What do celery and broken bones have in common? And what do coconuts have to do with horses? Monty Python fans might have an idea of where this is going. We’re talking about Foley—the art of creating sound effects to add to film and other media in post-production.
Here’s what’s really amazing: the sounds that Foley mimics are almost never used in the actual recordings. Rain isn’t used to create rain sounds, a gunshot might not use a gun, and no bones are broken in the making of bone-breaking sound effects.
The secret to Foley lies in everyday, household items. Snapping celery stalks sounds eerily similar to the sound of bones breaking; hitting coconuts together really does sound like a horse walking (thank you, Monty Python).
Foley has over 80 years of history, starting back in the days when radio ruled supreme. Technology and media have obviously grown since then, but the basics of Foley have remained largely intact. It’s just a case of “don’t fix what’s not broken.”
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Below we’ve curated our top 13 favorite Foley sound effects, complete with descriptions of how each effect is made with household objects. You can find all of these sound effects with unlimited downloads in our royalty-free Storyblocks library.
13. Coconuts = A Walking Horse
Always a crowd favorite, the sound of a horse walking really can be created by hitting coconuts together. We’ve heard that the technique can be kind of difficult so you might need to invest in some practice coconuts.
12. Bacon = Rain
Substituting the sound of frying bacon for rain is weird—but ultimately genius. You can test your bacon-hearing skills by watching the video below, where we challenge you to identify which sounds are rain and which are actually bacon.
We also think that “Bacon and Rain” would be a great name for a band.
11. Celery = Breaking Bones
Take a bunch of celery, hold the stalks together, and snap them in half. You have successfully created a bone-breaking sound without getting sued. This trick will save you a trip to the hospital—and to the courtroom. Storyblocks is also a safe and cost-effective option.
10. Staple Guns = Gunshots
The sound of a heavy staple gun is remarkably similar to a real gunshot. A staple gun also offers the user a lot more control than a real gun. Just make sure that your hand isn’t in the way.
11. Bamboo = Arrows
If you’re running low on arrows or you’ve misplaced your bow, a small stick of bamboo will do the job. Move the bamboo quickly past the microphone and the whooshing sound it creates will sound like an arrow flying by.
9. Newspaper = Grass
Place some shredded newspaper in a plastic bag and gently hit or jostle the bag. The result will sound just like a person walking through tall grass. Bonus: no hay fever.
8. Aluminum = Thunder
The aluminum-as-thunder effect is a little more well-known, but no less fun. Waving a sheet of aluminum will produce thunder-like sounds and altering your movements will add realistic variation to the effect.
7. A Phone Book (Or Slab of Meat) = Punching
Some Foley artists recommend hitting a phone book to simulate the sound of landing a punch. This tactic would have been easier 10 years ago when phonebooks were more common, but slapping a slab of meat is another alternative—albeit a slimy one.
6. Cellophane = Fire
Recordings of a real crackling fire can be pretty disappointing—you’ll probably just hear white noise and a few pops. Luckily, crinkling cellophane makes a very satisfying fire-like sound.
5. Rusty Hinges = Swing Sets
If you’re looking to make a really creepy sound, rusty hinges are a great standby. The sound of a rusty hinge sounds just like a swing set or a creaky door, both of which are pretty common visuals in the horror genre.
4. Trashcans = Heartbeats
Heartbeats are another horror movie staple and (thankfully) do not require a stethoscope to replicate. Take a plastic trash can, flip it over, and push the bottom in and out. Adjust the rhythm according to your desired heartbeat speed. You can also use the cap of a Snapple bottle.
3. Arms = Kisses
Anyone who suffered through awkward middle-school years will be familiar with this Foley technique. To create a kissing sound just give your arm a smooch. To be more specific, plant one on the underside of your forearm. The wetter the better.
2. Phone Books = Falling Bodies
Time to get out that phone book again. Roll the book up, tape it, and start dropping it on things. This will create a convincing “thud” to imitate the sound of a body falling to the ground. A great, injury free option.
1. Walnuts = Skulls
Gregg Barbanell, the Foley artist on The Walking Dead, crushes walnuts to create the sound of crushing skulls. Of course, when the situation calls for regular bone-breaking sounds, he just sticks to celery. Foley can be a very gory business.