Sound operator

A sound operator


Sound operators control the sound of a performance based on the artistic or creative concept, in interaction with the performers. Their work is influenced by and influences the results of other operators. Therefore, the operators work closely together with the designers and performers. They prepare audio fragments, supervise the setup, steer the technical crew, program the equipment and operate the sound system. Their work is based on plans, instructions and other documentation.

Excludes people performing media or broadcast activities.

The duties of a sound operator include, but are not limited to:

  • Preparing and operating sound equipment.
  • Setting up and breaking down audio equipment.
  • Running audio equipment and checking that everything is properly connected.
  • Testing audio equipment for volume, tone, and clarity.
  • Evaluating audio equipment for repair and maintenance.
  • Operating mixing consoles and adjusting sounds and volumes when necessary.
  • Ensuring customers are happy with the sound quality and the set up of the audio equipment.
  • Recommending equipment and software upgrades when necessary.
  • Collaborating with other audio technicians.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to sound operator:

sound board technician
sound board operator
audio operator
audio board operator
sound audio technician
sound mixer

Minimum qualifications

While a formal educational credential is not necessary to become a sound operator, it’s important to show a good understanding of the physics of sound, technical aptitude (including an awareness of current sound technology and equipment), good aural skills, excellent communication skills and attention to detail.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Sound operator is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Sound operator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to sound operator.

audio production technician
followspot operator
video operator
video technician
sound designer

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of sound operator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of sound operator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

mask maker
video designer
puppet designer
disc jockey
programme funding manager

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of sound operator.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sound operator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Monitor developments in technology used for design: Identify and explore recent developments in technology and materials used in the live performance industry, in order to create an up-to-date technical background for one’s personal design work.
  • Lead a team: Lead, supervise and motivate a group of people, in order to meet the expected results within a given timeline and with the foreseen resources in mind.
  • Provide documentation: Prepare and distribute documentation to ensure all people involved in the production receive relevant and up-to-date information.
  • Prevent undesired changes to sound design: Adapt your maintenance of sound equipment to prevent undesired changes in the sound balance and design, safeguarding the overall production quality.
  • Ensure safety of mobile electrical systems: Take the necessary precautions while providing temporary power distribution independently. Measure and power up an installation.
  • Perform technical sound check: Prepare and run a technical sound check before rehearsals or live shows. Check instrument setup and ensure correct functioning of the audio equipment. Anticipate possible technical problems during a live show.
  • Update design results during rehearsals: Updating the design results based on observation of the stage image during the rehearsals, especially where the different designs and the action are integrated.
  • Fit up sound on stage: Set up, rig, connect, test and tune audio equipment on stage.
  • Technically design a sound system: Set up, test and operate a complex audio system, based on a given sound concept. This could be a permanent as well as a temporary installation.
  • Plan teamwork: Plan the working schedule of a group of people in order to meet all time and quality requirements.
  • Assemble performance equipment: Set up sound, light and video equipment on stage before performance event according to specifications.
  • Advise client on technical possibilities: Recommend technical solutions, including systems, to the client within the framework of a project.
  • Coach staff for running the performance: Give instructions to all team members about how they should run the performance.
  • Draw up instrument setup: Document musical instrument setup.
  • Keep personal administration: File and organise personal administration documents comprehensively.
  • Promote yourself: Market one’s own strengths in terms of skills and knowledge.
  • Develop professional network: Reach out to and meet up with people in a professional context. Find common ground and use your contacts for mutual benefit. Keep track of the people in your personal professional network and stay up to date on their activities.
  • Adapt existing designs to changed circumstances: Adapt an existing design to changed circumstances and ensure that the artistic quality of the original design is reflected in the final result.
  • Document your own practice: Documenting your own work practice for different purposes like assessment, time management, job application etc.
  • Read musical score: Read the musical score during rehearsal and live performance.
  • Maintain sound equipment: Set up, check, maintain and repair sound equipment for a live performance establishment.
  • Maintain system layout for a production: Establish a workable layout for the system you manage and maintain it for the duration of a production.
  • Store performance equipment: Safely dismantle sound, light and video equipment after a performance event. Make sure the equipment is correctly stored away.
  • Set up equipment in a timely manner: Make sure to set up equipment according to deadlines and time schedules.
  • Follow safety procedures when working at heights: Take necessary precautions and follow a set of measures that assess, prevent and tackle risks when working at a high distance from the ground. Prevent endangering people working under these structures and avoid falls from ladders, mobile scaffolding, fixed working bridges, single person lifts etc. since they may cause fatalities or major injuries.
  • Tune up wireless audio systems: Tune up a wireless audio system in a live situation.

ISCO group and title

3521 – Broadcasting and audiovisual technicians

  1. Sound operator – ESCO
  2. Audio Technician Job Description – Betterteam
  3. Featured image: Photo by Antony Trivet from Pexels
Last updated on February 24, 2023

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