Hey all,

I'm about to start cutting some sounds for a scene taking place in Seattle. I haven't been there. For those of you who've been there or live there, is there anything I should keep in mind, definitely put in, with my BGs? Any specific kind of a sound that you always associate with the general city ambience?


2 Answers 2


Hi James,

One thing I noticed about Seattle when I recorded there was how quickly the density of downtown gives way to calmer, more residential atmospheres in such a small area.

There are parts that are dense, but not anything like New York City, for example. Even though Seattle is a major city it doesn't seem to have an intensity that matches its size.

Now, I'm not a native, but that's the impression I felt.

I have one track of the Belltown neighbourhood you can check out for reference: http://www.airbornesound.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=seattle

It's fairly close to the core but you don't hear the city drone or frenzy of a busy city.

It's also a coastal city -- so, seagulls abound. There are ferries to the islands. Perhaps that could fit in somehow?

It's unlikely that it fits with your project, but one distinctive sound is Seattle's Pike Place market. The fish mongers there sing/chant in unison whenever they make a sale. They also lob the fish through the air to each other before they pack it up. Lots of fun to watch.

Check out the fish sellers at this link: http://www.airbornesound.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=pike+place

Great city, by the way.

Best of luck with your project.


  • Thanks! That's good to know about the seagulls & closeness to the water - I had a feeling that that was the case, but couldn't remember. I wish that I could justify re-creating the fish sellers in these ones...but unfortunately, the perspective is from a high-rise hotel so it really wouldn't make any sense.
    – James
    Jul 19, 2012 at 15:55

Hi James, I live in Seattle and I've often wondered the same thing "what is the defining sound of the place I live?" As Airborne Sound pointed out it's a less intense city than other major metropolises but I wouldn't say it was quiet.
Planes unfortunately are a constant here. Sea-Tac is a major international airport, there's Boeing and dozens of other smaller airports. Flight routes radiate in every direction. This means planes of all sizes are constantly flying over the city.
We have the largest ferry system in the country and one of the largest ports. The sound of freight trains is common especially south of downtown. We have Amtrack, a light rail system, a very short monorail system, lots of city busses and downtown we have electric trolley busses which make a very distinctive sound. During the rainy season (September through June) the sound of tires on wet roads is omnipresent.
Seagulls are not uncommon but not ubiquitous either. We do have lots of crows. Especially in the evenings they travel to roost in huge groups and make quite a racket. We have a few bald eagles that frequent the parks here. Then there are those little brown birds (LBJ's as my aunt would call them - Little Brown Jobbers), I don't know their proper name but they'll fly in by the hundreds and inhabit a tree for the afternoon and make a ton of noise with their high pitch twittering.
Then of course there's the weather. It does indeed rain a lot here but it's more of a constant drizzle than a downpour. Chicago actually gets more rain per year than Seattle. They just get theirs in intense bursts where ours is spread out over the whole year. It's also quite windy here. West Seattle especially. West Seattle was actually the original city center when the city was first settled but was abandoned because of the intense wind.
I think Seattle's sound is defined more by what we don't have than what we have. We don't have crickets for example. Night time here sounds a lot like the daytime just quieter. Also, Seattlites in character tend to be fairly reserved. At concerts we all just stand around and bob our heads. We tend not to shout or talk loudly, we don't usually drive around with music blaring and we don't honk our car horns. There was a funny article on the radio recently about a woman who moved here from Georgia and thought Seattle cars had there horns disabled because no one ever used them.
I could go on and talk specific neighborhoods and times of year, but I think I've already gotten carried away and given you way more than you were probably looking for.

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