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Noise control, venue insulation and funding to help

You'll Discover:

  • Grant and funding opportunities to assist with noise insulation.
  • Insulating your venue to reduce sound spill.
  • How to make music ‘feel’ loud, without exceeding noise limits or health and safety.
  • Making the most of your PA, and amp placement and monitors.

Not only is this important for venues, but it’s crucial for performers to learn how to keep sound under control without compromising the vibe of the event.

Positioning and controlling venue in-house sound systems, live performance P.A.'s and amplifiers is key to delivering a great venue experience.

Once you've made the best of that, noise insulation options can be assessed and implemented.

It’s useful for venues to instruct new performers on techniques that suit your venue so everyone is on board.


Venue Speakers: great sound at lower volume

Venue noise insulation won’t help much if your internal sound isn’t set up right. Some concepts may seem obvious, but are worth reviewing...

PA Speakers

  • If you can, position speakers away from windows and doors, to reduce noise leakage.
  • Avoid placing the back of speakers too close to external windows, as bass frequencies will push through the glass.
  • Consider placing baffling between speakers and external walls, and do an SPL test outside to see if you get a reduction.
  • Point speakers directly at audience as opposed to above their heads.
  • If you have a long room - and are concerned those at the back won’t hear - raise speakers above head-height of the front row and angle down. This will ensure that the sound is hitting peoples ears, and is partially absorbed by their bodies, rather than reverberating from wall to wall and spilling.
  • More PA speakers, placed around the room and running at lower volume, is better than less. It also provides a clearer sound.

Diagram showing suggestion for PA speaker position on stage. 2 PA speakers are at the front of stage, one of left, one on the right.
Speaker positioning example courtesy of EMusician.

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Amplifiers: great sound at lower volume

As many venues have shared with us, it can be challenging to strike a balance between the volume that artists need to deliver a great performance, and suitable sound levels for patrons and the venue. It's all about educating performers to reduce volume without compromising sound quality or restricting the types of acts you can accommodate.

That's why instrument amp placement is crucial!

Rather than letting performers simply place amps flat on the floor - as most do - it’s best to lean amps up towards the performers heads. Get a tilt back stand, lean it against a wall, or place it on or against crates to raise up or lean.

Image shows a marshall guitar amplifier on a stand that allows it to lean and face diagonally upwards.
Amplifier Stand leaning a Marshall guitar Amp up

You can get Amp stands for as little as $30, or see how to DIY your own here using a milk crate:

Image shows a milk crate that has been modified so an amp can sit in it and on an angle so that it is pointing upwards.
Milk crate modified to be a leaning amplifier stand.

Some musicians won’t like leaning their amp, but here’s why it’s a crucial step in reducing and controlling noise:

Most instrument amplifiers are designed for large stages that are raised and deep. Amps sit on the floor of the stage, and ‘throw the sound’ several metres directly in front of them to where the musician is standing, and the audience’s heads are.

Image shows a large stage with a band playing in front of a crowd.
Band performing on a larger stage.

But the majority of small-medium venues do not have raised, deep stages!

That means the amp is sending sound to the performer’s feet. Performers compensate by turning their amps up too loud, and often add too much treble to try to get a clearer sound.

If the amp is angled up towards the performers head:

  • They’ll hear more.

  • Be more inclined to keep volume at acceptable levels.
  • Set their EQ with more clarity/less ear splitting treble.
  • Play better.

  • Match volume to other band members, reducing volume creep.

Importantly, it gives the sound engineer the option to hang a mic over the amp and feed a little of the instrument amp into the PA (and stage monitors) if needed.

Finally, face the amps diagonally across the stage, not directly outwards. This way the performers get more of the sound than the patrons.

This technique is great to apply to loud guitarists and keyboard amps, but not as necessary for bass guitar amps (which are not as directional in their sound).

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Stage monitors to make further reductions

It’s often more important that the performers get the loudest (safe) sound, rather than blasting patrons.

Leaning amps will help, but correct use of stage monitors at the performers feet is also important:

  • The more stage monitors is better: you can spread them around stage to target performers ears and therefore set to lower volume.
  • Consider miking instrument amps and feeding some into stage monitors: leaning amps will probably solve this, but in small venues it’s better that the amps are quieter and the engineer can control their sound through the PA, while feeding a little back through the monitors if the band needs it.
  • If the drummer needs to play quieter than the band is used to: In small venues sometimes it's necessary to instruct drummers to use lighter sticks and play softer to keep within noise limits. If so add a little kick drum to monitors. That can make the drummer feel less like they need to play as hard, while providing a clearer beat for performers to keep in time.
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Noise insulation

  • Doors and windows should be properly sealed with high quality sealants. A surprising amount of noise simply leaks under doors, through old window glass, and if they’re ajar.
  • Use thick materials like baffles or open-cell foams, particularly in corners where low frequencies can collect, as well as on the walls and ceiling.

An image of an open-cell foam tile that can be used for noise insulation in a venue. It is square, black, with large craters.
Open-cell foam tile.

  • If you have access to the venue’s internal ceiling or walls replace traditional insulation batts with sound absorption batts (below). They are much cheaper than open-cell foam, provide temperature insulation, and claim to reduce noise transfer by up to 75%. Onto It Media has road tested these in recording studios with good results.

Image shows a roll of sound absorption batts used to insulate a wall or floor to reduce noise emissions.
Bradford SoundScreen Acoustic Insulation Batts - used in ceilings.

  • Carpet absorbs more sound than floorboards, so assess how you can lay carpet or rugs strategically in your venue.

The Live Music Office have a great resource on their website which goes into all of these points, and more, in detail. Check it out here.

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What to avoid when controlling noise spill

  • Relying on curtains to reduce sound leakage from windows.
  • Using empty egg cartons as baffles/sound proofing panels.
  • Leaving windows and doors open that lead outdoors.

As stated before, the Live Music Office article is a great source of detail on this. There is also a great article on The Conversation that goes through common mistakes and suggestions for insulating your venue.

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Grants & funding to assist noise insulation

City of Sydney - Live music and performance grants

You can apply for up to $30,000 matched cash funding for projects.

Funding is available to existing and new venues for capital investments (such as works or equipment) that will:

  • Help venues manage sound transfer to surrounding properties, or improve audience experience.
  • Allow a business to introduce new live music or performance programming.
  • Help an existing venue improve or significantly expand their existing programming.
  • Improve the in-venue health and safety of audiences, performers and venue staff.  

Find out more and apply via the website.

City of Sydney quick response grants

These grants are defined by the City of Sydney as “essential emergency support for community, cultural or sustainability projects, strictly for situations that couldn’t be foreseen”.

They can provide up to $2000 per year in emergency project or strategic priorities support.

Find out more and apply via the website.

Office of Environment & Heritage grants

If your venue happens to be in a heritage listed building or structure, you might be eligible for a heritage grant or funding.

You can read up on the details and find the application form via the website.

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Find out more about noise insulation tips and grant opportunities via these links:

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