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Instruments in both the general music room and in the instrumental music room can generate high sound levels. In fact, the sound levels in rooms that are too small can permanently damage an educator’s hearing over time. These rooms must be designed with enough cubic volume to accommodate all the sound energy that is produced.

INCORRECT Ceiling Height too Low

This chart shows some basic guidelines for general music class sizes of 25-30, choirs of 65-70 and bands of 45-50. If the class size of choir, band or orchestra differs significantly, you can generally add or subtract 300 cubic feet for each singer and 500 cubic feet for each instrumentalist.

PREFERRED Proper Ceiling Height







One of the primary issues that makes music education unique is the importance of sound. After all, music is sound and music is learned by listening. Because of this, there is no other area in the school where the acoustic environment is more critical. To study music, students must learn to hear and understand differences in tone, tempo, pitch, articulation and sounds that are in-tune or out-of-tune (intonation). This is called “critical listening” and it is through this skill that musicianship is developed.

Excellent acoustics are a function of four related elements:

  • 1.

    Cubic volume and shape

  • 2.

    Sound isolation between rooms

  • 3.

    Acoustical treatment

  • 4.

    Efficient mechanical systems

Adequate cubic volume is the most basic acoustical requirement in a music area. Good ceiling height combined with enough square footage provides surfaces that are far enough apart to delay primary sound reflections. This delay gives musicians a sense of the sound they have just produced. This is called “response,” and without good response, a singer or instrumentalist can’t hear if they are in-tune, balanced with the group or producing good tone.

Rule-of-Thumb for: Ceiling Height/Cubic Volume

The angles of the walls are also important acoustical factors. Untreated parallel walls will cause flutter echo, an undesirable ringing or buzzing. Flutter echoes can be acoustically treated with sound diffusing and absorbing panels. Diffuser panels scatter and blend sound with reflective, irregular surfaces. Absorber panels reduce sound levels with soft, porous surfaces.

CEILING HEIGHT 12-16 ft. 14 -18 ft.

ACTIVITY General Music/Choral Band/Orchestra

CUBIC VOLUME 17,000 -20,000 cu. ft. 19,000 -25,000 cu. ft.

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