Theatre Sound Technician
Theatre sound technicians set up, position and operate sound equipment for theatrical productions. Operating sound systems usually takes place from behind a console.
Also known as
- Sound Technician, Theatre
Video: - Joe: Stage Technician
In live theatre shows, sound equipment is used to amplify and balance the voices of the Actors and Singers and any musical instruments. It is also used to provide sound effects and background music.
You set up and operate this equipment. This could involve:
- choosing the most appropriate equipment and the best positions
- rigging microphones and loudspeakers in appropriate places
- connecting cables to the sound console or mixing desk
When you are working on a production, you find, or record and edit, suitable sound effects and background music. You can then prepare a sound plot with cues for when each is to be played during the show. You balance the sound and adjust the equipment, as necessary, during a technical rehearsal.
For some shows, the Performers need to have individual radio microphones. Theatre Sound Technicians fit the microphones before each performance and tell the Performers how to use them.
During performances, you operate the sound console to switch between microphones or adjust levels between them to achieve the right effect.
You are also responsible for cleaning, maintaining and repairing equipment.
If there is no Sound Designer on a production, you may design the sound, taking part in discussions with the Producer and Director.
In touring productions, you set up the equipment and test it. The equipment will usually need to be taken down after a short period, sometimes after only one night. In such cases, the you are likely to be involved in loading and unloading the equipment.
While on tour, you stay in temporary accommodation and can spend weeks away from home.
In some smaller theatres, Theatre Sound Technicians are responsible for both sound and lighting.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Theatre Sound Technician, you need:
- good, balanced hearing
- a technical knowledge of electricity and electronics
- knowledge of the capabilities of different types of sound equipment
- to pay attention to detail and understand health and safety requirements
- good communication and interpersonal skills
- to work well in a team and on your own
- to be well organised and good under pressure
- the ability to react quickly and creatively to any problems that arise
- to be able to work unsocial hours
- patience, concentration and focus
- a 'good ear' for music
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £19,000 - £21,500
- With experience: £23,500 - £28,500
- Senior Theatre Sound Technicians earn £30,500
Hours of work
Theatre Sound Technicians usually work 40 hours a week. However, early starts, late finishes, weekend work and working on public holidays, may all be required.
Where could I work?
Opportunities for Theatre Sound Technicians occur in towns and cities throughout the UK, and in major theatre production centres.
Employers are theatre companies in touring theatre, provincial theatre and London's West End. Other employers include event and exhibition promoters (both indoor and outdoor).
Opportunities occur for Theatre Sound Technicians to work abroad in touring productions.
Opportunities occur for Theatre Sound Technicians to work on a self-employed, freelance basis.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, in industry publications such as The Stage (weekly and online), on job boards, on employers' websites, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.
Theatre job vacancies are also advertised on the following websites:
- get into theatre
- arts jobs
- National Theatre
- The Guardian - theatre jobs
Entry Routes and Training
New entrants come into this career from different backgrounds, increasingly with a relevant qualification.
A limited number of HNCs/HNDs, foundation degrees and degrees are available in technical theatre. There are also a number of lower level qualifications in technical theatre.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Courses in sound design are also available.
Some highly motivated people, who have an aptitude for this sort of work, can be successful without following a recognised training course.
With or without a technical theatre qualification, you will benefit from gaining experience in amateur theatre.
The traditional entry to Technician work with pop/rock groups is to start as a 'Roadie', moving the equipment from vans into the venue and loading up again after the show. This experience may lead to acting as Assistant to the Technical Roadie and gaining enough experience to move on.
Specialist companies who hire sound equipment and staff occasionally have Runner or General Assistant vacancies or recruit Electronics/Maintenance Technicians.
Previous experience working in a related theatre area, such as electrical/lighting work or stage management is useful for this career. Others have relevant experience in the music recording industry, in studio work or electronics.
A previous background as a 'Gofer' or Runner, in theatre or the broadcast media, is also helpful.
If you would like some training, BTEC offer a level 3 qualification in production arts (stage management). This course has a range of units, which include:
- production arts planning
- deputy stage management
- stage management
- technical stage operations
- stage lighting operations
- stage sound operations
- scenic construction for the stage
- scenic painting
- special effects and animated props for the stage
- production management for live performance
Other courses could be available in your area.
The Association of British Theatre Technicians runs relevant training courses for members.
Intermediate and Advanced Level Apprenticeships may be available in your area. Take a look at our information article
Experienced Theatre Sound Technicians can progress to sound design work. It is also possible to move into technical management roles.
Entry may be possible without formal training and qualifications. However, you must have an aptitude for technical work and show that you have an active interest in the theatre.
Useful subjects for this career include engineering, applied ICT, physics, maths and media studies.
Entry requirements for technical theatre courses vary.
Relevant vocational qualifications include:
- BTEC level 3 - live sound and event management
- BTEC level 3 - production arts and technical theatre
- City & Guilds level 1, level 2 and level 3 - sound engineering and music technology
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Late entrants are often qualified and/or have skills and abilities gained while working in a related theatre area, such as electrical/lighting work or stage management. Others have relevant experience in the music recording industry, in studio work or electronics.
A previous background as a 'gofer' or runner, in theatre or the broadcast media, is useful. Working as a 'roadie' in the music industry is also a useful entry route into technician work.
Some colleges relax entry requirements for applicants with relevant experience, whether paid or unpaid.
- 55% of people in occupations such as theatre sound are self-employed.
- 22% work part-time.
- 5% have flexible hours.
- 4% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Skills for the creative industries
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Get into Theatre
Tel: 020 7452 3400
Entertainment and performing arts news
Federation of Drama Schools (FDS)
Tel: 020 7529 8794
Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT)
Address: 55 Farringdon Road, London EC1M 3JB
Tel: 020 7242 9200
Joint Audio Media Education Support (JAMES)
Address: PO Box 915, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 9FT
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844
National Theatre Wales (Welsh Enquiries)
Tel: 029 2035 3070