How Did They Make the Sound Effects of Lightsabers?

The famous Star Wars worlds feature intense galactic battles and epic one-on-one fights that live on in the memories of fans across the globe. But nothing makes these movies stand out more than the classic weapon wielded by both the Jedi and members of the Dark Side: the Lightsaber

The lightsaber is both ferocious and intimate. It is a beam of light in flashing colors that can cut off an opponent’s hand. Lightsaber fights are like slow-dancing - mesmerizing, exciting, and brilliantly graceful. 

But while so much has gone into taking lightsabers apart and detailing all they are and all they can do, little attention is focused on the unique sound these weapons make. This sound is light, energy, and power all at once. It is interesting to note where it came from and other facts surrounding it.

How Is the Noise a Lightsaber Makes Spelled?

Hummmm...whirrrr...tchowwwwww! Woowww..wowww..wowww..

Fans are divided when it comes to how to spell a lightsaber’s noise. In fact, there is a discussion board online full of enthusiasts listing down their interpretations of this fantastic sound - there are over 2,000 comments on the board! 

Some say a resting lightsaber has a sound that goes like, ‘Nnnnnnn.’

When being dropped on a floor, the material of the flooring determines the sound: Bang for metal flooring and Thuk for wooden flooring. 

When one lightsaber collides with another in a fight? KKKKSSSSHHH or BJJJJJ or Wowwwww. 

When this question was taken to Dr. Ellen Broselow, professor of linguistics, she agreed that the spelling of the sound is open to interpretation. Like all non-human sounds, she said, there are no exact symbols to portray it. This is good news for fans who want to use their imagination to come up with bizarre and fun spellings for every sound a lightsaber makes.

What Was the Original Lightsaber Sound in Star Wars Like?

Star Wars movies have been around since the ‘70s, and along with them, the iconic lightsaber and its dramatic sound. It is interesting to note that the sound the lightsabers made in the older movies is the same as that of the newer movies. What has changed is how this sound is created.

How Was the Sound Created?

When sound designer Ben Burtt was assigned to create the distinct noise of the lightsaber, he had an interesting problem in front of him. The Star Wars movies had not yet been shot, and all he had to rely on were a few pictures of dark images wielding sword-like weapons that held an unearthly glow within them.

Burtt used these pictures to enter the world of the Jedi and the Sith and subconsciously heard the sound the lightsabers made as they swished through the air and crashed against each other. But the sound itself was finally created through a mixture of memory, genius, and accident. 

When Burtt was in college, he was often put in charge of a projection booth for the school. What he remembered from the experience, among many things, was the sound the projector motors made: a consistent thrumming sound full of energy. As he worked on the lightsaber sound, this humming came back to him and he envisioned a resting lightsaber emitting this gravelly thrum of static. 

But it was not enough. Lightsabers needed to sound different when they were in action. Burtt puzzled over how to create this sense of drama until one day, he came upon a solution by accident. 

This happened as he was walking by a television set, holding a microphone that hadn’t been turned off. As he passed the set, a strange sound emerged: a buzz that he quickly noticed and recorded. He then combined this noise with the sound of the humming projector motors, thus perfecting the basic sound of the lightsaber. 

In order to create the energy-spazzed zing of clashing lightsabers, Burtt then recorded moving microphones to add a sense of motion to the sound.

How Are the Sounds of a Lightsaber Replica/Toy Made?

The fame of the Star Wars trilogy (and the many more modern Star Wars movies) was, not surprisingly, followed by a wake of almost-real lightsaber replicas and toys. Naturally, these toys had to seem authentic, with real lights and, of course, the beloved energy of the lightsaber sound.

Technology has advanced dramatically since the first Star Wars movies and the first toys to pop out in the market. Today, it is entirely possible to get lightsaber toys and replicas which aren’t far from what a real lightsaber would be.

Taking a lightsaber toy apart is the easiest way to find out how lightsaber toy sounds are made. Within the handle of the toy, one can find a speaker, button, and soundboard. These three work together to produce the lightsaber sound at the will of the person who wields the toy. 

Lightsabers have their own place in history. Knowing the facts behind their iconic sounds gives fans another reason to love them.

  • Updated October 28, 2019
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