tuning sound effects for theatre

Windows 7
Audacity 2.0.6

Howdy! I have an unusual problem.

I’m designing sound and music for a theatrical production.
Long story short, there’s a sound effect (air being blown through a straw) that I want to tune to a certain pitch (E). I tried to use Antares Autotune and G-Snap, with no luck.
I was not going for a realistic sound. On the contrary, unrealistic would be great. This is for a scene in which metaphysical things are happening that can not be represented by the actors onstage. I must suggest these fantastical happenings with otherworldly sound effects. And for narrative reasons it is imperative that this certain sound is an E, in order to recall events from earlier in the play that focus on this particular note.
I am effectively a layperson when it comes to audio science.
I could not get either of the plugins to do ANYthing, this may be due to my complete lack of knowledge or simply because they are specifically designed for vocals.

Would giving the program a MIDI tone help?

I apologize if what I’m suggesting is just ridiculous or impossible, but if this is the case PLEASE INFORM ME so I can work around it.
I also apologize for my gigantic, terrible ignorance.


Audacity tolerates MIDI…barely, so that’s not a good avenue.

Air going through a straw doesn’t make noise, so we need to deal with air going in or air coming out the other end. Describe the scene, including the hook to an earlier scene.


Alright lets see how much this forum will let me attach…

The play is Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl.
Scene 19 is when he blows through the straw to reach the underworld, as per his mad-scientist-type idea.
Script pages attached.

The actor has an actual lyre, appropriate for the Orpheus myth. Initially I was going to tune the drops from Scene 15 to an E, to make it believable that he could do something like this. And then I just thought that the effect of him blowing through the straw should have the same note, to support this idea.

Straw effect attached.


also if this would be more possible in a different program, please let me know. This is within my grasp.

See if any of this is useful.


I’m not sure of the pitch of my straw, but you should be able to use Effect > Change Pitch, or Effect > Change Speed to change it. They’re in WAV Stereo (not MP3), so you should be able to do production with them without damaging anything.

The first one overloads, but the second one came out OK. Oddly, Analyze > Plot Spectrum says one of the tones is E8 (5200Hz), So I may have lucked out.



You know, there are a lot of 'E’s to choose from…

Firstly, duplicate the track.
Then, go to the Nyquist prompt and paste the following:

(reson s (step-to-hz e5) 25 1)

Click OK
Normalize this track.

Now, the note E5 is emphased in the new track.
You can duplicate the first track again, open the nyquist prompt and do the same with another octave (e.g. e6 or e7).
The number 25 is the filter width in Hertz, lower values give harsher results, ending in a plain sine wave at around 1 Hz.
Higher frequencies need a higher bandwidth (double it for e6) in order to preserve some noisy character.

Always normalize the newly filtered tracks.
You can use the gain sliders to adjust the contribution of each note to the final sound.
You can also use “Fade In” if the note should not start immediately or even the envelope tool.

Here’s the mix of the original and the e5 note:

I’ve also used “Paul Stretch” with 1.0/0.25 on the E5 track, in order to make the tone smoother.

Do you have a sample of the lyre as well?


In theatre, leading the audience to make associations is far more important than realism (“suspension of disbelief” and all that). Perhaps a different approach might work - take the sound from the previous scene and process it so that it becomes more like the sound that you want. Try playing with the “Paulstretch” effect to slow down the original sound into a drawn-out tone: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/paulstretch.html

You could also try using “narrow band noise”, or mixing in some narrow band noise with the “stretched” sound suggested above. There is a plug-in available for generating narrow band noise: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Nyquist_Generate_Plug-ins#Narrowband_Noise
Instructions for installing the plug-in in the current (2.1.1) version of Audacity are here: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/effect_menu.html#nyquist_effects