Sound Advice Note 14

Stage bands
On-stage and off-stage bands and choruses in theatrical performances

This is the full text of the Sound Advice Working Group specific recommendations covering on-stage and off-stage bands and choruses in theatrical performances.


14.1 In this advice the term 'artists' refers to performers (and, where relevant, to other workers such as stage-management staff) on stageother than bands. The term 'bands' includes orchestras, ensembles and groups. See also Sound Advice Note 12 'Orchestras'.Orchestra pits are covered in Sound Advice Note 13 'Orchestra pits'. Sound Advice Note 15 'Studio'' may also be helpful.

14.2 Siting the band on stage can contribute to the noise exposure of the artists and is best avoided unless their location is regarded as essential to the artistic requirements of the production. Always carefully consider the positioning of the on-stage band in relation to other artists. Other possible locations for the band, for example galleries or in the auditorium, may be appropriate.

Control measures

On stage bands

14.3 Possible control measures include:

  • minimising the volume levels produced by the band/orchestra. This could mean producing less volume and/or using physical elements such as absorbent material and screens;
  • maximising the distances between the band/orchestra and artists;
  • positioning the band and/or artists at different heights;
  • where an artist is positioned close to a high level of noise, consider rotating positions

14.4 Differences between on-stage bands in a musical and on-stage orchestras in an opera should also be taken into account, for example, a West End musical will be performed eight times a week, but the band will usually be amplified so sound levels can be managed through the amplification process. On-stage orchestras in an opera will not usually be amplified, but the opera may not be performed every night.

Off-stage bands and off-stage musical instruments

14.5 The same considerations and possible control measures apply to off-stage bands as to on-stage bands. Also consider the location of the bands/instruments to minimise the impact on artists. For example where the music is amplified, the off-stage bands/instruments could be remote from the stage.

On and off-stage-choruses

14.6 Consider the effect of chorus noise levels on other artists on stage. The same considerations and possible measures apply as those to orchestras/bands on stage.

14.7 Choral volume should be regularly monitored to minimise the effects of noise levels produced by individual singers on each other without compromising the overall balance of sound.

Fold-back monitors

14.8 Take steps to ensure that the noise levels of fold-back monitors are as low as possible. Volume levels may need to be adjusted to suit the specific requirements of the artists at different times in the course of the performance and should not be set at a fixed level for the duration of the performance.

Persistent sources of noise

14.9 Consider rotating or varying the positions of artists close to sources of persistently loud noise such as other artists, musical instruments or special effects.


For a more detailed explanation of terms see Useful information and glossary.

Fold-back Loudspeakers sited near performers to allow them to hear specific sounds which would otherwise be too quiet, for example for a singer on stage to hear a pit orchestra. Includes onstage monitors and side fills.

Noise exposure 'The noise dose', which can be calculated, takes account of the actual volume of sound and how long it continues. Noise exposure is not the same as sound level, which is the level of noise measured at a particular moment.


  • Control of noise in the music entertainment industry. Code of practice Worksafe Western Australia Commission 2003
  • Controlling noise at work. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Guidance on Regulations L108 (Second edition) HSE Books 2005 ISBN 978 0 7176 6164 0
  • Listen while you work: Hearing conservation for the arts for performers and other workers in art and entertainment Safety & Health in Arts Production & Entertainment (SHAPE), Canada 2001 ISBN 978 0 7726 4643 9
  • Noise at work: Guidance for employers on the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. INDG362(rev1) HSE Books 2005 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 0 7176 6166 2)
  • Protect your hearing or lose it! Pocket card INDG363(rev1) HSE Books 2005 (single copy free or priced packs of 25 ISBN 978 0 7176 6166 4)

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