The Music of Sound

Ben Burtt: The Sounds of Star Wars

Explore the sonic world of lasersblasts, lightsabers, and more!


Age range: Good for 8-18 year olds

Estimated Time: The podcast is under eight minutes in length.

Key Technology: Computer, Internet, Speakers or headphones, iTunes or QuickTime

Subscribe to this audio series:


This is one of a series of podcasts exploring the ways sound and sound effects can be used to help bring stories to life.

Meet Ben Burtt, Sound Designer for films like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and WALL-E. Learn how he comes up with sounds that complement the amazing things seen on the silver screen – from laser blasts to whirring, buzzing lightsabers. Find out the story behind some of his signature effects and how he first got interested in sound design.

Think About...

Let’s say you hear the sound of someone ripping a piece of celery in half… or loading groceries into a plastic bag. Can you think of a way those sounds could be used to enhance a scene in a film?

What makes a sound a ‘scary’ sound?

Before you get started, think about some of your favorite films. What do you think about FIRST… the sounds or the images? Can you think of any distinctive sounds from movies?

As you listen, think about how different a particular scene in a movie would sound with different music… and different sound effects. A scary scene could end up sounding pretty funny if you made a few different choices!

After listening to the podcast, make a list of the main points presented in it. Also, write down at least one question you had after listening.


  • What sounds were used to create the lightsaber effect?
  • How did Ben Burtt first get excited about recording sounds?

Critical Thinking

  • When Ben Burtt came up with the sounds for the first Star Wars movie few people had access to sophisticated recording equipment or computers that could play sounds backwards and add special effects. Do you think Sound Designers today have to “raise the bar” and keep coming up with more sophisticated and unique sounds?


  • What sounds do you hear during the day that would be great to use in a movie?
  • To be a successful ‘Sound Designer,’ what do you think is more important – to be a technical genius or to be curious and playful?

Dig Deeper!

Watch a clip where Ben Burtt explains how he invented the lightsaber sound

Blog: “Designing Sound”

For The Educator

Ben Burtt’s story can inspire children to think creatively at a young age – he didn’t wait to start thinking about sounds when he got his first job… he starting experimenting and playing with sound when he was a boy.

Instructional Strategies

  • This interactive can be listened to using speakers for the whole class to hear or students can listen individually using headphones.
  • A brief discussion should follow the podcast. Some topics for discussion include:
  • Before Ben Burtt started working on movies with Star Wars Director George Lucas the term “Sound Designer” didn’t exist. New technologies and new ideas keep coming – what new jobs do you think might exist in ten years?
  • What are some of your interests – and how do you think they could translate into a future career?

Assessment Ideas

  • Like in many artistic endeavors, there is not ONE ‘right’ approach to Sound Design… there is not ONE right sound that would work in any given scene. Sound Designers might try many different approaches and hundreds of different ideas. Ask students how they think Ben Burtt knows when a scene is working and when his work is done?
  • Ask students how the choice of background music affects how an audience responds to a scene. Will different music connect with different audiences? Are there any musical choices that would spoil the mood the film’s director was trying to create?





David Furst

Editors & Producers


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