Acoustics changing the way you play

Acoustics changing the way you play

I play fiddle best in the bathroom. To ward off toilet humor jokes I should point out that at the time I made this discovery, I was not sitting on the bog.

I suppose it’s not surprising really as the bathroom is tiled, giving off lots of reverb via early reflections. I know that in a recording studio, singers tend to give a better performance if they have reverb fed back to them via headphones.

Taking this into account, I wonder if people out there consciously modify their playing when taking acoustics into account. Personally I subconsciously raise the volume of my playing when in a crowded pub, but lately I have been thinking that this has a detrimental effect on my playing, especially if I am drowning out other session players.

Not really knowing any other fiddle players, I submit this to the mustard folk… As a fiddle player, do you play better if you purposely reign the volume in? Especially in vast spaces where acoustics are poor? It seems to me that way, but I’m not sure.

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Not a fiddle player but yes. Blessed with a great acoustic kitchen my whistle and banjo sound great when I play there. I can slow down, concentrate on tone and enjoy my playing. In other parts of the house, because of poor acoustics, I tend to concentrate on speed and ornaments and my playing seems lifeless and uninspired. Now give my a whistle in my stairwell and I’ll stay there all day except that my family would think I’m wierd(er).

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I once wore a cowboy hat at a fiddle contest… oh my. The wide brim "caught" the sound in a way I had never heard before, as I had never worn a hat while playing prior to that experience
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Not so sure about the reverb but I definitely play better if I can hear myself well. I think this is more about (mental) feedback in that you are able to make small adjustments constantly to your sound if it is coming to you very clearly. Maybe also at a psychological level this makes you feel better about what you are doing and makes you actually play better. Dont think playing in noisy pubs does much for your tone production.
Re Volume: I find that I play better when I play medium loud. Too soft and the beat gets mushy and too loud and the tone goes.
When everyone is out of the house I love to wander into our hallway which has amazing acoustics - bit like your stairwell.

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Acoustics changes everything: The way you play, the tempos that work, the way you hear others and interact…everything. And, that’s is in every kind of music I’ve ever been involved with.

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What I like from a room is the ability to have some control over the dynamics of the playing. So having a medium volume from the instruments in the playing environment allows for a little dynamic control and lets the playing breath.

For quite a few years a pal and I played gigs as a duet around the north and northwest of scotland, usually acoustically. Took a bit of convincing the landlords that acoustic was the way to go but punter power convinced most of them, as the punters preferred it that way, being able to hear the music and still be able to hold a conversation was a winner.

For us it was a matter of choosing the right place to play and we soon learned the sweet acoustic spots for most of the venues. Sometimes it meant the corner where the dart board hung, so no darts. In the end we managed to change the minds of landlords who had a very fixed idea as to where the "band" should sit in their pubs.

Generally when you have pleasing acoustics you also seem to have a pleasant time paying.

I also used to play in the bathroom and still do on occasion, but I’ve stopped playing in there with the banjo because the resonance you get in a vibrant room doesn’t happen when out playing so building that into ones playing, and thats what one does playing endlessly in the bog, is a mistake as the banjo in a normal room has a much shorter attack and decay so the playing technique should reflect this, shanty mentions this in the post above.

The best acoustic room I’ve played in was the rec room in the then intact wing of Rassay house (before it burnt down). Wonderfully high ceiling wooden floor and zero soft furnishings. Even when this room was full of people the music still sounded great, a joy to play in.

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My kitchen is good, but I think it’s a good idea to practice
in all sorts of acoustic conditions.

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I play with a piano accordionist, and have to find that level of volume that lies between inaudibility and disaster. Fortunately he is very good, and does the same.
I have tried wearing a hat, but find the high frequencies too prominent. A loose-fitting hoody is a bit better, and also keeps out the draught. The trouble is you can’t be seen in public wearing one.
A touch of reverb always boosts my enjoyment, but I don’t know whether because I play better or just sound better. I sometimes practise with an electric fiddle and headphones, and getting the volume right there was tricky until I realized I was playing too gently. More bow and less amp was the answer; but I can’t resist a bit of delay and reverb. It’s great for slow airs, but can kill the fast stuff if overdone. Natural reverb is lovely. Volume should really be dictated by the instrument; but it’s very hard not to ‘shout’ in noisy situations.
Pity the poor mandolins.

