With this guide, you can easily create your own Christmas sound effects, using just what you already have in your house. It’s quick, free, and a lot of fun.
To make this hands-on guide, I asked my sound-designing friends for ideas, consulted the excellent Guide To Sound Effects and did some of my own experimenting in the studio.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped out – and without further ado, I give you:
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO MAKING YOUR OWN CHRISTMAS SOUND EFFECTS
1: A cozy fireplace
Let’s start out with the warming, cozy Christmas fireplace: To create the sound effect of a crackling fire, there are several ways to do it: Slowly squeeze a bag of potato chips, or crumple a piece of cellophane. For the larger cracks and pops, slowly twist some bubble wrap, or break some matches.
2: Icy Sounds
Here’s how you create some great ice-cracking sounds: First off, freeze some water in an ice cube tray. Once it’s frozen, twisting and bending the frozen tray will give you some brilliant cracking and creaking sounds.
To sprinkle your projects with a bit of Christmas magic, there’s one particularly effective tool for that: Wind chimes. They give out a great, recognizable sound to use when something magical happens and you want to take the Christmas spirit to 11. It’s also a great sound for wintry ambiences. If you don’t have any wind chimes handy, here are several clever ways you can easily create your own.
4: Mistletoe kissing
For kissing under the mistletoe, here’s a recipe for creating a kissing sound from Mary Schoals: You’ll need a glass of water, your lips, and your forearm. Take a sip of water and wet your lips. Then, make out with the underside of your forearm, the part with very little hair–letting your mouth make sloppy kissing sounds.
If you’ve got an “assistant” at hand, you may be able to think of other ways of achieving a kissing sound.
Here's the Christmas Sound Effects Bundle:
With over 170 Christmas sounds and one-shots as well as other ringing, twinkling bells, this collection will help you complete your yuletide soundscape, conjuring up images of falling snow and hot cocoa, or a day on the beach with a fruity cocktail if you're in balmy Queensland.
For a little Christmas cheer, have a listen to the aptly-named 'Christmas Sound Effects Bundle'.
Dangle and shake metallic jewlery like earrings or similar for a ringing sound. Do you have a chandelier or similarly glass-equipped lamps or decorations in your house? They’ll make a great source for some glittery sounds too.
For the sound of presents being handled, sound designer Stuart Ankers suggests that you use a shoe box and fill it with various objects such as plastic toys, DVD cases, coins etc. Then shake the box with various degrees of excitement! For the sound of gift wrapping: Tear, glide, rub together and crumple old newspapers – or preferably magazines that have a slightly thicker paper quality – for some really useful sounds.
7: Santa in the chimney
For the sound of Santa squeezing himself through the chimney, try rubbing a balloon in sync with any visuals showing Santa’s wiggling efforts. Experiment with the various squeaks and creaks you get out of it. If Santa becomes stuck and manages to get free, add the almost-mandatory sound of a cork popping for a cartoony effect.
A simple way to make a skiing sound is simply to rub a sheet of paper across a table or desk. For a harsher, icier sound, you can rub polystyrene against a concrete surface.
9: Sleigh Bells
You’ll of course get the best sound with the real deal – but if you’re low on bells, try this: Dangle a bunch of keys for the basic sound. For added effect, try dangling some metallic jewlerly (note: it might get slightly scratched, so beware) in sync with the key dangling for some more ringing. If you’ve got a sturdy metal chain with lots of links, you can also try beating/stroking/stepping on this while it’s laying tangled in a pile on the ground for some more ringing.
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10: Sleigh Ride
For the sound of the sleigh moving through the snow, sound designer Kini Kay suggests you use a combination of flour and corn starch and take a block of wood and rub it around according to picture. For the sound of reindeer hooves, try beating two potatoes in a 3-beat rhythm in a pan filled with the flour and corn starch mixture above. You can experiment with adding sand, rice, and crushed crackers to alter the effect. Sprinkle with sleighbell sounds and make some huffs and puffs with your mouth to simulate those hardworking reindeer’s breathing.
When you’re making a snowman, you’ll be rolling some big snow rolls to make up the body. To recreate the sound of this, fill a leather pouch or a balloon with corn starch, flour or salt. Then roll it between your hands as if you were rolling a sausage. For the squeaky sound of smaller patches of snow being added to a snowman, give the bag a few squeezes.
12: Snowball fighting
For a snowball being compacted-sound, squeeze a bag of salt / flour as with the snowman sound effects. For the inevitable snowball impact sound, punch the bag or a duvet. To sweeten the impact effect, also add the sound of you giving your chest a thump.
13: Tree felling
For the chopping sounds, chop on a wooden cutting board with a knife. Watch your fingers, and consider adding some vegetables to add texture to the chopping (great for soup later on, too!). To make a a tree falling-sound, sound designer Stuart Ankers suggests using the sound of cellotape being stretched out and then slowing it right down. Experiment with different speeds and pitches, and eventually it should sound like a thick tree cracking and falling.
14: Walking in the snow
When you need to create that sound of Santa walking through the snow, here’s how: Use flour or corn starch in a pouch (or a balloon), or rock salt in an open/wide container such as a bowl, then “walk” around with your hands in it – or actually walk in it with your feet.
15: Winter wind
Sound designer Sam Watson suggests that you try turning a touring bicycle upside down. Spin the tire and press a piece of stretched silk/parachute-pants/winter-parka against it – and out comes wind. For some extra howling, let the air out of a large ziploc bag (experiment with varying the degree of opening).
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