Sound Effects


Radio was often referred to as the "Theater of the Mind." Because it was an aural rather than a visual medium, the director of a radio program used sound to paint a picture that a listener could fill in, using his own imagination. To that end, one or more sound effects men were employed to add realism to the picture painted by the Director. They did this in a couple of different ways. Typically, the sound effects man would have an array of mechanical devices at his disposal to reproduce the sounds of horses, guns, doors, and an endless variety of other everyday sounds. Let's take a look at some actual examples from the Golden Age (circa 1940):

This prop door probably stood about 3 feet high and came complete with an attached screen door. Wooden pegs suspended in a frame make a convincing imitation of marching troops when dropped on a table repeatedly. A body falling from a tall building could be simulated by dropping a squash from a height.

Cellophane was often used to simulate the crackling sound of a fire. Here, a bucket and a pair of rubber ear syringes are giving a good facsimile of the sound of a cow being milked. Murder! The sound of a stabbing.


In some cases it was inconvenient (or impossible) to produce the necessary sounds mechanically. That's where records came in. Any self-respecting radio studio that produced on-the-air plays kept a library of sound effects records, usually in 10-inch 78-rpm format. In many cases, the studio had two or more turntables mounted in a single console exclusively for sound effects work. The picture at the top of this page shows a console with three turntables.

Several companies produced sound effect libraries for radio use. Gennett, Major Records, Silver Masque, Speedy Q, and Victor produced recordings of everything from barnyards to bombers for use in the studio. I currently have the complete 1947 catalog from Major Records, plus a few records from earlier and later.

As part of this radio project, I have long wanted to build a library of these sound effect records. A while back, I spotted a box of them on the internet for a very reasonable price. I bought them and anxiously awaited their arrival. When they showed up, I spent most of a day cataloging them. It was a pile of records and most of them were in excellent condition. Most looked like they had never left their sleeves. They are among the records listed below. Eventually, I plan to record these discs and turn each cut into a discrete wav or mp3 file. While I would love to use them as originally designed, that sort of usage would be rough on them and I would like to preserve them as much as possible.