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I find I play like sh*te in a muffled or noisy room where the sound of the pipes is sucked into a hole of acoustic death. It feels as if I’m not fully in control of the subtler aspects of the tune, the swing and the lift and so on, as the chanter feels dull and seems to lose its responsiveness.

But a room with reverby live accoustics, there’s nothing quite a like it. :)

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*acoustics

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I’m lucky in that my apartment used to be a Victorian school, so high ceilings and large rooms - seems to please most who come to play here. We have few soft furnishings, wooden floors and fairly minimal furniture - makes for a good acoustic. But we also have a long corridor, also minimally furnished, but high, which is a great place for checking out hard-to-play parts because you get great feedback if you play directly at a wall.

Not being able to hear yourself is a major problem with a mandolin, which makes it difficult to play your best as you are constantly bedevilled by the sense that you need to play loud to be heard.

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I heard one early music group many years ago who obviously normally played in churches. On this occasion they played somewhere with a relatively dry acoustic and they sounded dire - I guess they were so used to playing in places where you have flattering acoustics.

The real killer is that in a reverberant room you get great feedback about pitch - you can constantly modify your singing or playing as you are also pitching it against the reverb from the stuff you’ve just played - so everything will sound more in tune, you are automatically adapt to playing more slowly, and generally things sound nicer. It was this aspect that the early music group suffered from in their "dead" room - the playing was all out of tune and really unpleasant.

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The worst experience I ever had was the first time I sang in a large choral performance, with 100-plus choir and orchestra of around 80. It was in a fair-sized church with a reputedly good acoustic, but during the performance you had the disconcerting experience of belting the music out, but not being able to hear anything at all of your own voice. The space just swallowed everything. Adding an audience to soak up even more sound didn’t help either.

At the other extreme, hearing Bellevous Rendezvous playing unamplified in Edinburgh Cathedral last summer was ethereal.

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That must have been amazing! Big acoustics also slow your speech down. When we simulated acoustics in radio drama, we would have to feed back the acoustic to the actors, otherwise they would speak too quickly to make the acoustic believable.

On a related note, I once tried recording a presenter’s voice in a standard "dead" radio studio and then the same voice but fed with reverb into his headphones only, and though he sounded the same both times he slowed down to about half speed with the reverb being fed into his cans.

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…and just on the OP, yes, I think instruments sound better when not "forced". While harp is my weapon of choice, with both gut and nylon-strung instruments, they sound really ugly when pushed too hard. It’s a dilemma in a pub - because if you add PA I guess you’re just making the punters have to shout louder to hear themselves talk!

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Everyone plays better if they can hear themselves better, it’s a no brainer.

And the problem with reverb is that it turns your sound into a mush. It just blurs the definition in your playing with a soggy blanket. So why do people like it so much? It’s because they don’t want to hear themselves properly, they don’t like hearing themselves properly. And so, they don’t play any better, they just think they do.

Reverb is the great aural equivalent of pulling the wool over your eyes, it is the act of stuffing your ears with wool, a soggy woollen blanket.

All you end up with is this silly ethereal dreamlike nonsense where nothing is clear enough to be able to act upon. It is the curse of music and musicians, it is the great lie.

(come to think of it, I suppose that’s why they make churches with tons of reverb)

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I suppose what I was originally trying to say is that I would like to take how I play in the bathroom (speed, volume, feel) and play like that in a pub. But with a few pints and the punters wanting you to just belt out some reels, it all just tends to get louder and faster.

I’m working on it, though. The bathroom is teaching me restraint.

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"All you end up with is this silly ethereal dreamlike nonsense where nothing is clear enough to be able to act upon. It is the curse of music and musicians, it is the great lie."

This how that sounds:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv4dZBFpufM

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Perhaps the solution to over-driving instruments is to choose one that is bl**dy loud to begin with. I remember last summer, still being able to hear a busking piper in Edinburgh over the four lanes of traffic between him and me.

