Getting Into Sound

Materials Needed:

Note cards, completed script, YouTube clips, mic cue rubrics


Learning Objective:

Students will demonstrate both the ability to practically apply the knowledge they’ve gained thus far, and to also think critically by calling their mic cues during a mock performance, and by participating in small group and class discussions.


Hook (5-7 minutes):

We’ve talked about SM skills throughout this unit and what lifelong skills it takes to be an effective stage manager. Based on what we’ve learned technically about how to run sound (we’ve yet to talk specifically about sound design) what SM skills do you think it takes to be a great sound designer? The skills that we’ve talked about that great stage manager’s might need may not necessarily apply to sound. That’s ok. It is important, however, to understand that by being well rounded and working in a variety of technical areas we gain skills (life-long skills) that can be applied to important roles such as stage management, and in our personal lives, as well! Students can either write these out on notecards, or share in partners before they share as a class. The discussion can also be expanded into how these skills can specifically be applied to their lives outside of class/tech theatre.


Activity 1 (20-30 minutes):

Please welcome our two special guests from advanced tech- both of whom were once here in your shoes! Allow advanced tech students to give a tutorial on the school’s portable sound board. (If your school doesn’t have any equipment like this that can be easily moved around or demonstrated pick some other aspect of sound that the advanced students can model for the stagecraft students. This is a great opportunity for the older kids to model their skills and abilities, and for the younger kids to see exactly where they could be should they stay in tech.) These advanced students can fill in any blanks about sound and how to connect a system/mic that aren’t already clear. They should also get some hands on opportunities to play with levels, and to hook up microphones into a portable system. This is mainly a chance for students to get yet another experience of working directly with sound, and seeing other ways that it can be applied and used in their schools. Hopefully this experience paired with our past experiences will get them more comfortable with and excited about sound.


After the demonstration is over take a few minutes to ask and have students respond about the experience. What happened? Did you learn anything about sound? What did you like about the experience? What skills do you think you need to operate a board like that?


Activity 2 (15-20 minutes):

Have a brief class discussion regarding what we have learned so far about what it takes to run sound or to be a sound designer. Draw off of what we’ve discussed (think of our written/practical sound test, mic plotting, and even the script breakdown), and what you already know or have experienced. What SM skills have you noticed that this job requires? Give students a minute or two to think on their own before asking for responses.


Let’s take a minute to watch a clip from an actual professional sound designer to see what other insights we might gain. Play “Meet a Sound Designer” clip from Arts Centre Melbourne.


After clip ask students: What else can you tell about what it takes/what you have to do to be a sound designer, or to work in sound? What did you learn from the video? What skills do you need? SM skills? Have them share in partners and small groups before asking them to share with the class.


Let’s get another perspective from one more sound designer and see what similarities or differences we can find from their experience. Play Introduction to Theatre: Sound Design clip from OCLPhase2.


What similarities or differences did you see between their experiences? What skills can you tell that you need to be a sound designer? What skills did they say you need? Did you learn anything new about what it takes to work for a theatre and design sound?


Activity 3/Assessment (20-30 minutes):

Now let’s put these mic cues to some practical use. Think about what we’ve learned about the job of a sound designer and the skills necessary to efficiently complete the job as you go through this activity. Get together with your mic plot and 2 other groups. Even if you did the mic plot individually you count as a group.
Assign each group either 1, 2, or 3. (Allow students a moment to decide who is 1, who is 2, and who is 3.) Group one will act out (or read through) 10 pages of the script. (You can cut down on the amount of pages if you have less time. The goal is for the students to get a good variety of action through the pages so that they get experience calling cues for multiple characters and scenarios.) Group 2 (you can designate one person to do this) should call out the mic cues as the “actors” perform. Group 3 will evaluate them with these guidelines:

● Do they have their cues in the right place?
● Were they early or late on a cue?
● Did any of the actor’s words get cut off?
● Do you think they turned the mic off too late?
● Did they forget to turn off a mic?


The group of evaluators should also have the mic list that details which actor is assigned to which mic. They should try to look over this before the “actors” start reading. It’s ok that there will be more parts than there are “actors.” Just take turns reading.


After the reading of the 10 pages is over and group 2 has finished calling cues group 3 will record their scores. Groups should switch roles until each group has fulfilled all 3 roles. Each time a group calls their cues it should be for a different 10 pages- no reading from the script should be repeated. Turn in your evaluations when finished. Have the class come back together.


Wrap up (5 minutes):

What skills do you need to fulfill this task? Was actually participating in this exercise different than what you thought it would be? What “stage management skills” does this job fulfill? Sound tech/design is one of the most difficult jobs in the industry- it takes so much skill, patience, organization, and attention to detail. I believe it’s a job you could all excel at if you focus and put your mind to it.


Before you go complete an exit card:


(Pass out note cards)


Exit card:
1. What does it take to work sound and to be a sound designer? What abilities do you need? What does the job call for?
2. What did you learn about sound design today that you didn’t know before?
3. What skills does a sound designer need that would also make an efficient/effective stage manager?
Mic Cue Rubric
__/10 All cues in the right place
__/10 Never early or late on a cue
__/10 None of actor’s words were ever cut off by turning on a mic too late
__/10 Mic was turned off/muted promptly leaving no opportunity to hear the actor talk backstage
__/10 Mic was never accidentally left on