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How to become a Theatre Sound Engineer

theatre sound engineer careers

What does a Theatre Sound Engineer do?

Theatre sound engineers use sound equipment in theatres to:

  • amplify and control the voices of the performers on stage
  • balance the different instruments in an orchestra
  • balance an orchestra with singers on stage
  • provide sound effects and background music for stage productions.
They use specialised equipment, such as loudspeakers, amplifiers and computers, to create a sound mix and balanced sound. They are also responsible for maintenance and repair of this equipment.

Theatre sound engineers consult with the artistic director, sound designer and other technical staff to determine their requirements. They then select the equipment to use, install it in the most suitable places and ensure it is all working.

Before rehearsals they work from a sound plot that shows exactly what sound effects, levels and microphones are required. At rehearsals they check everything is working satisfactorily, making any adjustments necessary.

During rehearsals and performances sound engineers sit at the sound control desk operating switches and volume controls as required, according to cues from the deputy stage manager.

What's the working environment like working as a Theatre Sound Engineer?

There is no set pattern. In large theatres the basic working week is 37 to 40 hours, but longer hours are usually worked. Evening and weekend work is common; shifts may be operated to cover performances as well as daytime preparations, rehearsals and maintenance work.

Work is mainly in theatres (on stage and in the auditorium) or performance venues.

Theatre control boxes are often small with sound engineers sitting in one position for extended periods.

Working in a touring theatre company can involve extensive travel.

What does it take to become a Theatre Sound Engineer?

To be a sound engineer you should:

  • be interested in electronics, music and sound equipment
  • be aware of health and safety issues relating to safe sound limits and amplification
  • be computer literate
  • have the ability to keep focused on a sequence of operations
  • have patience, as rehearsals can be long and arduous
  • be able to work within a team
  • have a musical ear, the ability to read music is also useful.

Theatre Sound Engineer Career Opportunities

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Theatre Sound Engineer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Association of British Theatre Technicians
55 Farringdon Road
Tel: 020 7242 9200

Professional Lighting and Sound Association
38 St Leonards Road
East Sussex
BN21 3UT
Tel: 01323 410335

National Council for Drama Training
1-7 Woburn Walk
Tel: 020 7387 3650


Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0808 100 8094 for Scotland

Prospect House
80-110 New Oxford Street

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
373-377 Clapham Road

Courses to help you become a Theatre Sound Engineer