Skip main navigation

Glossary of sound terms

A glossary of film sound terms that will help you analyse the short film soundtrack that we listen to in the next step.
Image of magnifying glass
In the next step we will be listening to a short film soundtrack, so it may be useful to provide some common terms that are used when working with film sound:
  • Soundtrack – all the different layers of sound used within a film, including location sound, dialogue, sound effects (FX), Foley sound, and musical score.
  • Location sound (also known as production sound or direct sound) – sound recorded during production (filming).
  • Dialogue – sound produced by characters speaking.
  • Silence – lack of audible sound or presence of sounds of very low intensity, often used in film for dramatic effect or to give the audience a breather after climactic scenes.
  • Sound FX – recorded sound added to the location sound in post-production (editing).
  • Foley sound – sound recorded live to add to the track to enhance aspects of the sound, eg a door creaking, a wolf howling.
  • Musical score – music added to the soundtrack.
  • Diegetic sound – sound that comes from the film world; those sounds that you would hear if you were a character in the film world.
  • Non-diegetic sound – sounds from outside the film world, that characters within the film world would not be able to hear.
  • Contrapuntal sound – sound that contrasts strongly with the image that you see on screen.
These terms are in our Sound Terms Guide below. Please feel free to download, as you may find it useful for the activities coming up over the following steps.
Which of these sounds terms would be most useful for children to know?
Please add to the comments below.
This article is from the free online

Teaching Literacy Through Film

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education