Concert Halls and Theatres

What do you need to do?

Layout and position

  • Varying layouts of performers in a concert hall or orchestra pit is an effective control measure, because it may:
    • provide the appropriate distance and height between players
    • help to reduce the effect on other performers of sound levels produced by the noisiest sections
  • The ideal space per person is two square metres. However, a space of 1.7m² per musician in an orchestra pit is regarded as good
  • Positioning is especially important in the confined space of orchestra pits and concert halls with low ceilings.

To vary the layout, try to:

  • Rotate seating positions, so that individuals share exposure
  • Keep a clear gap at the front of stage or the platform - the floor surface may help reflect the higher frequencies towards the audience. This may allow players, particularly the strings, to play at a slightly lower level
  • Leave a couple of metres between the percussion section and other performers
  • Avoid having side-drum heads and suspended cymbals level with the ear of the players seated in front
  • Build upwards rather than out - placing brass and woodwind players on risers. Consult Noise control measures.

For some programmes, you may be able to place the noisiest instruments in one area of the stage. The rest of the performers can be remote from that group or behind screens. However, you may need to measure the noise so as not to place musicians at particular risk.

Where amplification is used, sound equipment should be selected by a sound designer, loudspeakers placed strategically and monitor speakers raised off the floor.

Orchestra pits

Positioning is especially crucial in orchestra pits and concert halls because:

  • they are often very confined spaces
  • the musicians are often playing direct into each other's and the conductor's ears
  • musicians play louder to compensate
  • the low, overhanging ceilings prevent sufficient sound escaping to the audience

You'll find more detailed information in:

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