But I’m not sure you can play the GHB with restraint :-)

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At the other end of the spectrum, here’s a resonant building with people experimenting with sounds. It was an interesting acoustic in that it was *impossible* to have a conversation in there because of the reverb:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYq4vUoR7Ko

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…I guess that’s (Michael) agreeing with your point about why they make churches so big!

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As acoustic experiences go, there’s nothing more horrible than riding your bike fast along princes street in edinburgh with the falling pitch of a doppler effected, but already out of tune GHB behind you, and the rising pitch of a doppler effected, but already out of tune GHB in front of you.

(But maybe that hippie shlte Mark posted above comes a close second)

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I once sung in a choir placed at the back of a redundant church with the organ with pipes way off on the other side of the audience. The importance of the directors warning to "Watch me, ignore the organ" became apparent about 3 bars in - the ‘accompaniment’ seemed to be half a bar behind. The organist seated somewhere else also a long way from the pipes (with a temporary video link to the conductor) just smiled and said "You get used to it."

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"As acoustic experiences go, there’s nothing more horrible than riding your bike fast along princes street in edinburgh with the falling pitch of a doppler effected, but already out of tune GHB behind you, and the rising pitch of a doppler effected, but already out of tune GHB in front of you."

I’d see that as an opportunity for an interesting experiment. See if you can cycle at exactly the right speed to get the two pipers in tune with each other. :-)

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The worst acoustic I ever played in was The Ross Band Stand in Edinburgh. It used to be (it’s been gone a while now) this enormous plastic tent thing and when you played you didn’t get a kind of soft reverb thing, you got a single clear echo at about a quarter of a second. We did a sound check and the guy on the fold back desk had the monitors turned up almost painfully loud. We asked him to turn them down a bit and he explained the echo. You had to have the monitors louder than the out front sound or it was impossible to play in time. And even then, when we played stuff with a timing, or a subdivision of a timing, that was close to the speed of the echo you just couldn’t help yourself from locking your timing into it. It was just awful.

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That’s my challenge then - to find something Michael actually likes!!

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anything, as long as it’s dry

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"This how that sounds:"

If Seamus Egan had kept away from the mike….

That’s Stromness Town Hall (formerly the Academy Hall). Superb acoustics. I heard Isaac Stern play there one Sunday afternoon. No amplification, no muddy sound. Brilliant.

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"That’s Stromness Town Hall (formerly the Academy Hall). Superb acoustics. I heard Isaac Stern play there one Sunday afternoon. No amplification, no muddy sound. Brilliant." Weejie

I’ve played there and really enjoyed it, not acoustically but it was one of my more memorable and stress free PA experiences.

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Well, if one were to sit at the back of the balcony for some concerts at the folk festival and one was (hypothetically of course) to put ones cheapo voice recorder on to capture a few tunes to learn one wouldn’t get such cr*p sound as on that video.

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"I’ve played there and really enjoyed it, not acoustically but it was one of my more memorable and stress free PA experiences"

Like many church halls, it’s designed to project sound. Not great for PA equipment, however. Stern stood in the middle of the hall, as far as I remember.

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"Like many church halls, it’s designed to project sound. Not great for PA equipment, however. Stern stood in the middle of the hall, as far as I remember." Weejie

Didn’t know it had been a church but that would make sense. I like the way most of the people are above looking down from the galleries, I thought it was some viking remnant, a church makes perfect sense.

Proper sound guys doing the sound though and they made a great job of it. Only played there for 20 mins and then it was off to the school for the second half.

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"Proper sound guys doing the sound though and they made a great job of it. "


Possibly Owen Tierney. A master at the job.

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"Possibly Owen Tierney. A master at the job." Weejie

Possibly, Is that the big fella that plays bass?

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He does play bass along with guitar. Runs Attic Studios.

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"He does play bass along with guitar. Runs Attic Studios." Weejie

Thats the very man! Yes, great sound man and team, did Orkney a few times and likely still dose for all I know.

