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How Was The Lightsaber Sound Made In Star Wars?

This iconic sound has interesting origins.

Star Wars Attack of the Clones

Star Wars has plenty of iconic imagery, stories, and even sound scattered through the franchise, but one of the most important is the noise that the lightsabers make within the films.

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While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to your time watching Star Wars, the sound is one of its most important components. Whether it’s the lightsabers, droids, or the roar of Chewbacca, the series has introduced quite a few unique samples that will go down in history.

With the importance of lightsabers in the Star Wars universe and the distinct noise, they produce you may be wondering what created this sound. Here’s everything you need to know about the sound origins of lightsabers in Star Wars.

How Was The Lightsaber Sound Made In Star Wars?

The lightsaber sound effects in Star Wars may be some of the most captivating in the series and the idea of creating them was extremely fascinating for sound designer Ben Burtt, who put them ahead of his tasks to create voices for R2D2 and Chewbacca, making the lightsabers the first sounds he crafted on the project.

There are two main components to the lightsaber sounds that can be heard in the film. The main noise that can be heard is the idling hum of interlocking motors within old projects at the University of Southern California. 

While the hum would prove to not be enough, Burtt would accidentally stumble upon the final ingredient to the sound while carrying a live microphone past a television set. When the microphone traveled behind the television’s picture tube it emitted an odd humming noise which would prove to be the final needed part of the lightsaber sound.

In order to provide the feeling of movement within the movie, Burtt then played this sound through a large speaker which he stood in front of with a microphone capturing its audio once again while mimicking the lightsaber movements present in the film. You can see this in action at the behind-the-scenes video linked above.

Now for the clashing sounds, you hear when two lightsabers come together in battle, they were created by mixing the noise of a stick being thrust into dry ice and a vacuum cleaner.

If you were wondering what the finished product sounds like, here’s a refresher.