Classification of sounds

Natural sounds

  • Water: rain, rivers, oceans and lakes, ice and snow, fountains, faucets, steam
  • Air: wind (leaves, sand, window, etc…), storms and hurricanes, thunder and lightning
  • Earth: rocks, trees, grass, earthquakes, landslides and avalanches, mines, caves and tunnels
  • Fire: forest fire, building fire, volcanoes, camp fire, matches and lighters, gas lamp, torches, ritual fires
  • Birds: hen, rooster, owl, duck, dove, pigeon, sparrow, hawk, etc…
  • Animals: dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep, wolves, lions and other big cats, bears, monkeys, gorillas and other apes, frogs, etc…
  • Insects: bees, flies, mosquitoes, crickets, cicadas, etc…
  • Fish and sea creatures: whales, dolphins, fish, etc…
  • Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Human sounds

  • Voice: speaking, calling, whispering, crying, screaming, coughing, grunting, groaning, singing, humming, laughing
  • Body: breathing, footsteps, hand (clapping, ribbing, etc…), eating, drinking, evacuating, lovemaking, heartbeat
  • Clothing: natural fibers, leather, synthetics, shoes, jewelry

Cultural sounds

  • Rural environment: Europe, North America, Central and South America, Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, Far East, Arctic and Antarctic
  • City environment: Europe, North America, Central and South America, Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, Far East
  • Maritime environment: Ships, boats, ports, buoys, beach, seagulls
  • Domestic environment: kitchen, living room and fireplace, dining room, bathroom, doors, windows and shutters, garage, garden
  • Professions: computer programmer, lab technician, surgeon, butcher, fishmonger, teacher, policeman, tailor, carpenter, cook, sculptor
  • Factories and offices: Bakery, stock market, shipyard, sawmill, steel mill, bank, newspaper
  • Music: singing, acoustic instrument, electric instrument, electronic, folk, orchestra, band, pop, ethnic
  • Festivals/ceremonies: parades, carnivals, fireworks, weddings, baptism, funerals
  • Garden/parks: fountains, concerts, birds, playground
  • Religious ceremonies: Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, Moslem, Buddhist, Tibetan, Native American

Mechanical sounds

  • Land transportation: cars, buses, trucks, bikes, bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates, trains
  • Other transportation: planes, helicopters, rockets, boats
  • Mechanical tools: saws, drills, hammers, chisels, planes, sanders
  • Demolition: compressors, jackhammers, bulldozers, pile drivers
  • Farm machinery: binders, tractors, threshing machines, combines
  • Office machinery: toaster, calculator, telephone, computer, coffee maker
  • Kitchen appliances: toaster, blender, dishwasher, refrigerator, can opener, chopping board, cheese grater
  • War machines: guns, rocket launchers, bombs, tanks, fighter jets, submarines
  • Bells: church, clock, sports, animals
  • Horns/whistles: sports, bicycle, car, traffic cop, boats, trains, factory
  • Warning signals: curfew, air raid, alarm clock, emergency vehicles, contamination leak

Quiet and silence

  • Technical: anechoic chamber, physiological (heart, breathing), film reproductive system (optical, electronic base noise)
  • Subjective: room tone, countryside, nighttime, faraway animal calls, isolated sounds (clock ticking, etc…)



  • Natural sounds tend to be incorporated in the musical side of the colour spectrum
  • Human sounds and mechanical sound tend to be incorporated in the linguistic side of the colour spectrum
  • Cultural sounds can hold a vast amount of spatial information and can be used to create soundscapes

Related effects: sound design; Soundscape; Film sound colour spectrum

(Sonnenschein, 2001)

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