When UKFR started in 1999, the idea of having a quiet display was not something that often crossed an enthusiast’s mind. How times have changed! There are now more – and better – quieter fireworks available than ever before. As a result, a quiet display is no longer an inferior alternative to a noisy one.
When to keep quiet
Experienced displayers understand all too well that too many bangs can spoil the broth. Here are some examples of when a quiet display could be useful.
Out of season displays
People will put up with a lot of noise around November 5th or New Year but at any other time they can be pretty intolerant. It’s a simple matter of loud bangs not mixing with sleeping babies, children or pets. No-one half a mile away is going to know your Gran is 80 years old today when they hear all the loud bangs especially if it’s in the middle of March.
Built up areas
It’s courtesy to notify your neighbours (that means anyone within earshot, not just the people directly next door!) if you plan to let off fireworks. It’s also a useful pre-emptive measure against complaints because if you make a lot of noise, people can rally around against you pretty quickly. However in a built up area you may have dozens or even hundreds of people within ear shot. So if it’s impractical to tell everyone who may hear, and if it’s nowhere near Guy Fawkes, keep the noise down as much as possible. We’ve heard of people complaining after just one firework, so take note!
Displays for children
Younger kids especially can be frightened by a nonstop barrage of bangs. It’s not too bad in a large display because the distance is enough that kids see the flash and are warned of incoming bangs (fingers in the ears time!). However in the garden fireworks can sound that much louder. It’s sad to see terrified kids – escorted by a parent – disappear indoors during the fireworks after you spent hours setting up. Use bangs sparingly if there are a lot of young kids watching and make sure any bangs have a pretty effect associated with them.
Displays for older people, eg. sheltered homes
As with children, this age group generally (but not always) prefers pretty effects to loud bangs. Ask them first. Some older people can be quite frightened by very loud fireworks and are more appreciative of a creative, imaginative approach. Bear in mind too, bangs and other sounds may be lost on people in this age group – and many spectators would watch from indoors anyway.
Displays near animals
Animals hate loud noises! On Guy Fawkes responsible pet owners know to keep their pets in but at any other time they won’t. Potential worry to animals should not be underestimated even if you’re not an animal lover because every terrified cat or dog has an angry owner in tow. If you live in a built up area and you can’t warn everyone consider keeping the noise down. For displays in the country, check to make sure there are no nearby farms or animal centers (e.g. kennels) and if there are, warn them.
Late night displays
In the summer you can’t display until as late as ten o’clock when it gets totally dark. This is bad news for an out of season display. If it’s an official or public event (e.g. a carnival or fair) you have an excuse, otherwise the later the display, the less noisy it should be. Anything too loud in a private display after 9pm could run the risk of trouble, after 10pm is pushing your luck and after 11pm is illegal. If you have to include some noise, keep it all together at the end. Sunday evenings are seen as a bad time for a lot of noise late evening, whereas Friday and Saturday isn’t as bad.
What fireworks to use
The number of quieter fireworks in retailers’ ranges has increased substantially in recent years. It is also worth pointing out at this stage – mostly for the benefit of any anti-fireworks people reading – that fireworks have undergone substantial changes that have affected their noise levels. Firstly there is now a 120dB noise limit on ALL consumer fireworks and secondly, the amount of flashpowder (the chemical that produces the loud bangs) has been reduced significantly. Most but not all consumer fireworks are therefore quieter than they were 10 years ago.
Have a look first of all for fireworks specifically sold as quieter items. These would normally be missing bangs, but may have whistles or crackles instead. Do watch out for that if you are looking for near silent fireworks. You should definitely source your fireworks from a retailer with product video however as that is a very good way of assessing the noise level.
Looking through each firework type in turn:
These are excellent for low noise displays because they don’t bang. Some fountains crackle and this can be quite intense from the spectator area but this sound will not carry far. You will need to be careful to avoid having too many repetitive fountains one after the other however, and be aware they can generate a lot of smoke. Don’t over use them.
