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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.musiciansunion.org.uk
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.