Measuring Sound Intensities of Instruments to Determine Optimal Placement

In a general orchestra or band, the woodwind and string instruments are placed closest to the audience, and the brass and percussion instruments are placed furthest from the audience. However, this set-up could be improved upon. This experiment tested the sound intensities, measured in decibels (dB), of four instruments (flute, guitar, piano, and trumpet) to determine the best placement of the instruments in a performance setting. To do so, the sound intensities of each instrument at 3, 6, and 12 meters were measured using a sound level meter. The instruments were played at a Bb concert note. The instrument was played three times, with the sound intensity meter at each of the three distances. This was repeated thirty times for each instrument, totaling one-hundred twenty trials. The means of each data set (i.e. flute at 3 meters, flute at 6 meters, etc.) were compared to each other. The guitar was found to have the lowest sound intensity overall, and the trumpet was found to have the greatest sound intensity overall; suggesting the guitar should be placed closer to the audience than the other instruments, and the trumpet should be placed furthest from the audience. When the guitar and trumpet are placed at these locations, they will have the same sound intensity, and therefore improve the sound quality of the performance.

Research Conducted By:

Emily Vo
Warren Mott High School

Bridgette Wolf
Fraser High School