In a previous post, I shared some free graphic design resources. In that same vein, here are some free resources instructional designers can use for music, sound effects, audio editing, and voiceover generation.
Free Music and Sounds
Here are five places to find royalty-free music and sound effects for zero cost.
Whether you’re looking for a jazzy little piano intro for a video, a chime to indicate a correct answer in a game, a creaky door opening and closing, or something else entirely, Freesound has a great variety.
The searchable database contains more than 500,000 Creative Commons Licensed sounds—many of which are in the public domain (including the ones linked above). Because this is a collaborative database, quality may vary. However, I’ve found lots of high-quality (and did I mention FREE?) sounds here.
I love that the database is searchable by duration, genre, mood, movement, and theme. I tend to use quick intros and otros like this one for explainer videos, so being able to search by duration is always a plus for me.
Bensound offers a wide variety of royalty-free music, which you can search by genre and filter by length. Attribution is required unless you purchase a license. I’ve used instrumental music like this track in eLearning videos (but only those without narration or complex content), as well as slideshows I’ve created for my family.
The “FMA” side of the Free Music Archive site is where you will find free downloads. You might see a “0 Tracks Found” message right away. Don’t let that throw you. Just enter a search term and select the magnifying glass icon (or press Enter). You can filter your search by license, genre, and duration. If you add filters after entering a search term, you’ll need to select the magnifying glass again to re-run the search.
I found this happy tune by searching for “intro” and filtering by jazz, instrumental tracks up to 3 minutes.
Tip: On some sites, searching for “stinger” can yield better results than “intro” or “outro.”
MixKit offers a good variety of free music tracks, sound effects, and stock videos you can use in podcasts, social media videos, and eLearning products (but not video games, per their license terms). You can filter your search results by genre, mood, and tags.
On the downside, every time you run a search, the site shows results from Envato Elements first, with the free results below. It can be easy to get confused as to which audio tracks are free.
Free Audio Editing Tools
Okay, you’ve found the perfect audio tracks for your project, but they need some tweaks. Now what? Here are three free tools you can use to edit audio files.
Audacity is arguably the best free audio editor out there. It’s open-source and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Besides multi-track editing, it allows you to record live audio. Although I haven’t personally tested Audacity’s accessibility features, their website claims it can be used with only a keyboard. The interface can be a bit daunting at first, but there are plenty of tutorials available to help you get started.
Ocenaudio bills its editor as “easy, fast, and powerful,” and the reviews I’ve read agree, although I haven’t personally tried it. Reviews say it’s easier to use than Audacity, although not quite as robust. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
If you need to make basic edits to a single track without downloading an app, Audio Cutter might be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a user-friendly browser-based tool that allows you to trim audio, fade in or out, and change the volume, speed, and pitch. You can save the file in the following formats: mp3, m4a, m4r, flac, and wav. This tool is not compatible with Safari, but it works well in Chrome, unless you need keyboard accessibility.
(Raise your hand if you had never heard of flac files before. Just me?)
I recommend using human voices from professional voiceover artists whenever possible. But if you need narration and don’t have the budget or equipment to record real voices, a computer-generated voiceover might be right up your alley. They’ve come a long way and don’t all sound like robots anymore. They’re also useful for draft course reviews with SMEs—so you can make sure your script is final_FINAL_reallyFINAL before recording audio. (Who hasn’t used file names like that before?)
I tested several free voiceover generators using some of the text from the above paragraph. Here are the three that sounded the most human-like to me.
Voicebooking generates audio in 15 different languages (with US and UK English options available) and a variety of different voices.
Of the voiceover generators I tested, Voicebooking offers the most life-like results. It also allows you to emphasize words, add pauses, and adjust speed and pitch. I was able to try the voices without creating an account, but I had to register (for free) before downloading the file. Speaking of downloads, this tool gave me a .wav file, while the others downloaded as .mp3 files.
Voicebooking Audio Sample
Animaker Voice requires you to create an account before trying out the tool. The free account includes 30+ languages (including country-specific variations for English, Spanish, and French), although there are limited voices to choose from.
The free account allows you to create 10 TTS voiceover files per month and download 5 per month. It also offers 100+ free music tracks and gives you 5 asset credits per month, so you can use other Animaker features to create video. You can create two custom characters per month with the free account, but lip sync is not available. Additional features are available with paid subscriptions.
Animaker Voice Audio Sample
Wideo’s free TTS tool allows you to convert up to 2,000 characters a day and offers a wide range of languages and voices. It also allows you to adjust the speed of the voiceover audio. As you might expect from the name, you can also use Wideo to create videos. The free account lets you create one-minute videos that are branded with the Wideo name.
Wideo Text-to-Speech Audio Sample
Bonus Tool: Synthesia
I didn’t include Synthesia in my count because it’s not exactly a free voiceover generator. But I wanted to mention it because it’s very cool.
It’s an AI video creator with an automated voiceover and avatar. It allows you to create one free video as a sample (but you don’t get to choose your avatar or preview the video). The sample is then emailed to you. The paid version ($30/month) allows you to create up to 10 minutes of video per month. It offers 50+ languages and a choice of 40+ avatars.
The auto-generated video isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good. I’m curious as to what edits I could make with the paid version, but since I don’t have a business need for auto-generated video right now, I can’t really justify yet another subscription. I’d love to hear from anyone who has it though.
Synthesia Sample Video
Here’s the list of free audio resources listed in this post:
- Free music and sounds:
- Free audio editing tools:
- Voiceover generators:
- Bonus tool: Synthesia (one free sample video)
Word of Caution: When I downloaded one audio editing tool (NOT listed here) to try it, my anti-virus software immediately flagged it. On further searches, I found warnings about spyware potentially being bundled with the software. I mention this as a reminder to always use caution when downloading anything from the internet.
What are your go-to sites for music and sound effects? Do you have a favorite audio editor or another tool that wasn’t mentioned here? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.