Lesson 1: Creating Field Recordings

Lesson overview 

In this lesson, students are introduced to the topic of turning everyday sounds into music. They work collaboratively to discover, record, evaluate and share the sounds of their environment.

    Learning intentions

    • Collaboration – Working effectively with peers
    • Technology literacy – Understand and effectively use recording devices
    • Critical thinking – Consider the nature of sound and music
    • Critical listening – Identify variations in tone and timbres within recordings

    Preparation (10-15 mins)

    In the classroom (50-90 mins)

    • Step 1: Introduction – show video content and introduce the topic (10 mins)
    • Step 2: Task explanation – assign groups, explain and provide checklist (5-10 mins)
    • Step 3: Practical task – students make field recordings (15-30 mins)
    • Step 4: Practical task – students save, name and share field recordings (10-15 mins)
    • Step 5: Teacher-led discussion – playback of field recordings and discussion (5-10mins)

    Activity Option:

    * Sound objects can be brought into a classroom space instead of working outside of the classroom.

    Introduction: Artists using found sounds

    These links may provide you with a variety of ways to introduce the topic of found sounds with students, and may provide them insight into what their final work could be like. 

    Making Beats in a Library video 

    Making Beats in a Library is a great video that quickly demonstrates how everyday sounds can be turned into music.

    This is episode 3 in a series which may be of interest for students to watch.

    Tech House from Beach Sounds video

    Tech House from Beach Sounds is a snapshot of some technically deeper possibilities using only found sounds in a variety of ways within Live.

    Sounds Outside: The art of field recording article

    Sounds Outside: The art of field recording is an excellent starting point to go deeper into the history and art of field recording.

    Read: Sounds Outside: The art of field recording article

    Classroom Tip: Thinking about sound 

    Reflecting on the sounds of their everyday experiences is a way you can encourage your students to be more aware of the sounds around them. 

    Ask these questions to lead class discussion, so students can evaluate and describe sounds to refine their critical thinking skills. 

    Critical Thinking Questions

    • What is sound?
    • What is music?
    • What sorts of objects will make high pitched sounds?
    • What sorts of objects will make low pitched sounds?
    • In what ways can you change the sound an object makes? 
    • How may the position of the microphone change the way a recording sounds?

    Practical Task: Recording session 

    In this practical task, students record a collection of found sounds using a smartphone or portable recorder, using a checklist as a guide to focus their listening and guide their imagination. They then save, label and share these files.

    “Getting 3-4 students working together in a team is an excellent opportunity for them to get out of the classroom to develop team-building and collaboration skills.” — Matt Ridgway 

    Types of Recording Devices

    There are a range of portable recording device options available – from the phone in your pocket to dedicated hand-held digital recorders. Even the built-in microphone on a tablet or laptop can achieve good results. 


    • If portable recording devices are not available, consider bringing a collection of ‘found sound’ objects back to a central recording setup.
    • When using a smartphone, change the audio settings to record in an uncompressed audio format such as .wav to ensure compatibility.

    Task steps:

    1. Identify what recording device can be used
    2. Use the recording checklist and included tips to identify sounds to be recorded
    3. Record found sound field recordings
    4. Save and label recordings
    5. Discuss and share audio recordings

    Found Sounds Recording Checklist

    This checklist of content suggestions and recording tips gives a structure for the task that will yield better results.

    It includes suggestions that are both prescriptive and obscure. The intention is to think outside the box. 

    Whilst it is not essential that every box is ticked off, it does ask for 16 sounds to be collected – this is enough to fill a Drum Rack.

    Worksheet: Found Sounds Recording Checklist

    Classroom Tip: Sharing, naming and presenting audio recordings 

    “Sharing of student work is a key part of my own teaching practice. It not only promotes a culture of inclusivity, but also provides more opportunity for critical listening and evaluation. A group shared drive encourages collaborative work.” — Matt Ridgway

    Shared Drive for Collaboration

    Network storage or cloud-based options such as Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox
    are useful tools for:

    • Collecting and storage of student work
    • Accessing shared files for future collaborations

    Naming Conventions

    A naming convention is useful when working in group/shared folders. 


    This type of labelling gives an opportunity for students to articulate what they hear.

    Playback of Audio in the Classroom

    Another way of sharing is to play back audio in the classroom.

    “Getting student groups to playback and talk about their recorded sounds in front of a class is a way in which I get students to reflect on their own work, engage in peer learning and is an opportunity for them to practice their communication skills.”  — Matt Ridgway