Module code: PRO1016

Module Overview

The module provides an introduction to sound design and the techniques and technologies used in sound engineering as applied to theatrical sound and sound for other live performance mediums. 

Module provider

Guildford School of Acting

Module Leader


Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

JACs code: W453

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Sound: a conceptual introduction. Sound as a pressure wave with amplitude and frequency, complex sounds as a combination of multiple dynamic frequency components. Decibels (SPL) as a way to measure amplitude, Hz (and kHz) as a unit of frequency. Concept of a transducer as a bridge from one form of energy to another, and its relevance to loudspeakers and microphones. Introduction to voltage as a way to electronically transmit sound.

  • The Signal Chain (sources, mixer, amp, speakers, etc.), the Signal Flow Diagram as a tool for thinking about the signal chain, and the mixer as a way to practically control and organise multiple signal chains.

  • Playback devices: history and current practice including Q-Lab and at least one other current software platform in common use for playback.

  • Microphones: condenser vs. dynamic, pickup patterns, frequency response.

  • Mixers: line vs. mic level, head amps, routing (buses and auxes), EQ.

  • Speakers: crossovers, horns and tweeters, coverage pattern, power handling, common applications (spot, monitor, surround, front-fill, side-fill, down-fill, in-fill, centre cluster, L-R).

  • Common connectors: Jack, XLR, Phono/RCA, Speakon, bare end. Introducing the distinction between balanced and unbalanced connections.

  • Script analysis: settings and themes, design concepts, the relationship with the Director and other creatives' ideas, the importance of combining script analysis with close interaction with the rehearsal process.

  • Sound effects: types of cue, sourcing sound effects and other elements from libraries, recording new material where appropriate.

  • Legal issues around licensing music and recordings of music.

  • Paperwork: sound plot, cue sheet, Signal Flow Diagram.

  • Common sound department additional responsibilities: running video and comms.

  • Digital Audio Workstations: common DAWs in use in the industry and the basic use of at least one professional-level DAW to edit and augment sound effects.

  • Health and Safety: safe rigging practices, in particular hanging heavy objects (such as loudspeakers) at height, and the application of other legislation and codes of practice to sound. A brief introduction to The Noise at Work Regulations (2005).

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Practical based assessment PRACTICAL TEST 50

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate practical skills and understanding, as specified by the learning outcomes.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

Practical Exam:

  • To demonstrate safe working practice and basic technical competence in the subject, students are asked to construct a basic sound system, using some components with which they are not directly familiar, and record a sound effect for playback through the system they have built.

Submission of Sound Design Portfolio:

  • Students are asked to compile a portfolio featuring written research notes, recorded sound media and explanatory notes on design concepts.


Formative assessment and feedback


Formative feedback will be provided by weekly tutorial with the subject (teaching) module co-ordinator.  Written feedback will be issued normally 3 weeks following assignment submission.

Module aims

  • To introduce students to the concepts, processes and equipment commonly found in the make-up of sound re-enforcement and design within a production context.┬áStudents will become familiar with the technical vocabulary, the dynamics of basic signal chains and explore generic hardware and software underpinning complex sound systems found in the performance industry

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed Ref
1 Rig and operate a basic sound system which includes the fundamental steps of a signal chain (multiple sources, mixer, amp, and speakers), demonstrating safe working practices PT
2 Analyse a script and construct a sound design for a given brief (including budgetary and time limitations), including writing paperwork and sourcing or recording sound effects KCP
3 Recognise, distinguish and operate unfamiliar equipment through the application of previously introduced concepts, categories, and operating principles KCT
4 Demonstrate their understanding of the application of all relevant Health and Safety legislation and codes of practice to sound work KPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 105

Seminar Hours: 9

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Provide students with the concepts and knowledge to fulfil the learning outcomes of this module and to provide time and resources for students to develop their skills in connecting and operating standard equipment and software.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Taught practical sessions either in studio or class environment.

  • Attendance at workshops, seminars, master-classes.

  • Site visits/industry field trips.

  • Timed practical exercises.

  • Written examination.

  • Group presentation/tutorials.

  • Individual tutorial/viva voce.

This module attempts to facilitate key areas of the Programme learning and teaching strategy specifically those defining demonstration and review within workshops, rehearsals, productions, practical classes, laboratory/studio-based practice, screenings, lectures, seminars, tutorials and tutor and learner-directed practical projects evidencing core, elementary theory and practice.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for SOUND FOR PERFORMANCE :

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.