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When I play at a session, I adjust the volume depending on various factors. Such as: the size of the room; how many people are in the room; how many other musicians are there; what instruments they are playing; is the floor wooden or carpeted?; etc. Since I am at the session to try to enjoy playing music with my friends and partners-in-crime instead of amusing myself by performing for an audience, I keep the volume down so I can hear the other instruments better than I can hear my own instrument.

Laurence

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Something I take pleasure in from time to time is walking around the house playing my instrument, noticing the changes in acoustics as I go from room to room.

I once (well, twice actually) played in a large exhibition centre in Riga. This was your typical trade fair type of space - a huge hall with carpet up the walls and *no* acoustics. We were on a big stage (the biggest I have played on and am ever likely to play on) with God knows how many kW of amplification, yet I could hardly hear a thing - the sound just got swallowed up by the walls. It’s all a bit of a vague memory now, but I think it was some sort of music festival - but it was an entirely inappropriate acoustic space. Presumably the big exhibition centres like Earls Court and Olympia, Bimingham NEC etc., which double as music venues, have ways of tailorig the acoustics to the type o even.

The other time I played at the said exhibition centre in Latvia, I was asked to play acoustically on a stall for an environmental activist group. I might as well have been playing in outer space. Strange though it may sound, playing in a poor acoustic space can be very exhausting, as you put in a lot of energy and get very little back.

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The acoustical properties of places one plays are very important to one’s ‘performance’.

Take local two sessions for instance:

1. The acoustics at the Tooting Old Testament Re-Enactment Society is rubbish. It is a long, tall, narrow room with floorboards and wood chairs. You only have to have three people quietly chatting in there and the natural reverb causes everyone to shout. Add half a dozen Trad players & a pubful of punters and you can barely hear yourself let alone co-players. The other thing is the sound doesn’t carry. When it’s busy you can just hear the music at the table where the musicians sit but ten feet away and you can hear nothing. Despite the acoustics, it’s great craic in there though!

2. B B King’s Wig Museum (Finchley TX) on the other hand has very favourable acoustics. The important thing there, I think, is that it is decorated in the rather old fashioned style of having random junk everywhere and a lot of soft upholstered built in furniture. This includes one and a half boats suspended from the ceiling (!). It is these boats that, rather like the mushrooms in the Royal Albert Hall, temper the natural reverb. The sound is phat and warm despite a medium height ceiling and a board floor. There is a regular conversation in there between the musicians as to where the best place in the pub is for a session. Although the place under the boats is good, some swear by the area under the skylight near the ‘fir’ toilet!
I definitely play better in the acoustics of the latter.
PS: I play in a non trad, non ‘folk’ electric pub band mainly in the Devon/ Somerset region and have much experience of setting up the sound system in dozens if not hundreds of environments. The best sound is always the carpet/ soft furnishing/ low ceiling type place. The trend these days for a mock-Edwardian or minimalist modern décor: floorboards/ wood chairs & benches/ hard surfaces is no good! And church and village halls where we often do weddings and the like are nearly always dreadful acoustics for sound systems.

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"B B King’s Wig Museum (Finchley TX) on the other hand has very favourable acoustics."

I would think that an abundance of wigs - assuming they do not contain too much gel or hairspray - would be quite effective in damping the natural reverberation of a room. This might be desirable in a large hall with high ceilings. In a small pub, however, wigs (or any kind of follicular appendage, for that matter, natural or prosthetic) should be avoided for optimum session acoustics. I went bald specially to improve the acoustics at my local session pub; I found, however, that there was then a little too much echo, so I now have a full beard.

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Yhaalhouse - I might have known from your singularly hirsute appearance that you frequent a session in a large, reverberant space.

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My office/studio is quite small and carpeted, and the sound is quite dead in there.

I’ll often times practice in wireless headphones playing into a nice condenser mike and an old Roland Sound Space 3D processor to give the room some life.

I find that I tend to practice for a much longer time when using this setup than without. What’s also nice about this is that I can hear how the instrument actually sounds "out there" rather than where I am.

This makes a huge difference particularly on the concertina where the majority of the sound radiates away from the player. How the instrument sounds at the player’s position is completely different than how it sounds 5 feet in front of the player, really very useful to understand the true timbre and dynamics of the instrument.

