A sound level distribution model for symphony orchestras: possibilities and limitations

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Musicians in a symphony orchestra rely on the direct and reflected sound on a concert hall stage to be able to hear each other. Besides ensemble conditions, members and directors of symphony orchestras are concerned about the noise levels musicians are exposed to. However, the actual contribution of the
different parts of the sound field cannot be derived from sound level measurements in orchestras. In this article, a prediction model is presented that can be used to investigate the distribution of the direct, early reflected, and late reflected sound from all musicians to the total sound level at a single musician’s
position. It is shown that the contributions of each different aspect to the total sound level are in the same order of magnitude. In some cases, the direct sound dominates, while in other cases, the early or late reflected sound does. Considerable variations in sound levels are found between a concert hall, rehearsal room, and orchestra pit, due to the difference in room acoustical properties. An example is presented of calculated sound levels for a violin’s position in the orchestra for the 3 halls. The results from the example show that the model has potential for studying the influence of architectural as well as acoustical aspects on the sound levels that occur in a symphonic orchestra, both from a health and musical point of view.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-239
Number of pages20
JournalPsychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2015


  • acoustic music orchestra sound level


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