creative team and attending all production meetings
  • Designing all sound required for the show, including pre-recorded and noises created during the performance
  • 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 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 or Theatre Technician.

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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, timbre, 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, but some Sound Designers can be employed by specific theatres.
Networking and building good relationships is important, as that may lead to future work.

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How much does a Sound Desginer earn?

Salaries and fees can vary depending on the scale of the production and/or size of the theatre. An entry level Sound Designer salary is around £18,000 per year. A Sound Designer with more than five years’ experience may earn an average of £23,000. Experienced Sound Designers could make between £30,000 and £41,000.

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Photo: Shutterstock

Published: 24 February 2022

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