Sound design is the art and practice of creating soundtracks for podcasts, radio shows, documentaries, or movies. It requires excellent skills, such as audio production techniques and tools.
Today, we are talking with Rebecca Seidel, a jill of all trades: an audio engineer, a sound designer and a podcast producer.
Where does your love of sound design come from?
I’ve always observed the world through listening. Even before I could put words to it, I thought of sound as a fleeting and magical thing. I’ve loved both music and writing since I was young, and as I got older I realized I could combine those two things into not just a pastime but a career.
How did you start working in the podcasting industry?
I first caught the “radio bug” as a DJ at my college radio station. My first radio show was at 2AM on Thursdays, and I had a blast. My first job in the podcast industry was working on the podcast team at SiriusXM, where I got to hone my skills and connect with a bunch of awesome podcast creators.
What is your job today?
Currently, I work as a podcast producer for Marvel. It’s an exciting place to be!
What would be your dream job?
I don’t really have one dream job in mind, but I love working on immersive narrative shows that lean heavily on sound to tell their stories. I’m always looking to work on more projects with that kind of approach.
What is your favorite part of producing a podcast?
The best moments are when, after a long time editing and fine-tuning your mix, you get to sit back and listen to it sing.
What is sound design?
The way I think about it, sound design is the use of sonic elements (music, sound effects, ambient sound) to enhance the story you’re telling.
How did you get into sound design?
I listen to a wide variety of podcasts, but I’ve always been especially drawn to shows that take a unique sonic approach—shows that experiment with sound in ways I’m not used to hearing. Since I got started in podcast production, I’ve aspired to take that approach as well, and to see how I could translate my own musical sensibilities into my podcast production work.
What do you think it takes to be a good sound designer?
Patience, a playful attitude, and a willingness to throw a bunch of ideas at the wall and see what sticks!
Any tips for any woman looking at breaking into sound design?
Connect with other people in the field who have produced work you admire. And never stop listening!
3 tips you can share about sound design?
- Think carefully about the story you’re trying to tell, and how you can use sound to add texture to that story without distracting from the story itself.
- Try taking a five-minute piece of dialogue tape (whether it’s an interview you recorded or just your own voice) and adding some sonic elements. See what sounds the most natural to your ear. Where is music helpful? Where does it make the most sense to let the voice speak for itself, without music or any kind of sonic elements underneath?
- Don’t overdo it with music! Often, music is the most useful to underscore moments of action or forward momentum. It can also be helpful to underscore moments of reflection in a story—but sometimes, those moments need to just speak for themselves without music. Use your ear to figure out what’s too much, and be sure to have other people listen to your work, too.
What has been your biggest challenge in this male-dominated industry?
I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some extremely talented women in this field, and I think opportunities for women in sound are growing by the day. Of course, though, I’ve also come across gatekeeping in the industry, particularly when it comes to audio engineering. A problem I’ve encountered since college is the phenomenon of men explaining audio concepts to me that I already know, assuming I’m coming in cold.
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