In a previous post I listed some useful places to find film footage for film scoring and video editing projects. This time we’ll look at places to find sound effects and loops to enhance your film composition projects.

Before delving into this list, I’ll take a moment to explain what I’m talking about when I say “free”. Here I’m referring to music that is cost-free and that you are legally able to use without paying royalties – that is, it’s either in the public domain, or the composer has given you permission to use their music under a Creative Commons license. Make sure to take note of the conditions of use of any work licensed under Creative Commons. Most of the time you’ll need to just attribute the originator (that is, give credit to the composer) but use of the music may have additional conditions attached as well.

Sound Effects & Loops

Adding sound effects (SFX) or pre-existing music in the form of loops to a video is a great way to get started with film scoring for students.  Programs like GarageBand and Acid come with their own large collections of SFX and loops, but it’s surprising how quickly you discover that 2000 provided loops and effects are not enough!

To supplement your collection, do a Google search for “free sound effects” or “free loops” and you’ll see just how many are available online.  Here are a few to get you started:

The Freesound Project

The Freesound Project is a collective database of Creative Commons licensed sounds. And by “sounds” they mean sound effects, ambient noises and atmospheric audio samples. You can search for what you need or take a look at their Sample Packs page.

Free Loops features loops and sound effects mostly produced by the site’s owners.  You can search by Creative Commons license using the drop-down menu at the top right.

Free SFX

UK-based site Free SFX encourages users to upload their own sound effects, as well as download effects from their large library.

Background, Mood and Feature Music

In addition to sounds effects and loops, there are times when you need music of a more substantial length.  Again, a search in Google will turn up numerous results and the quality varies somewhat.  Here are some of the better ones I’ve found:

Kevin McLeod

Composer Kevin McLeod’s website Incompetech showcases what is probably one of the best sources of free “mood” music and it’s usefully divided into genres (horror, holiday, radio drama, Latin, rock) and you can even search by feel (eerie, relaxed, humourous, dark, driving, epic).

CC Mixter

CC Mixter is a remixing site with samples that are licensed under Creative Commons.  You can download samples for use in your own projects and a number of artists, like singer Shannon Hurley,  provide complete stems: the individual instrumental and vocal tracks for a full song.

They’ve introduced a way to search their extensive catalogue of samples – by using the dig CC Mixter search page.  You can narrow your search by browsing the instrumental music, podsafe and commercial categories and there’s even curated playlists for your iPod, or drive-time enjoyment.


Like CC Mixter, Jamendo gives musicians a chance to share their music and allows free streaming and legal downloads under CC licenses.

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive boasts a massive collection of material which spans video, text, web sites and audio.  In fact, at the time of writing the audio section alone featured 788,536 recordings. Having so much material to choose from can make selections difficult, but a good place to start is the list of sub-collections.

For a lengthy list of CC audio sites, consult the Creative Commons Content Directories Page.

Using Creative Commons Material

It’s important to check the licence attached to the music you wish to use.  If you want to attribute the composer properly, there’s some advice about how to do it here.  Usually a mention of the composer’s name and the title of the work, plus a link back to their website or user page (if possible) are all that’s needed for attribution, and putting this into practice in the presence of students (and encouraging them to do the same) means that they will learn to be good digital citizens.  If you’re planning to change the music in any way – remix it or arrange it – check beforehand that the CC licence allows this.

Are there any useful sites you currently use that are not listed here?