Gennett

Record # Side Contents Cuts Notes
1004 A Passenger Trains 3
B Freight Trains 3


Major Records

Record # Side Contents Cuts Notes
3021 A Airplane 3
B New Year's Noise 1
4002 A Car Accident Sounds, Surf 5
B Fox hunt 1
4003 A Applause 1
B Machine Guns 3
4004 A Boat Whistles 9
B Zooming Plane with Crash 1 Slight damage near label; playability unaffected.
4005 A Cows and Calves 1
B Children Playing 2
4021 A Chickens and Roosters 1
B Cash Register 13
4022 A Crickets and Frogs 1
B Water Well Drilling 3
4023 A Air Raid Sirens 2
B Monkeys, Birds, and Elephants 3
4024 A Laughing Man 1 "B" side label on both sides of record.
B Laughing Man 1
4027 A Single Dog Barking 1
B Submarine-Destroyer Battle 3
4028 A Animal Sounds 7
B Rooster Crowing 1
4029 A Automatic Piano 1
B Joyous Church Bells 13
4070 A Thunder and Rainfall 1
B Excited Crowd Noises 1
5000 A Excited Crowd Voices 1
B Cheering Crowd, Applause 2
5001 A Baby Crying 1
B Women Screaming 1
5002 A General Confusion of Voices 1
B Laughter - Crowd 1
5003 A Auto Horns 11
B Signals 2
5004 A Alarms and Sirens 4
B Fire Engines and Police Cars 5
5005 A Traffic Noises 1
B Big Ben Striking, Church Bells 3
5006 A Wind 1
B Rain 1
5007 A Rifle Shots 6
B Marching Feet, Racing Cars 2
5008 A Fast Passenger Train 1
B Horses 3
5009 A Parade 1
B Dog Kennel, Sheep 2
5010 A Machine Guns, Whistling Shells 4 New style label on "A" side.
B Fanfares 9 Old style label on "B" side.
5011 A Battle Sounds 1
B Fanfares, End Title Music 8
5012 A Street Piano, Hurdy-Gurdy 1
B Calliope 1
5013 A Street Piano, Hurdy-Gurdy 1
B Calliope 1
5014 A Street Piano, Hurdy-Gurdy 1
B Calliope 1
5015 A Street Piano, Hurdy-Gurdy 1
B Calliope 1
5016 A Bugle Calls #1 8
B Bugle Calls #2 4
5017 A Bugle Calls #3 8 Old style label on both sides.
B Bugle Calls #4 8
5018 A Animal Roars 9 Old style label on both sides.
B Babies Crying 3
5019 A Fanfares 10
B Tri-Motor Plane 6
5020 A Earthquake and Avalanches 5
B Trains 6
5022 A Monkey Organ 4 Old style label on both sides.
B Monkey Organ 4
5023 A Grehound Bus, Steamship 2 Old style label on both sides.
B Forest Fire 1
5024 A Clocks Striking 3
B Military Large Guns 6
5025 A Ship's Bells, Gongs 5
B Telephone Sounds, Doorbells 9
5026 A Air Raid 1 Old style label on both sides.
B Wolves, Police Dogs 6
5027 A Little Music Box 4 Old style label on both sides.
B Little Music Box 4
5028 A Dive Bombers 1
B Tom-Toms 2
5029 A Drum Rolls 8 Old style label on both sides.
B Drum Rolls 2
5030 A Drum Rolls 2 Old style label on both sides.
B Drum Rolls 6
5031 A Subway Trains 7 Old style label on both sides.
B Elevated Trains 7
5032 A Water Lapping and Swishing 1
B Surf 1
5033 A Indians 3
B Explosions 12
5034 A Gasoline Pump and Model A Ford 2 New style label on "A" side.
B Children in Playground 1 Old style label on "B" side.
5035 A Motorcycles 7 Old style label on "A" side.
B Squad Cars 10 New style label on "B" side.
5036 A Excavation Shovel 2 Old style label on both sides.
B Cement Mixer 2
5037 A Junk Wagon 3 Old style label on both sides.
B News Effects 2
5038 A News Effects 3 Old style label on both sides.
B News Effects 3
5039 A Planes, Military 4 Old style label on both sides.
B Planes, Military 4
5040 A Planes, Military 6 Old style label on both sides.
B Planes, Military 2
5041 A Automobiles 4
B Automobiles 3
5042 A Pneumatic Hammers, Generators 4
B Traffic Jam Sounds 3
5043 A Harbor Noises 2
B Boat Whistles 10
5045 A Cannons 7
B Lumberjack Sounds 5
5046 A Drums and Cymbals 6
B Bells, Horns, and Siren 8
5047 A Tank Sounds 3 Old style label on both sides.
B Tank Sounds 3
5048 A Marching Men 5
B Depth Bombs, Bombs, Guns 7
5049 A Trains 3
B Trains 4
5050 A Plane in Flight 1 Old style label on both sides.
B Planes 3
5051 A Planes 3 Old style label on both sides.
B Planes 2
5052 A Carousel 1 Old style label on both sides.
B Carousel 1
5053 A Carousel 1 Old style label on "A" side.
B Carousel 1 New style label on "B" side.
5054 A Bowling Alley 6 Old style label on both sides.
B Pool and Billiard Parlor 4
5055 A Carousel 1
B Shooting Gallery 5
5056 A Bagpipe 3 Old style label on both sides.
B Bagpipe 3
5057 A Bagpipe 3
B Bagpipe 3
5058 A Theme Music 2
B Musical Bridges 6
5059 A Theme Music 2
B Musical Bridges 6
5060 A Heralds—Musical Announcements 5
B Mood Music 2
5061 A Heralds—Musical Announcements 7
B Mood Music 4
5062 A End Titles 6
B Funereal Music 2
5063 A Themes 3
B Musical Bridges 3
5064 A Xmas Carillon Chimes 2
B Xmas Carillon Chimes 2
5065 A Xmas Carillon Chimes 2 Old style label on both sides.
B Xmas Carillon Chimes 2
5066 A Xmas Chimes 2
B Xmas Chimes 2
5067 A Xmas Carillon Chimes 3 Old style label on both sides.
B Xmas Carillon Chimes 3
5068 A Xmas Chimes 2
B Xmas Chimes 2
5069 A Christmas Carols 3 Old style label on both sides.
B Christmas Carols 3
5117 A Bird Calls 3
B Bird Calls 3
5142 A Woman Laughing 1 Old style label on both sides.
B Woman Laughing 1
5158 A Mood Music 2
B Mood Music 2
5159 A Mood Music 3 Both labels partly separated but undamaged.
B Mood Music 3
5160 A Mood Music 1
B Harp Moods 7
5161 A Musical Bridges 5
B Musical Bridges 5
5162 A Musical Bridges 4
B Musical Bridges 5
5163 A Musical Bridges 5
B Musical Bridges 4
5164 A Musical Bridges 6
B Musical Bridges 4
5165 A Music Bridges and fanfares 7
B Rocket Ship 7
5177 A Rocket Barrage 1
B Gun Shots 16
5178 A Mule 4
B Guns, Firecrackers, Cannons 4
5179 A Music Box Series—Xmas 4
B Music Box Series—Xmas 3
5180 A Music Box Series—Xmas 3
B Music Box Series—Xmas 3
5181 A Music Box Series—Xmas 3
B Music Box Series—Xmas 3


Standard Sound Effect

Record # Side Contents Cuts Notes
100 A Mass Plane Effects 1
B Mass Plane Effects 2
102 A Airplane Effects 2
B Airplane Effects 4
250 A Applause 1
B Applause 7
251 A Applause and Cheers 8 "A" side label torn, though not detached.
B Cheers 4
253 A Crowd Effect 1
B Crowd Effect 1
412 A Merry-Go-Round 1
B Merry-Go-Round 1


Silver Masque

Record # Side Contents Cuts Notes
801 A Historic Battle Scene 1
B Modern Battle Scene 1


Speedy Q

Record # Side Contents Cuts Notes
7851 A Warfare 1
B Warfare 6
7874 A Auto Skids and Crashes 6
B Auto Skids and Crashes 7
7911 A Rain and Wind 1
B Rain 1


Victor

Record # Side Contents Cuts Notes
34 A Noises in Restaurant 2
B Noises in Restaurant 2


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