This is a question i often ask to myself, when i need to design the sound of a city on many commercials :

What interesting elements can i bring in a modern city soundscape, that are evocative or beautiful enough and that would not afraid advertising agencies.

For example, there's a lot of interesting sounds that i can use in features but not in commercials

Sirens, Honks : Anxyogen (dixit the agency...)

Dogs : anxyogen (dixit the agency...)

Trains, planes : anxyogen (dixit the agency...)

Birds : "It's a city, there's no birds" (dixit the agency)

and so on :-(

So generally, i end up with distant traffic, subtle car passes, a tramway pass ringing bell, bicycle pass, high heels footsteps, and birds at very low level. Sometimes if it's possible a distant Women Voice announcement in an airport or a station.

Do you have ideas of cool or classy sounds to enrich this too small list ?

3 Answers 3


This is not my forte by any means, but a few thoughts come to mind...

  • Air traffic. Planes, helicopters? You did mention planes though...
  • Water fountain?
  • Music? playing in passing cars, out a window
  • Conversations?
  • Utilities? steam vents, transformer buzz?
  • Street vendors? calling out wares etc.

Not sure how many of these would fall under the 'anxiety inducing' category. Most cityscape sounds could be considered anxiety inducing though by someone. Perhaps, to impart a soothing feeling, you'd need to pull in sounds not from a city. Not sure how the disconnect would play out though.


Ding dong! Metro/subway/train doors opening, is one of my favorite city sounds.

But I'm assuming you're dealing with exterior shots based on the ideas you've thrown out already.

How about that muffled bassy thump that you can hear in a passing car or outside a club? That's the "pulse" of the city, and it's never far away even in the middle of the day.

Humans, walla walla, throw in some laughter.

Street sweeping trucks, people hosing down sidewalks, fountains(!) make sweeping beautiful sounds at times.

Food frying in food trucks, shouts of vendors.

If they don't like honks, they probably won't like the beep of a garbage truck or all of its awesome sounds, or construction, but I think those sounds can be beautiful too. Actually that high pitched beep is associated with energy/progress/construction/men at work not with emergencies or anger (honking) so it might not be considered anxiety-inducing.

(Several of these already appeared in Josh's list! Oops, so just adding my angle I guess.)


Additionally to JoshP's suggestions, general energetic crowd noises and street musicians can add character.

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