Audio projects are time-based recordings of sounds (voice, music, noises, etc.). These sounds mix together to make a soundscape (i.e., the audio version of a landscape). This page also talks about the audio components of videos (see the Video resources page for specifics about visuals).

There are many different kinds of audio projects that you can create. Below you can find some examples of the common video projects that we work with and a short description:

  • Podcasts are digital audio recordings that are mostly spoken word (similar to a radio talk show or an interview), but may include some music clips, sound effects, and soundscapes. Professional podcasts are typically made available for downloading to a computer or mobile device. Most podcasts are a part of a series or a subscribable channel.
  • Audio Essays explore topics using spoken text, audio interviews, archival recordings, music, environmental sounds, and/or sound effects. They can be structured using the conventions of written argument and evidence, narrative devices, as well as poetic and experimental structures. Unlike podcasts, audio essays are typically one-off or solo projects rather than a part of a series.
  • Soundscapes (or “acoustic ecology”) are the recording of an acoustic environment. They can consist of ambient noises, speaking/talking, music, etc. Soundscapes create an immersive environment for the listener, so that they experience a place or event via listening rather than seeing. Soundscapes can be used in other forms of audio, such as audio essays, audio documentaries, audio blogs, and audio narratives. Soundscapes are commonly used in podcasts or other forms of audio essay to allow the listener to feel the environment in which the recording is being done.
  • Audio Documentaries involve researching a non-fiction topic and focusing in on micro-stories, as opposed to broader issue pieces or news stories. They often rely on conventional narrative structures, adding recorded and site-specific sounds to enhance the listener’s experience. Audio documentaries can be a podcast series or one-off projects.
  • Audio Blogs are a form of online journaling. They typically function similar to a radio talk show in that they primarily use spoken word. The goal of blogs is to illicit listener interaction via comments on an online platform, such as SoundCloud. Audio blogs are often placed in the genre of “podcasts.” However, audio blogs are less likely to use a lot of music or sound effects.
    • MP3 Blogs are a subset of audio blogs that use a similar blog setting to publish music or remix recordings online.
  • Audio Narratives, sometimes also called “radio plays,” tell a story using only sound. Narratives can be fiction or non-fiction and use spoken word, music, and sound effects to immerse the listener in a different world for a short time.

Audio Design Tip:
There are a lot of things that make up the audio planning, recording, and editing processes. It is easy to jump in and get started, but then make mistakes early on that make more work for you in the long run. Get some recommendations for your project by meeting with one of our DesignLab consultants early on in the process, before you record, so you can save yourself time later!

Make an Appointment

Design Tips and Tricks

There are numerous sound design choices that you should keep in mind to produce effective, and professional-sounding audio projects. Bear in mind that these design choices would greatly affect your project’s overall mood, tone, and atmosphere.

Helpful tips: 

  1. Make sure your subject’s voice is clear and audible.  In podcasts and audio essays, narration and dialogue typically contains your main message. You can ensure the audibleness of your subject by considering the position of the microphone or the recording device to your subject.
  2. Use the noise around you. In most audio projects, use ambient sound to establish your setting or location, convey your story’s overall mood and tone, and provide emphasis to your main point. Use realistic sound effects to convey information that can’t be seen.
  3. Use silence. Silence may also be used to redirect attention, create impact, or offer moments of reflection.
  4. Keep the sound balanced. When combining multiple elements in your soundscape, be sure to control the levels between these different sources. You want to create a sound hierarchy that supports your concept. Your main message—typically the vocal track— should be the clearest.

Student Examples


College Daze Podcast by Dequadray White
WARNING: Explicit Language

Other Examples



“The Audacity to Podcast” series by Daniel J. Lewis

This American Life Podcast by NPR

RadioLab Podcast

Audio Blog or Podcast? by JennyRopes

Audio Narrative

War of the Worlds by Orson Wells (listed by David Webb)


Percussion Sound Scape – Wind, Rain, Birds, & More


Industrial Soundscape (by bw064053)

Stock Audio Databases

Below are a few DesignLab recommended stock audio databases:

Ben Sound LogoBensound – A collection of royalty free music that is licensed for reuse under Creative Commons as long as it is cited properly.

CC Mixter LogoCC Mixter – This is a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses. You are free to download and sample from music on this site and share the results with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Some songs might have certain restrictions, depending on their specific licenses.

Free Music Archive LogoFree Music Archive – The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by WFMU, a freeform radio station.

Free Sound Project LogoFree Sound – Freesound has a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, etc. released under Creative Commons licenses that allow for reuse. Be sure to cite files that need attribution under the CC license.

Free Sound Effects LogoFree Sound Effects – This site contains both free and for purchase sound effects. Be sure to scroll down and select the Free Sound Effects categories (listed on the bottom left of the site).

Sound Bible LogoSound Bible – This site offers free sound clips for download in either wav or mp3 format. They offer free and royalty free sound effects and clips.

Sound Gator LogoSound Gator – This is a free sound effects library. Users can download sound effects for films, videos, multimedia projects, presentations, apps, games and just about any other project – but are not allowed to sell, license, distribute or post online the individual sound effects (i.e., must be a part of a larger project).

YouTube LogoYouTube Audio Library – This page contains a large collection of free downloadable music and sound effects. This link will take you to the YouTube Creator Studio for the Audio Library. You must be logged into a Google account to access the audio library.

Instructional Video YouTube Playlist

Equipment Available at UW-Madison

Please note that DesignLab does not offer any equipment checkout. Below is a list of places on campus where you can checkout equipment

College Library

College Library provides UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff access to a variety of equipment for making audio projects. Equipment checkout is done at College Library’s Second Floor Service Desk (right next to DesignLab!) any time the library is open.

Types of Equipment Available: Microphones, Voice Recorders, Laptops

Checkout Length: 7 days

Checkout Process: You will need your Wiscard to checkout equipment.

Questions? See the College Library equipment checkout website here for more information.

Recording Spaces at UW-Madison

Please note that DesignLab does not offer any recording spaces. Below is a list of places on campus where you can record your audio projects.

College Library

On top of equipment, College Library has a new recording booth in College Library’s Second Computer Lab (right next to DesignLab!) any time the library is open.

Reservations: 1 hour at a time via the Study Room Reservation System

Questions? See the College Library recording booth page for more information.