This is the fourth in a list of 6 fact sheets that can be copied onto your office letterhead and provided to musicians. There will be one that relates to each musician instrument, and this one is obviously (as can be seen in the title) about school band teachers. These are used in the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada (www.musiciansclinics.com) and I would appreciate citing the source of this information if you choose to use them as one of your clinic handouts. Like all information sheets this, and those that follow, can be used as part of the counseling session.
Several inexpensive modifications can be made to school classrooms and portables. Such venues may not be optimal for use as music rooms. These modifications can be accomplished without any special technical knowledge. In addition, other modifications can be made by acoustical engineers. While this second option may be costly, many of the recommendations made by acoustical engineers may yield dramatically improved acoustic environments.
• Trumpets and other treble brass instruments should be placed on risers. Most of the damaging energy of the trumpet is in the higher frequency ranges, and these high-frequency treble notes tend to emanate from the bell of the trumpet like a laser beam. That is, high-frequency damaging sounds will tend to go over the heads of those other musicians downwind. In addition, the trumpet players will not need to play as hard for their sound to be heard clearly. And by the time the trumpet sound reaches the conductor, the levels are not nearly as damaging as for those immediately in front of the trumpets.
• A highly reflective surface, such as a blackboard, behind the teacher/conductor is the worst possible wall covering. High-frequency sounds tend to reflect off such surfaces thereby adding to the overall intensity level in the room. Moveable drapes or thick curtains can be hung over the blackboard (or concrete wall) to absorb these unwanted reflections. They can then be pulled aside when the blackboard is being used.
• Carpeting can be used at the front of the room where the conductor stands. Not only will this absorb some of the undesirable reflections, but will also allow the music teacher to stand for longer periods of time without backaches.
• 3-D relief art (from the Art Department) would make an excellent wall covering for the side walls of the music room. In this location, the art will not be visually distracting and at the same time absorb many of the undesirable mid- and high-frequency reflections.
• There are now custom made tuned earplugs that many musicians and music teachers are using called the ER-15 earplugs. These allow all of the music to be attenuated (lessened in energy) equally across the full range of musical sounds. That is, the low-bass notes are treated identically to the mid-range and high-frequency treble notes. The balance of music is therefore not altered. These earplugs have been in wide use since the late 1980s.
• The human ear is much like any other body part- too much use and it may be damaged. The ear takes about 16 hours to “reset”. After attending a rock concert or a loud session at school you may notice reduced hearing and/or tinnitus (ringing) in your ears. And if your hearing was assessed immediately after the concert, one would find a temporary hearing loss. After 16 hours however, your hearing should return to its “baseline” (hopefully normal) level. After a loud session or concert, don’t practice for 16-18 hours. Also, its a good excuse not to mow your lawn for a day or two!