Sound Advice Note 9

Rehearsals and warm-ups

This is the full text of the Sound Advice Working Group specific recommendations covering rehearsals and warm-ups

9.1 Carry out a noise risk assessment and take steps to ensure that exposure to sound is reduced as much as possible during warm-ups and rehearsals. It is important that the musicians and the conductor/musical director can hear each other well without excessive loudness. There is a general duty to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable, which mean that if something can be done and it is reasonably practicable it must be done. There are various ways to achieve this.

Use a suitable venue

9.2 Make sure the venue is suitable for rehearsal. Wherever possible use a purpose-built/acoustically treated rehearsal room/hall but, if not, using a larger space might mean that noise exposure is reduced.

9.3 The most common fault with rehearsal rooms is that they lack physical volume and have low ceilings. Rooms with low ceilings and reflective parallel walls result in excessive noise and reverberation. Where possible, use a space with more height and increase the separation between players more than there will eventually be in the performance space. Aim for at least 17 m3 per person with a ceiling height of at least 7 m. This will generally provide sufficient volume for noise levels to be maintained at acceptable levels.

Mixture of repertoire

9.4 Schedule a variety of loud and quiet music during a rehearsal to reduce the overall exposure. Try and allocate noisy instruments/passages into separate rehearsals.

Quieter rehearsal levels

9.5 Aim to rehearse at a quieter overall level unless the group is trying to achieve a 'balance' in the actual performance space. Limit the time spent when trying to get a balance before returning to the quieter rehearsal level. When repeating sections to iron out problems, musicians should try to play quietly, except for those who need to be heard at full volume. Try to avoid rehearsing when extraneous noise is increasing the overall exposure to noise.


9.6 Exposure to noise can induce high stress levels in individuals. Stress should be assessed as part of the overall risk assessment. Consider allowing time-out for individual musicians and crew to manage their own stress levels by permitting them to leave the rehearsal for a short time if they are feeling extremely stressed by the noise. The conductor/musical director needs to be informed if this policy is in place. It might also mean that the seating position of one or more performers needs to be reassessed.

9.7 Ensure that non-essential people, such as riggers or cleaners, and musicians who are not actually rehearsing, are excluded from the rehearsal.

Hearing protection

9.8 Some players who might find it difficult to perform using hearing protection are quite comfortable using it during rehearsals. Using hearing protection during rehearsals could be particularly useful if loud passages are being repeatedly rehearsed (see Sound Advice Note 5 'Personal hearing protection').


9.9 Screens should only be used as determined by the noise risk assessment (see acoustic screens in Sound Advice Note 12 'Orchestras'). The positions of any screens should be noted if the stage or performance space is to be re-set between the warm- up/final rehearsal and the performance.


9.10 When rehearsing in the performance space directly before a performance, try to ensure that players are seated where they will be seated during the performance. This is so players can acclimatise themselves to the sounds they are likely to experience during the performance.

Assess and review

9.11 A rehearsal is a working environment and is part of the assessment process. Act upon feedback try and to ensure that noise-exposure problems are properly managed.

9.12 Encourage the conductor/musical director to go out front to assess volume levels as heard by the audience.


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

Exposure action values (EAV): Levels of exposure to noise at which certain actions need to be taken (see Useful information and glossary).

Freelancer: Someone who is not permanently employed full-time by any one employer. A freelancer may go through periods of self-employment or be employed by more than one employer.

Health record: Record of the person's details, work assignments and exposures, dates of any health surveillance procedures and information on the person's fitness to work in noisy environments. The record does not contain clinical details and must be kept by the employer. It is not a confidential document.

Health surveillance: For the purposes of this guidance, ongoing assessment of the state of aural health of an employee as related to exposure to noise.

Medical record: Account of a person's examination and treatment including their medical history, any medication, therapies and referrals. Medical records are confidential and may not be shown to the employer without the written consent of the individual. (see Useful information and glossary).

Musicians' Union: 60-62 Clapham Road, London SW9 0JJ. Tel: 020 7582 5566

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
  • The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. SI 2005 No 1643
    The Stationery Office 2005 ISBN 978 0 11 072984 8 (also available from
  • 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
  • Management of health and safety at work. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Approved Code of Practice and guidance L21 (Second edition)
    HSE Books 2000 ISBN 978 0 7176 2488 1
  • Noise at work: Guidance for employers on the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 Leaflet INDG362(rev1)
    HSE Books 2005 (single copy frees or priced packs of 10 ISBN 978 0 7176 6165 7)
  • 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
  • Health surveillance at work HSG61 (Second edition)
    HSE Books 1999 ISBN 978 0 7176 1705 0

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