How to create a lightsaber sound true to the original method?



The original Star Wars lightsaber sound is interference from a CRT, combined with a projector motor sound recording:

[...] the microphone passed right behind the picture tube and as it did, this particular produced an unusual hum [...] So I took that buzz and recorded it and combined it with the projector motor sound [...]

- Ben Burtt

Unfortunately, mechanical projectors and CRT tubes aren't readily available nowadays.

What common objects could create same or similar sounds with as little post-processing as possible?

Red Raptor

Posted 2015-10-30T21:30:48.273

Reputation: 21

Is there a question here? – Todd Wilcox – 2015-11-02T14:21:25.580

My old refridgerator makes a cool sound that I incorporated into a song. It still works - I keep my beer in it, talking of which, the number of sounds you can get from a tall emprty beer can is cool. – Andy aka – 2015-11-04T19:52:38.717



Here are some possibilities:

  • Microwave oven
  • Tube amplifier
  • Induction stove
  • "Transformer Nest" (find as many small power supply transformers, chargers etc and create a pile where you orient them in a chaotic way, upside down, turned around etc)

Use a dynamic microphone like e.g. the SM57, SM58, Beta58 or just about anything else with a coil in, and swing that by the object.

Michael Hansen Buur

Posted 2015-10-30T21:30:48.273

Reputation: 3 612


CRT monitors aren't too difficult to get hold of these days...just go down to a charity shop/thrift store/pawn shop and you should spot one somewhere along the line.

That being said, almost all electrical equipment produces some kind of hum from the mains power supply (50 or 60 Hz depending on your region). If you search Amazon or go to a local electronics store you should be able to buy a 'telephone pick-up coil' for next to nothing. This will allow you to hear the EMF generated by the power supply.

I've noticed that every piece of equipment has a different sonic character to it. Power adapters/transformers have a distinct low tone that is reminiscent of the light sabre sound you are referring to. Just wave the pick-up coil around and you'll see what I mean. Also, if you have a single coil guitar pickup lying around then you can do the same thing with that.


Posted 2015-10-30T21:30:48.273

Reputation: 364


Granular synthesis can work, but I haven't really nailed a "fool proof" method as to what kind of sources and settings (or what plug-in for that matter) do the light saber. I've just occasionally heard granular synthesis doing sounds that are reminiscent of the light saber sound.

Technically there might be some similarity as to what's happening with the CRT and what a granular synthesizer does. Like how they manipulate waves.

You could perhaps experiment with a "growling bass" type of sound from some synth that's close to the lightsaber "growl" or "buzz" and then using a granular synth to read through it.


Posted 2015-10-30T21:30:48.273

Reputation: 797