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The Prince Regent, later George IV, was so fond of music he had a music room specially built in the Brighton pavilion, that had adjustable acoustics.
He also knew the names of all the musicians in his orchestra, and ensured that they had a suitable pension when they choose to retire.
Hearing something like that about a well-known and often reviled historical figure makes one see him in an altogether different light.
Yes the acoustics do make a difference, both to the player, those fellow musicians around them, and to any audience.

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If anyone is visiting Bristol (UK) try to get to a concert or gig at St George’s Hall, a former Georgian church with a gallery round three sides. It has one of the very best medium size hall acoustics in Europe, and is used by the BBC for radio broadcasts. It’s a warm acoustic with just the right reverb, which, strangely doesn’t seem to be affected by the size of the audience.
Better still, if you get the chance to play in it, do so. I have done so on many occasions as an orchestral musician and what is amazing is in that acoustic every player can hear not only himself but every other player, which can be a little disconcerting until you get used to it (i.e. everyone knows who played that bum note!). No matter how quietly a violinist plays, the sound will be heard throughout the hall, and conversely a good solo violinist will have no difficulty in being heard above the full orchestra.
Mics and PA aren’t really acoustically necessary in St George’s, but most bands use them, perhaps for balance reasons or because they’re recording the gig, or just because they used to using mics and PA.

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I tried taking a D whistle or descant recorder with me when going on bothy trips to the Scottish Highlands.

I found that in a bare stone cottage at night, with only one other person as an audience and even the nearest sheep a few miles away, even those sounded overwhelmingly loud. I couldn’t play at all, I just wanted to listen to the silence.

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"I’ll often times practice in wireless headphones playing into a nice condenser mike and an old Roland Sound Space 3D processor to give the room some life.

I find that I tend to practice for a much longer time when using this setup than without. What’s also nice about this is that I can hear how the instrument actually sounds "out there" rather than where I am. "

What a daft thing to do. You hate the sound of your intrument so much that the only way you can bear it is through a bunch of complex electronic processing? (Mind you, it is a concertina)

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"What a daft thing to do". On the contrary, it is a perfectly sensible thing to do with an instrument that sounds differently to the audience than it does to the player. The fiddle is an obvious example. The frequencies coming out of the instrument are mostly directional so the sound a listener hears even a few feet away is not what the player hears coming up under his ear. It is therefore responsible of a player to check this out.

Some violins can sound quite loud to the player but do not project well, whereas the reverse is true for others. This phenomenon may have something to do with signal to noise ratios as well as the frequency response profile of the instrument concerned. "Noise" includes bow hiss and high frequency "scratch" noises from the strings. High frequencies (harmonics) do not project as well as the medium-lower frequencies, so this is something to be aware of when trying out a fiddle in a violin shop’s display room. Interestingly, some of the best (and highest-priced!) violins do not have much response above 6KHz (that’s within an octave above the top note of a concert piano), but the tonal complexity and projection are second to none.

Other instruments that send the sound away from the player include the guitar, cello, and most wind instruments. Many such players play into corner when practicing in order to hear the "audience sound" come back to them. The human voice as well - have you ever seen a singer check out his or her voice by putting their hand to their ear? The sound is reflected by the arm up to the ear, so the singer can be sure that they are hearing the external sound and not the sound within their head.

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Last year I had a loft conversion with stairway access completed just before Christmas. The purpose was two-fold: a spare bedroom for the occasional visitor and (more importantly, as far a I’m concerned!) a music practice studio. The floor area is about 15’ x 14’, and the ceiling rises to a flat area about 7’ 3" high from 4’ side walls behind which are extensive storage spaces. The walls and ceiling are plasterboard that is thermally and acoustically insulated according to the current building regulations, and are plastered over. It is far too early to paint over the plaster, and I might very well not do so because it is visually and acoustically rather attractive as it is. The woodwork of the door and other parts of the room is plain pine which I am polishing with beeswax polish. The floor is not carpeted.
There is a small alcove with a desk and chair. Apart from those two items the furniture comprises a single bed with bedside table and lamp (visitor, occasional, for the use of), a small bookcase, a couple of music stands, and a microphone stand.
The non-parallel geometry of many of the room’s surfaces tends to minimize standing wave reflections and the sound is warm, with not too much reverberation - just about right as far as I am concerned. There are also two dormer windows with blackout blinds front and rear, so these can be used to modify the acoustics a little. I have in the past done violin practice in the relatively high reverberation acoustic of a kitchen or bathroom but never liked it because it was difficult to make out the detail of the sound.

