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Hi,

Could anyone give me a quick rundown on what the desert in Arizona sounds like? e.g. are there crickets? any particular types of birds, or any other distinctive sounds to that part of the world. Any links to references or suggestions would be highly appreciated.

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A big hawk cry! –  Utopia Mar 25 '11 at 7:14
    
Since Crickets graze on "grassy" items I doubt they have many Crickets or Grasshoppers. I live in Colorado though, so I could be a slight bit wrong. I'd imagine most or Arizone "desert" sounds mostly like just ambient wind depending on the season. In populated areas, like any other US suburban community, minus the grass grazing insects. –  Syndicate Synthetique Mar 25 '11 at 8:06
    
@Utopia haha - you can hear that Hawk cry from Animal Trax in almost everytime there's desert. –  RedSonic01 Mar 26 '11 at 5:03
    
@RedSonic01 That was my point ;) –  Utopia Apr 18 '11 at 19:21
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7 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I actually did a short set in the Arizona desert, having never heard it before. I watched a bunch of youtube videos, and all that came from that was the cactus wren, which is a pretty cool sounding bird.

Then i threw in some distant highway; the odd slow, lingering plane pass; wind in brush; wind on sand; a little wind on the mic for effect. I also had a lone cricket in places, but that was more because the film was set at dawn than anything.

The director said it was pretty spot on. If your location recordist got any wilds or atmos tracks, that would give you some great reference.

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Interesting timing: I just spent a week in the desert on the California-Arizona border.

You didn't mention time of year or day, which are big factors. If there are any flowers in bloom (spring), bees will be everywhere. Mornings will definitely have birdsong. Depends on the altitude, too, and terrain; there'll be some life everywhere unless, as stated before, it's dunes, but that's rare terrain. Frogs and crickets you'll hear mostly at night, near water and non-succulent plants, respectively, both of which can be scarce. (Make no mistake, the smallest water-filled hole can scream with frogsong after dark.) Raptors inhabit both open and mountainous desert terrain, including owls, and ravens are also common (stay away from that DAMN HAWK! :-p). Coyotes at night for sure. Lizards will often make all sorts of skittery movement sounds as humans (or any threats) approach. And, of course, wind in the bushes, and the scouring of wind-borne sand when things get really blustery (especially across roads).

Don't forget to keep altitude in mind; Arizona has quite a lot of variation in the height of its terrain!

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Wow - great information. Thank you! –  Utopia Apr 21 '11 at 5:17
    
Sure thing! :-) –  NoiseJockey Apr 21 '11 at 14:17
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I have some video with audio recorded on an iPhone of the AZ low desert. It's during the day. Mostly wind noise. I went 4 wheeling all over the desert with my brother inlaw in November. What I noticed during the day was wind and a few jets flying by really high. At night coyotes and wind and a few critters here and there. Pretty peaceful.

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@Ryanhdd coyotes - nice - hadn't thought of that. –  RedSonic01 Mar 26 '11 at 5:04
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I recorded in White Sands National Monument once. It's in New Mexico of course but generally the same area.

It was completely dead. Only a few twittering birds in the distance, the occassional airplane flying over and that was it.

Waited for hours, no substantial change.

Paul

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millions of years ago, it sounded like an ocean

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and it still sounds like an indian chant –  Chris Apr 18 '11 at 22:33
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hmm i think that the majority of people have not been to the Arizona desert so you could design from a blank canvas and most wouldn't question it. I dont live too far from the Nullabor desert (Western Australia) and it doesn't make an incredible amount of sound, but at different times of the day/night the dynamics of the sound changes. Morning you hear lots of birds of numerous kinds.. Nighttime you mostly hear mosquitos, wind through the bush,, up close you can hear lizards/skinks etc.. scuttling about the place. Its very calming, but also eerie, depending on your perspective of design.

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Ssssssshhhhhheeeeeeeeooooooooowwww.

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You may have just invented an online sound-geek's past-time called "Sonic Onomatopoeia Charades". –  Utopia Apr 21 '11 at 5:19
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