Another excellent firework for quiet displays, wheels don’t bang either. Some do whistle quite loudly, so take that into account in case you are looking for completely quiet fireworks.
Cakes and candles
Unless otherwise noted as being quiet, the majority of cakes and candles bang when the effect bursts. All cakes, even quiet ones, make a small noise from the lifting charge when each shot launches into the air. But that sound – which is more of a thud – does not carry far.
If your retailer does not market a low noise range or note their fireworks for noise level, look in descriptions for effects noted as the following which are often quieter:
- Crossettes. Here each shell splits into three or four bright stars, rather just exploding.
- Comets. These are coloured stars with a pretty glitter tail.
- Spinners or turbillions: Here the shell spins in the air, ejecting glitter to become a wheel-like effect. Some whistle or screech.
- Coloured stars: Bright points of light that glow a pretty colour.
- Fish or bees: Wriggling effects – unusual and normally very quiet.
- Falling leaves: Coloured stars which drift gently down.
If you don’t mind a little noise, many cakes include screeching, whistling and crackling effects.
These are not suitable for quiet displays. All rockets bang when the effect is ejected. If you’re happy with the noise level of rockets – which can be amongst the loudest fireworks – then your requirements are not for a low noise display.
These are also unsuitable for quiet displays, even the ones which start with a fountain. Not only are mines quite loud when they explode, the explosion is on the ground nearer to spectators. Mines can terrify small children and furry animals!
Some set pieces such as fountain or gerb fans work well for quiet displays. They are a good way of getting a fountain-like effect but a little bit more creative. However, they can be a lot more expensive than single fountains.
Very quiet with no bangs and no other sounds either. Like set pieces, this type of firework can be expensive but can be completely customised to your display with numbers, letters or logos.
Also worth a mention:
Completely silent in operation and able to create a beautiful effect, lanterns are the ultimate in low noise firework fun (although not strictly classed as a firework!).
Don’t forget sparklers – a great way to fill out 5-10 minutes without making a noise.
Putting all this together then depending on your budget a typical small and quiet display might comprise:
- Chinese Lanterns
For bigger budgets:
- A selection of low noise cakes or candles
- Chinese lanterns
- Lancework to finish
Remember the best way to test a firework’s noise level is to watch a product video first. Always try and source your fireworks from reputable retailers who offer this service.
Low noise and spectacular don’t mix
It is quite common in firework retailers to hear customers asking for spectacular fireworks that are also quiet. As a rule, these two do not mix. This is because “spectacular” is achieved by having a big bursting effect which creates a lot of noise. So although you can still have a pretty display with low noise fireworks, you should not expect to be able to have a spectacular one.
Low noise professional displays
If you are employing a professional company and specifically need quieter fireworks, they will have no problems doing this for you. A wide variety of quieter effects are available to professionals including fountains, set peices, cakes and candles. Although aerial shells do make a noise, they can be saved for the very end or a smaller calibre used.
It is important with professional displays to decide whether you simply want a “quieter” display, a “low noise” display or a “silent” display because these three types of display can look completely different. For example, some venues stipulate low noise when all they mean is “none of those really loud maroons”. In that case aerial shells can still be used and will significantly enhance the visual effects.
However even if you have to be nearly silent in terms of loud bangs, advances in professional displays over the last few years have resulted in some spectacular shows. A good example is with single shot sequences synchronised to music. These are fired digitally in time to the music playing, often at various angles and including many pretty colours to create a stunning effect. Here’s an example of a virtually no-bangs display set to music by professional display company F1 Pyro:
If you need any further help feel free to ask in the busy UKFR Fireworks Forum. You might also find the other articles in this section useful if your display falls into any other category such as displays for a small garden, so do have a look at those too.
When you are ready to buy your fireworks, always give priority to UKFR advertisers and those listed on the Buy Fireworks page (find out why). Once you have purchased your fireworks head over to the Using Fireworks section for expert advice on how to set them up and let them off.