Sourcing Audio Recordings, Music, and Sound Effects

It’s not always necessary to create your own learning resources. There are a lot of very useful, free, informative learning resources on the internet. A web search on your subject area including the term 'podcast’ will return many results. However, there are also some excellent directories for finding audio learning resources created by world leading educational and cultural establishments (don’t forget to respect their copyright as specified):

Or, you may wish to enhance your audio recordings with music and sound effects, but unless you’re a skilled musician or creator of sound effects the results are likely to disappoint your listeners and detract from the rest of your recording. However, there are many music and sound effect libraries online where you can obtain free or cheap music and sound effects.

Sourcing podcasts and spoken word content

JISC Media Hub

Jisc MediaHub brings together academic audio, video and image resources from a wide range of collections, some of which are licensed for educational use by JISC Collections, some are made available by other providers.

iTunes U

Apple’s iTunes U service provides educational audio and video learning resources from around the world from universities — such as Oxford, Stanford, MIT, Cambridge and University of South Wales — and leading cultural institutions — such as MoMA, Tate Galleries and the Smithsonian. All the material on iTunes U is free to download.

iTunes Podcasts

iTunes is also a great place to find podcasts. There are hundreds of thousands of free podcasts available on a wide variety subjects from arts, business and education to politics, science and technology.

Open University OpenLearn — Radio

The Open University creates a lot free learning material for radio, often in collaboration with the BBC. This site list those shows.

OU Podcasts

OU Podcasts provides access to the Open University’s podcasts. In addition to teaching material, this directory also includes podcasts on research activity at the Open University.

Learn Out Loud Podcast Directory

Learn Out Loud is a directory of over 2,000 podcasts specifically curated to help people learn.

Sourcing Music

When choosing music there are many things to consider. Firstly, why do you want music? Are you looking for an intro for a regular podcast? Are you looking for incidental music to play in the background during the recording? Are you looking to set the scene for a scripted conversation, in a nightclub for example? You need to ask yourself whether the music will add to recording or be an unnecessary distraction. If you are satisfied that music would enhance the recording, you next need to think about what sort of music would be appropriate for your subject matter. Contemporary dance music would be an incongruous match for a podcast about health problems faced by senior citizens. You also need to think about how the music will be used. Are you looking for music to repeat in a loop or play once as a single track? You can find music created specifically for both these situations, but attempting to create a loop from a track yourself can be a difficult, time consuming and sometimes futile endeavour.

At this point you may be tempted to use music from your favourite popular beat combo, however, this must be resisted; unless you have the substantial funding required to license the music – this is very unlikely. For further information on music copyright issues read Audio-visual Copying

Happily, there are websites which provide music at very reasonable prices (or for free!):


dig.ccmixter is devoted to helping you find great music, all of which is available for free and licensed under a Creative Commons license so you already have permission to use this music in your video, podcast, school project, personal music player, or wherever.


Freesound is a huge collaborative database of music, audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, and more, all released for free under Creative Commons licenses that allow their reuse.

Free Stock Music

Free Stock Music is powered by the Audio Blocks site, but provides music for free. There is a smaller, narrower collection of music here than the sites below, the quality may be lower too. However, everything here is, after all, free.

Sound Rangers

Sound Rangers has a good selection of music across a wide variety of musical genres. Search tools allow you to search by genre, mood, instrument and tempo. Pricing varies depending on the track and the licence you select. The 'Web, General’ licence will cover you for educational usage.


iStockPhoto doesn’t just provide photos, these days it also sells music. Powerful search tools make it easier to find the right track. The cost of a track varies between 1–3 credits (the cost of a credit depends on how many you purchase, the unit price drops as you purchase more – as a rough guide 1 credit = £10 [Autumn 2014]).

Audio Blocks

Audio Blocks is a subscription based service providing music, loops and sound effects. Powerful search tools allow you to specify moods, musical genres, instrumentation, tempo and track length. This site is best suited to people who envisage using music and sound effects regularly through the year. A one year subscription costs $99 (autumn 2014).

Finding Sound Effects

Sound effects used well can help set the scene for scripted audio conversations, on a street for example. They can also be used to provide exposition and context to scenes. You can also use them to add humour to a subject. However, used repetitively or injudiciously they can become irritating and distracting. As when choosing music, you need to choose sound effects appropriate to your subject, audience and the tone of your piece. While it is possible to create your own sound effects, this will take you time, time which is better deployed on other aspects of the production. Therefore, you should use a sound effects library to source any sound effects you require.


Freesound is a huge collaborative database of music, audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, and more, all released for free under Creative Commons licenses that allow their reuse.

Sound Bible

Sound Bible provides free sound effects licensed under Creative Commons or released as public domain; N.B. some effects are licensed for personal use. While the search tools are limited and their catalogue lacks the breadth and depth of commercial libraries, you may still find the effect you are looking for.

Free SFX

Free SFX has about 8,000 free sound effects. While the search tools are limited, everything is categorised helpfully – There’s even a small collection of music tracks.


iStockPhoto’s audio library includes sound effects as well as music. Powerful search tools make find the appropriate sound effect easier.

Sound Rangers

Sound Rangers has extensive library of sound effects at reasonable prices; most effects are priced around the $1.95–$4.95 range. The search tool for sound effects is limited, but the catalogue is well categorised to aid searching.

Wikimedia Commons: Sound

Part of the Wikimedia family responsible for Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons: Sound has a relatively small, but growing collection of audio files. All files are licensed under Creative Commons licences. The Reusing content outside Wikimediapage provides assistance and guidance on how to use Wikimedia Commons content without contravening the Creative Commons licence for a given image.