The Rapid Elearning Blog

free audio

The other day someone asked for some links to free audio files to use as background audio. Personally, I’m not sure how much demand there really is for free audio files but to help you out, I’ll share some of the resources I’ve collected.

Of course, here’s the easiest answer when people ask how to find free audio files.

There are thousands of free audio sites. But most of them are either kind of spammy, merely link bait, or repeats of other sites.

Despite the abundance of free audio sites, there’s only a handful of decent resources. So I’m not providing a long list of lame sites. Instead I’ve reviewed the sites and the links I share are the ones I think you’ll find most valuable.

Before we get started, here is a list of sites that offer free audio sound effects that I featured in a previous blog post.

Free Audio: Background Music

Background audio serves a number of purposes. It can set a mood or some context. Sometimes it can mask audio narration that sounds a bit hollow. Just be sure to keep the background audio levels low. You also want to consider the impact background audio has on retention. If it’s distracting or competes with cognitive processing it may make the course less effective.

Some of the sites below require an account or they ask for donations, but they’re still free. If you do use the free audio files, I recommend supporting them with a mention, link, or donation.

  • YouTube: free music for your projects that you can download.
  • Vimeo: music library of Creative Common music
  • BenSound: one of the best organized sites; songs under creative commons or you can pay for less restrictive licensing.
  • Soundcloud: a lot of free music; commenting and ability to follow the music creator
  • OrangeFreeSounds: a lot of good background music
  • South Hills Records: over 700 free downloads from electronica to soundtrack
  • DL Sounds: free, as in free. Can’t beat that.
  • Opsound.org: a boatload of free music under Creative Commons license.
  • FreeMusicArchive: a ton of curated music. Click on the song title to see licensing.
  • Jamendo: lots of songs under Creative Commons license; requires an account.
  • freeSFX: free sound and music
  • BradSucks.net: Brad Turcotte is a one man band and he shares his songs freely. Many of you have probably heard, Making Me Nervous, at some point. It seems like it was on every tutorial video and YouTube video a few years back.
  • JoshWoodward.com: Josh Woodward shares songs freely. He has vocal and instrumental versions of his music.
  • Sonic Squirrel: lots of free music; check the song’s Creative Commons license
  • Audinautix: free music created by Jason Show. Sorted into easy categories.
  • jWinterMusic: over 100 original compositions
  • Epitonic: a nice catalog of music curated from different genres. They claim they’re free and legal, but you need to verify the rights to use.
  • CCTrax: a host of songs and music available under Creative Commons license.
  • Opensource Music: a list of free songs and music
  • Purple Planet: free with attribution
  • Machinama Sound: good for gamified courses; free with attribution

Not Free Audio

When you’re doing corporate work and need audio it often makes sense to use a fee-based service. You avoid potential licensing issues and the quality is pretty good. Here are some inexpensive ways to get good audio files.

  • Amazon: you can buy a bunch of sound FX CDs for about $8. Save time having to search a bunch of sites.
  • JukeDeck: create custom soundtracks timed to your video. Great for quick tutorials.
  • Vimeo Music Store: buy tracks or use SmartSound to create tracks for your projects.
  • BenSound: one of the best organized sites; songs under creative commons or you can pay for less restrictive licensing.
  • AudioHero: can’t go wrong with hero in your title. Good library with flexible pricing.
  • AudioBlocks: a lot of music, sound FX, and loops. Requires an annual fee. $99 for unlimited downloads.
  • Jamendo: I like them because they have a nice, modern library and searching is easy.
  • BeatPick: license songs with different use cases; flexible and good selection.
  • JewelBeat: library of music. They have previews on YouTube to see the music in action.
  • Kompoz: interesting site to collaborate on making music

I tell you the truth, I don’t see a lot of courses that use much audio outside of the narration and an occasional sound effect. I’m curious, if you do use background audio, how are you using it?


