ANH 7: Laser Sword Sound Design (Minutes 31-35)


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Lightsaber Sound Design: an extreme deep dive in 4 levels.

NOTE: This episode contains a plethora of lightsaber sound effects that may be jarring for some listeners. You may want to have the volume controls handy. Furthermore, headphones or a quiet environment may be helpful for part 3 (starting at the 1-hour mark) if you want to hear the details in the sound design demonstration.

Discussion Guide:

  • 0:00:00 - Hello there.
  • 0:00:30 - Description of action in minutes 31-35 of Star Wars.
  • 0:17:14 - Level 1: What do lightsabers sound like in various states of operation? (ignition, retraction, hum-buzz, swing, clash, etc)
  • 0:33:08 - Level 2: Historical/documentarian perspective. How did Ben Burtt make the first lightsaber sounds, and what were his aims?
  • 0:59:38 - Level 3: Mega sound design nerd stuff. We break down the lightsaber sound in extreme detail and talk about how to recreate it.
  • 1:49:31 - Level 4: Big picture discussion, the future of lightsaber sound design, why old lightsaber sounds were re-recorded.
  • 2:18:53 - SWMM Questionnaire

Musical Themes:

  • 12) Distress
  • 3. Force
  • 6a. Imperials (Motif) (when O-W is telling Luke about his father)
  • Note: For consistency, I use the theme names and numbers established in Frank Lehman's Complete Catalogue of the Musical Themes of Star Wars. You can download it free at his website:

Where we are in the soundtrack album:

  • "Landspeeder Search/Attack of the Sand People"

Sound Sources and Other References:


1. In exactly 3 words, what does Star Wars sound like?

  • pwsh vrrrrum shhpt

2. What's something related to Star Wars music or sound that you want to learn more about?

  • "Duel of the Fates" orchestration

3. What's a score or soundtrack you're fond of besides anything Star Wars?

  • I, Robot (composed by Marco Beltrami)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) (composed by John Du Prez)
  • Spirited Away (composed by Joe Hisaishi)


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