Storytelling with sound

It’s so obvious it may sound silly, but radio is an audio medium. Our limitation is that everything we want to convey must be translated into sound, but our advantage is that we don’t have to worry about anything beyond how it sounds.

All kinds of sound can be used to put together a radio program. As a general rule, the entire program should have a good level balance and be free of noise, distortion, hum and other unwanted defects, but even noises can be used—if done with intent and moderation. A good radio producer uses different types of sound to create images, feelings and anticipation in the listener, not just music and speech.

Radio paints pictures

Although the radio does not broadcast pictures to look at, we aim to paint a picture for the listener of what we see, fear or dream about.

A good book describes how the surroundings look, smell and sound, as well as what the main character notices. It is these descriptions that give the reader a connection to the story. In the same way, we as radio makers can paint different environments that enrich the story we want to tell. The advantage is that we don’t have to use words, but can let sounds in the background speak and the listener make their own interpretation.

If we record an interview with a little chatter and clinking of crockery in the background, the listener will imagine himself sitting at a cafe table with the interviewee and the whole conversation will take on a warm and convivial tone.

Even the absence of sound can convey information. For example, imagine an angry speaker expressing his opinions and the voice sounds as if it were amplified through a speaker system. If we don’t hear any audience response—what does that tell the listener?

Practical examples

Utilize the stereo width, like panning a car as it passes.

When transitioning from a song to cafe interview, you can fade out the music with increasing reverberation, pan it to one side while murmuring comes in and the interview resumes. Picture a camera pulling away from a stereo behind the counter until the table you are sitting by takes the center of the frame.

Radio conveys feelings

A good radio program creates emotions and arouses interest in the listener.


A foundation of many programs is the music that can create its sweet or stimulating or nostalgic feelings.

Jingles enhance the feeling and content by making it coherent and familiar, while the speech provides information and knowledge.


Listen to some songs from different decades and genres. After each song, write down the feelings and ideas it evoked in you. Also write down if you think the song could arouse other feelings in someone else.


It is sometimes forgotten that the listener is more often affected by how we say something than what we say. An enthusiastic voice arouses curiosity and a speaker with tears in his throat evokes pity. The voice reveals how the speaker feels without us having to make an interpretation and tell it.

It is very difficult to edit a program so that it engages the listener. It is much easier to find someone who can talk about the subject with enthusiasm and empathy. Let the voice speak for itself and create commitment, curiosity, excitement and anticipation.

The voice can also reveal more than the speaker wants to convey. If you are unsure as a radio announcer, there is nothing worse than reading out loud from a piece of paper. A monotonous reading voice loses the listener’s interest very quickly even if the topic may be of interest.


Listen to some scenes from different TV series or movies in languages you don’t understand—without looking at the picture.

Describe the moods of the different people. How do they want to appear to the others in the scene? Can you say anything more based on what you heard?