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I’m having a house designed, and it’s a struggle to get the architects to put in non-parallel surfaces - so well done!!

They are really important for music practice spaces.

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"What a daft thing to do. You hate the sound of your intrument so much that the only way you can bear it is through a bunch of complex electronic processing? (Mind you, it is a concertina)"

No, I hate the dead acoustics in my office. I absolutely love the sound of my concertina/flute/pipes. :-)

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What you are saying is that you only like the sound of your instrument when you’ve got cloth in your ears. (understandable with a concertina, of course) ….. however …

… while it maybe it’s true that you only like the sound of your instrument when you’ve got cloth in your ears … I suspect the truth is that you don’t like the sound of your playing unless you have cloth in your ears.

Dry is unforgiving. And the cloth of reverb (let alone the quadruple layers of artificial electronic reverb) is the ultimate comfort blanket.

Lose the blanket. Practice in a dry room, it’s the only place to hone the accuracy and crispness that this music requires.

Or, carry on as you are and smother your musical inadequacies with you electronic/woollen states of denial

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Michael, are you feeling alright? Your insults are barely rising to mediocre. Get well soon.
XXOOXX

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Eskin, find a different room or go outside.

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I have to disagree Michael. Dry (really dry acoustically) is not good. It distorts the sound of instruments just as much as a really wet (reverberant) space, but in different ways. Over the years of conducting and performing I’ve had more unpleasant experiences in dry spaces than wet ones.

But, music that depends on rapid passages and clean articulations (like session tunes) can be hurt by too live a space. So, in some respects Michael is right. On the other hand sustained tone pieces (think slow airs) are hurt by an acoustically dry space. The right answer, I think, is a space that is in the middle ground.

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cboody, exactly…

I don’t suggest playing in an echo chamber, but having a bit of life to the room makes for a much more satisfying experience and motivates me to spend more time practicing. The RSS gives me complete control of the room parameters just to give some life to the space but doesn’t obscure anything. Do you even know what an RSS is, really or are you just assuming it’s some crappy reverb unit?

Practicing in a perfectly dry room is the <only> way to hone the crispness this music requires? Really? Michael, do you only practice in an anechoic chamber?

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I never practice anymore, I gave up practising years ago. Now I just play.

But yeah, I’ve played in completely (100%, or as near as dam it) dry rooms in recording studios. It’s a great leveller. Yes, it doesn’t sound like you are used to hearing it, but that’s because all you are hearing is you and your instrument. It’s great. It makes you really really concentrate, bowing, intonation etc. I always wanted to keep it like that on the recording, but they’d never let me. Too uncommercial. And engineers and producers like their Roland whatever toys too much.

Have you ever heard a recording where there’s some music going on and then there’s someone whispering over the top of it and that bit is completely dry? Kate Bush has done it a few times, it’s really spooky. It doesn’t matter where it is in the mix, it just jumps right at you, the immediacy of it, it’s marvellous. It really shows that all reverb really does is to give an illusion of distance. I’d quite like to record some diddley music like that. But what’s the point, no one would buy it.

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llig, your last response is one of the best I have ever read on the mustard. Thank you!

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"The RSS gives me complete control of the room parameters just to give some life to the space but doesn’t obscure anything."

I’m trying to imagine what it’s like to be so given to pretend sounds that you prefer to listen to your own instrument mediated through signal processing over listening to it straight.

I just can’t picture it. What’s next - "I prefer to sing through autotune and add some chorus to fill out the sound"?
Strangely, this reminds me of an article I read recently in which the author claimed that some rising percentage of men were found to prefer pornography to actual sex with an actual person. The reason given by one respondant was something like "With pornography, you know exactly what you’re going to get, and you get exactly that. With people, it’s never like that"

The mind boggles.

