Mar 18
Vietnam Motorcade

New free sound effects: cities, caves, contact mics and cockerels

Free to Use Sounds have very kindly given us another batch of sounds effects. One of the things I like when I come to peruse their offerings is that I never know what’s going to be there or what part of the world they’ve been busy capturing this time. So if, like me, you enjoy being surprised, you might want to skip the guided tour below, which I’m starting to think I should preface with a spoiler alert, they’re all online for you to browse yourself. If, on the other hand, you’d like a quick dose of some of the highlights of the latest batch from one of our guest contributors, here goes.

Often, field recording is all about capturing pretty ordinary sound effects. That doesn’t make them boring by any means, but they are the kinds of sound that you can step outside your front door and listen to every day. It’s this very ordinariness that makes them so useful because pretty much every media project is going to need a lot of ordinary sounds. Sometimes, field recordists are fortunate enough to capture a rare or specialised sound such as an endangered animal or an expensive piece of equipment that isn’t readily accessible. Very occasionally, a recordist will be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to record a sound of historic significance. Perhaps most rarely of all, this sound will be historically significant without losing its usefulness as a non-specific sound that captures a particular atmosphere with a wide range of applications. We are fortunate enough to be able to offer you sounds in this last category as part of this batch.

By good luck or design, Free to Use Sounds were in Vietnam at the time of the second meeting between US president Donald Trump and the supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un. This summit was naturally the focus of a large security operation with cordoned off streets, police convoys etc and they were able to capture some of this activity. There are recordings of police whistles, announcements through loud speakers and, of course, passing police cars. Check out this sound of the passing presidential motorcade.  How they were able to loiter around with recording equipment I don’t know, but the results are certainly very valuable and would be just as useful to represent any disaster situation or large-scale emergency as they would as sound design for a documentary or exhibition.

If you happen to be in Vietnam for an event that the whole world is watching, you might as well record other aspects of Vietnam’s colourful audio landscape while you’re there. Never ones to miss an opportunity, Free to Use Sounds have done just that, giving us a lot of useful material if you’re ever involved in the sound design for a project in that part of the world.

There’s a great contrast to these recordings. Leading on from the sirens and well-orchestrated upheaval mentioned above, we have other urban ambiences. One thing I have learnt from listening to these sounds is that cars driven in Vietnam have very interesting horn honks, full of character, quite brazen and strident in a pleasing way.

As you might have come to expect if you’ve browsed Free to Use Sound’s material before, these urban atmospheres aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill recordings in a foreign country that are pretty hard to find elsewhere. They go beyond that to find some interesting perspectives and subjects to capture as well. There’s this great clip of vehicles going over speed-bumps/cobbles and what might, at first glance, seem like an ordinary recording of a construction site, until you hear the very squeaky digger operating.

Also in the urban category, we have a number of recordings of a Vietnamese school playground including one with someone banging a drum. It can be difficult to get access to places where such recordings can be made so school sounds in general are one of those types of asset that I can never have enough of. Here’s an example.  There’s a nice recording of a street vendor using a megaphone as well.  I enjoy hearing the cries of market stall owners and have never heard one use a megaphone before, so this one stuck out to me.

Bridging the gap between these more bustling ambiences and gentler scenes, we have a wide flowing river that sounds quite swift with traffic in the background and then everything slows down. There’s this pleasantly babbling stream and a number of very lush recordings of Cat Tien National Park. There’s this interesting ambience featuring the arresting contrast, to western ears at least, of the familiar sound of a rooster crowing with the eerie sound of gibbons shrieking.

I’ve said before how useful it is that Free to Use Sounds include precise information about where they capture their field recordings and there’s more of that sort of attention to detail here. We have the aforementioned recordings from Cat Tien National Park as well as some from Buon Ma Thuot and Ben Tre, Mekong Delta. This kind of detail lets sound designers that need it pick just the right sound effects to achieve natural realism. There’s another aspect of their file naming that deserves a mention here though. One of the nature sounds includes time index information regarding when a particular animal wishes to make its rather interesting voice heard, which is very helpful.

Leading us from ambiences to other sound categories, we have recordings of someone taking a shower from the room POV. Then there are soap dispenser button pushes, a toilet seat and light switches recorded with a contact microphone, a fact which is helpfully provided as part of the file name.

Rounding off this collection, there’s some Foley recorded in a cave system, which includes gravel as well as stones being thrown, tapped and scraped against rocks. Finally there are some footsteps recorded from various perspectives and covering various types of movement including climbing up and down stairs, marching and stomping etc. All these last sounds come with the cave’s natural reverb, which means they’re ready to slot into the right project in the right circumstances without any need for artificial treatment.

This is another great collection of sounds and we’d like to thank Free to Use Sounds once again for their generosity. Check out all the sounds they host with us here and then head on over to their website for the full catalogue.

If you’re interested in becoming a contributor with us, in sharing some of the gems you’ve recorded over the years either to help in your search for work or just because you like to share, get in touch with us. We’d love to get behind you however we can.


Cover image copyright Free To Use Sounds

About The Author

Justin Macleod is a sound designer based in the UK who runs SkyClad Sound. You can check out his sound effects here at and follow him on Twitter @SkycladSound

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