 

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17 responses to “Free Audio Files for E-Learning”

Hey Tom. I use background tracks in almost all the learning I create…

– To set the tone as the user transitions a new topic when there is usually no narration.
– When narration isn’t well produced, I’ll use a background track to create some depth which in turn makes the narration sound more professional.
– And for moments when the user is left on their own to do some kind of task, just to make it feel less alone by sudden silence (no narration)….elevator music per se.

Stephanie

I have just started using audio in my e-learning courses. I use during the first couple of slides- the title slide and the learning objective slides. I like the idea of introducing the topic with some audio to get people’s attention.

I also use have started using it for sound effects on my course quizzes. People applauding and cheering when they get the answer right and a “smash/crash/ooooh” (sorry, best I can do) when they get it wrong. And when the complete the course, a loud round of cheering and clapping and general happy exultations.

I have used background theme music in introductions, applause or bell for correct answers, applause for passing a quiz, buzzer for incorrect answers, mouse click sound when making a choice. UFO noise (Jetsons sound) in a UFO animation.

We’ve used background audio in two instance.
1 – as part of the first slide of the course (or a lesson) that helps send the message that something new has started.
2 – part of the introduction to a game

In both instances, the audio played softly in the background and the narrator voice was dominant or was 5 seconds of music and as the music faded the narrator voice came in.

March 22nd, 2016

Hey Tom. I did a virtual workshop last year on how to use music as a training tool.You can see a recording of it here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6mrq2h2chippx6z/Music_VIM.mp4?dl=0

I’m particularly sensitive to music and how it’s used, given that, in addition to my background in learning, I have also taught fitness (to music) for decades and have been involved with several sports (e.g., gymnastics, figure skating) that are performed to music. If it’s done well, it facilitates learning. If not, it’s both distracting and attenuating to the learning process.

Thanks for the response, Tom. This is helpful. We like to use the audio in intro slides, and sometimes we develop short videos without narration for which the background music can add a lot.

Thanks for the most recent post. Maybe i missed it but I did not see http://www.digitaljuice.com/ as one of the sources. Their materials are usually excellent.

March 22nd, 2016

I heard some fantastic use of audio as a background to narration in eLearning at the Learning Solutions Conference last week. I started thinking that I should incorporate it into my modules as well. Currently I use audio in our learning videos when there is a message to be read by the learner in between shots of the SME speaking/instructing.

While free can sometimes make the difference between having it or not, I would like to encourage everyone to purchase background music from small businesses whenever possible. There are many professional musicians that are passionate about the trade and enormously talented but haven’t been lucky enough to hit the big time. They are able to eek out a living when companies like yours and mine invest a little money into purchasing one of their tunes for background music.

Great article and thanks for the information.

I’m personally very auditory so I do use music and sound effects, however very sparsely. I use a very short piece of intro music and fade when the narration starts, and then reprise it and fade as the program ends. I also use a very airy transition sound to support a transition slide.

I am a big fan of http://freesound.org personally.

I don’t use audio files in my training development but I do use sound effects. Here is a site that I have used many times that I didn’t see on your list so thought I would share.

http://soundbible.com/

Thanks for all your hard work and information you provide.

March 22nd, 2016

When I worked at an organization that sold interior landscaping (green walls, scenting, corporate art, etc.) every course and video we created had background music.

As my former boss said, “Sometimes audio helps bring you into the moment when you’re trying to evoke an emotion or thought. It has to match the mood.”

So when creating a course about the scenting products, the music was softer than lets say talking about an urban garden.

March 24th, 2016

It works great for anything without narration like my “top five” lists.

Presentation 1

With that said, employees liked it so much that I’ve been using it as background music as well.

Presentation 2

March 27th, 2016

Thank for sharing this information. I usually use audio during intro slides, but I am now willing to go beyond doing so. Thanks for the valuable information.

March 30th, 2016

I do use a running, soft background music (upbeat) as a bed for my recorded dialogue mainly because it does mask some mild background noise (I wish I had a proper studio). It’s way quiet though, relative to the actual narration. I also occasionally use a bike bell effect to cue the viewer’s attention to the screen for specific notifications because I know how easy it is to drift & miss something without a sound effect.