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Anyone else want to pile on? :-)

Hey, what I suggested works for me. I’m sure lots of people occasionally practice in their kitchens and bathrooms for the same reason.

If it doesn’t work for you, no skin off my back.

And Jon, you want to imagine what it’s like, its pretty freakin’ awesome, you should give it a try. Your comparisons with autotune and pornography are really weak, I’m sure you can do better next time. B-minus at best.

Michael

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I’ll try harder next time.

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Please do. Don’t disappoint me.

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This also reminds me of that one where a music buff takes his pal, a hi-fi buff, to his first classical concert with a real live orchestra. "So what do you reckon?" the music buff asks his pal, after the gig. "Oh … I’m not convinced, I thought the bass response was poor".

This is funny of course, but it also belies a deeper truth about expectation (that the porn analogy also highlighted). It’s a dangerous thing in music. The majority of most peoples’ exposure to music is via recordings and with regards to people who like to play music, this translates into having aspirations to sound like recordings. So, not only is there a general lack of ability to accurately hear ones’ self, there is also, astonishingly, a lack of desire to even want to accurately hear ones’ self.

Mr Eskin, surely you know the weakness of your argument: "It works for me". All you are saying is that you prefer the sound of your playing when it sounds more like a recording.

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Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

Nope, that’s not what I said. I said it keeps my butt in the chair practicing longer in my carpeted office/studio and I can hear my concertina sound as a listener would.

I’m not going to argue the point with you, the original poster asked about acoustics affecting playing, and completely dead rooms don’t inspire me to practice as long as rooms with some ambience.

What you prefer is your business, Michael, what works for you doesn’t work for me. Too dry feels claustrophobic to me for practicing long hours, and my office/studio needs to be acoustically dry for recording, so I do what I need to make it work for me. I don’t like to play without some return reflection so I can hear myself, no more than I would like to take a cold bath.

Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

Also, Michael, it’s interesting to me that you choose from the onset to characterize my statements as an argument requiring a defense. Everything is an argument for you, isn’t it. Too bad we can’t just talk here and share ideas without this miserable energy in every thread.

Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

"This is funny of course, but it also belies a deeper truth about expectation …"

And the audience expect it to sound like recordings to a great extent. No orchestra that I know of would give a public performance in a dry room.
Likewise, a PA engineer has to mix to the requirements of the performer and cater to the expectations of the listener.
The difference in audience expectation since the CD came on the market is quite marked.
On the other side of the coin, the recording engineer would likely be looking to master a recording of an orchestra to sound ‘natural’ - that would not be the same sound that you would get in a dry room, but more like a concert hall.

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"Hey, what I suggested works for me"

"I can hear my concertina sound as a listener would." Yes, you can hear you concertina as a listener would hear a recording of your concertina.

I think you need that cold bath. You really really need it, whether you want it or not. The dry room is the cold bath. It is what you sound like. Face it. Come to terms with it. Or live in denial of what you really sound like.

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"The dry room is the cold bath. It is what you sound like."

It’s what you sound like in a dry room. You wouldn’t sound like that on the moon. OK, it lays bare all the faults that might exist in your playing, but you don’t need to do that to enjoy playing.

Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

Weejie, recording engineers hired to record orchestras never strive for a natural sound of an orchestra in a room, for they know it is impossible. To think they do is very naive. The best of them attempt a reproduction of the concert hall experience as produced though the average home hi-fi in the average front room. But the majority merely repoduce the expectations of what a listener expects of a recording of an orchestra.

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Of course you don’t "need" to lay bare all the faults that might exist in your playing if you want to merely enjoy your own playing. That’s what Mr Eskin is doing with his comfort blanket. But to think that that is improving one’s playing is sadly misguided. If you want to improve your playing, you do "need" to lay bare all the faults that might exist in your playing.

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Well, I definitely need a nice warm bath in my nice echoey tiled bathroom to wash off the stink of this all too pleasant exchange that once again has me wondering "why do I even bother coming here anymore…".

