Acoustics Appreciation Exercises
During a performance, ask yourself the following questions to appreciate how the concert hall affects the music you hear:
- Can you recognize the detail and nuances of the music? Is each instrumental section discernable, even during complex counterpoint? You are now assessing the clarity of sound!
- When the music stops, does the music sound lively and linger beautifully within the room? How long does the sound linger: 1 second? 2 seconds? 3 seconds?! You are experiencing reverberance.
- Can you sense this reverberance while the music is ongoing? If so, the concert hall has good running liveliness, a very desirable characteristic for enjoying symphonic, choral and organ music.
- Can you perceive an annoying “repetition” of individual notes, especially from the percussion or brass sections? If so, your hall may suffer from echoes.
- How would you describe the timbre (the color of tone) of the sound? What pitch range dominates? If the treble sounds predominate, the concert hall may be adding excessive harshness to the sound. If the bass sections are full and resonant, then the sound is said to have warmth.
- Thinking 3-dimensionally, does the sound seem to arrive only frontally, from the stage, or can you hear sound arriving from the sides of the hall? Does the sound seem confined to the width of the stage, or does the orchestra seem “bigger than life?” Positive answers indicate good envelopment and spaciousness.
- Finally, can you hear the most subtle notes of music played pianissimo, or are they lost in the noise from the air conditioning and heating system? Do the fortissimo passages thunder forward without added harshness? If so, the concert hall offers silence, loudness and good dynamic range.