I'm sound designing a production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which is set in the 1960's, and part of the director's vision is to create the ambiance of a beehive. In my design I try to achieve this by blending every day sounds one would hear in an office to create a sort of 'buzz'; however, I don't have a great deal of experience with office sounds before the computer age. I mean there's the obvious (typewriter keys) but I want to include a wide range of sounds from the time period that might resonate with the audience, which generally has quite a few older patrons. Any suggestions?

5 Answers 5


this is fun: http://www.yesterdaysoffice.com/

I recently went to an antique shop and managed to get one of the vendors to rent me some of the crazy machines he had in his booth. I got the antique typewriter of course, but I also got a burroughs protectograph and a remington adding machine from right around the dawn of electricity.

3 hours and $25 later I was waaaay covered with those machines. Depending on your timeline that could be an option as well.

alt text http://www.webstore.com/cache/cache_500_1_1_img_2168897_4b5f1477c4a7663377b0e2e96b98a7bejpg.img alt text

  • @Rene, GREAT idea to rent from a shop like that - never really occurred to me! Helps them out plus you don't end up with props cluttering up your studio. Any chance we could hear some samples of what you recorded? Sep 13, 2011 at 16:08
  • oh that's coming....
    – Rene
    Sep 13, 2011 at 20:31

manual/electric typewriters, electric calculating machine, filing cabinets, telephones, intercoms, punch machines, manual tabulation machines, teletype machine, Xerox 914 Copier, electric cooling fans, electric heaters, electric pencil sharpener, pa system, paper shuffling, writing, etc.


Vintage phone rings - and I'm not sure if they had any button-dial phones yet so also I would try some manual circular-dial phones.

Also, typewriters were quite prevalent back then so place them in throughout and I think with the other great suggestions you'll have a winning combination.

Also, and I think most importantly, is that people spoke differently back then. Watch out for the ADR call-outs or loop groups you decide to put in there because if they're too modern-sounding, it might throw you right out of the moment.

I also remember doing research for a 50's show I did not too long ago and the men usually wore stiff-wood or wing-tip shoes to work and those definitely sound different than a soft leather shoe footstep.


People writing on paper, and smoking indoors. (Also, incredibly sexist gender roles...)


Time to watch Mad Men and advance that 10 years in your imagination.

Also for great reference to office sounds - The Wire.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.