Designing the sound for WordWhile (part 1)

In keeping with the Victorian/19th century styling of WordWhile, I found a British music hall song from that era with a melody I liked (I know enough music theory for that), namely “Going to the Derby in a Four-In-Hand”.  The song is in the public domain, but I needed a recording for commercial use.  Through the freelancing site People Per Hour, I found Abigail J. Fox (, a musician, composer and delightful collaborator, to arrange and record the opening bars of the song (which became the WordWhile intro music) and three other short pieces inspired by the song and suitable for use as background music.

For sound samples, I went to SoundSnap.  The prices were reasonable (about $2 a recording), the selection is huge and the license was perfect was my intended use (in an app).  What to search for?  “Victorian” was not helpful but “steampunk”…jackpot!  Many of the sounds were from Rebecca Parnell’s library on SoundSnap.  Just SO many greats sounds for games.  Productive searches were “sound design alert” and “sound design notification”

In the prototype, I just threw in whatever sound effects I could grab as place holders and the sound levels were all over the place, so I wanted to address that issue as well.

This post explained the use of the “Normalization” effect in Audacity (I searched for “how to make two sound play at the same volume” and this was the third hit).  This is what is called “peak normalization” and a search for “suggested peak amplitude for sound mobile games” lead me straight to this exchange on reddit’s Game Audio forum where -3 dB seemed like a value people were comfortable with.  At -3 dB peak amplitude (as opposed to RMS amplitude), samples play at a comfortable level with the volume adjusted in the midrange.