Anyway, those of you still reading this, if your finding practicing in a dry room uninspiring, give my suggestion a try, maybe you’ll find it helpful to increase the enjoyment of your practice time. Keep the reverb to the absolute minimum, and use EQ to cut out low frequency fan noises from computers and such so you can more clearly hear your own playing. Or do as Michael advocates, play in a dry room and see which works best for you, there’s value in both, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

"Weejie, recording engineers hired to record orchestras never strive for a natural sound of an orchestra in a room, for they know it is impossible."

I didn’t say they did, They wouldn’t do it, not because it is impossible (it isn’t impossible to achieve something like the sound of an instrument in a dry room if it is recorded in a dry room) but because it wouldn’t sound like an ‘orchestra’ - ie an orchestra in a concert hall - and yes, that would be mastering with a view to the average home hi-fi. Not really relevant to the point I was making.

"But to think that that is improving one’s playing is sadly misguided. " It might not improve one’s technique, but playing in a dry room is not necessarily going to be encouraging. Enjoyment can improve one’s confidence and confidence can improve one’s playing.

" If you want to improve your playing, you do "need" to lay bare all the faults that might exist in your playing."

Might is the operative word. A great deal of faults can be heard in a less than dry room.

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" the recording engineer would likely be looking to master a recording of an orchestra to sound ‘natural’ "

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Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

" the recording engineer would likely be looking to master a recording of an orchestra to sound ‘natural’ ""

Note the inverted commas. ‘Natural’ being the ‘natural’ as expected of the listener.

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Expected by the listener.

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Anyway, for those of you still reading this, if your finding practicing in a dry room uninspiring, give Mr Eskin’s suggestion a try. Maybe you’ll find it helpful to increase the enjoyment of your practice time? But, bear in mind, it won’t help your playing.

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Sorry, yes, ‘Natural’ being the ‘natural’ as expected of the listener. Not reality

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It’s the whole "expected by the listener" I’m railing against.

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Michael, it would give me a real thrill to just once read in one of your posts the following words:

"in my opinion, it would not help your playing…"

Of course, that assumes you’ve taken the care to explain what the "it" is, which you’ve quite flippantly waved off as a "comfort blanket". Is it that I’m listening to myself through a microphone, or is there some specific threshold of RSS parameters where it flips from useful to useless? I think we’d all like to understand exactly where you draw the line to make such inflammatory declarations.

Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

"Not reality"

Reality isn’t a dry room.

"It’s the whole "expected by the listener" I’m railing against. "

Point missed. You seem to think that a dry room is the norm. It isn’t. There weren’t too many wall to wall carpeted rooms with partition walls when the likes of Maggini, Amati family and Stradivari were building their diddley fiddles.
I read once of a fiddler who used to strap a tin whistle to his bridge to sound like a 78 rpm recording.
I tried it - a dry room sounds better than that,

Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

Ah, so how it sounds to you is all that matters, not how it sounds to a listener. I guess that useful if you only play for your own enjoyment.

I recently had a flute that I found had two distinct sounds when I played it from my listening position, one seemed breathy and diffuse, the other had a nice hard edge that I preferreddepending on embouchure coverage, like there were two distinct vibration modes in the tube. What I later realized only after talking to others and listening to the sound fed back through my setup was that the nice hard sound was incredibly strident "out there" and the sound that was breathy sounded absolutely lovely and clear "out there". So, the sound at the player in a dry room is only one data point and really only valid for a solo player playing for themselves as far as I’m concerned.

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I don’t think it matters so much whether you practice in a dry or a moist or a sodden room, or whether you’re trying to improve your playing or just play a few tunes, the thing that weirds me out is the idea of taking an instrument like the concertina, which produces all the sound you could need, and then running it through effects and listening to it through cans.
I’m sorry, that’s just freaky and weird, that’s all.

As for the idea of the acoustics of the space you’re in affecting your playing - yeah, I can see that. Along with the mood you’re in and the book you’re reading and everything else, it’s part of who you are at that moment, so it’s going to be a part of what you play. Maybe that’s what makes me go cross-eyed thinking of Michael with his concertina and his signal processing - it’s the idea of going to such lengths to deny where you are, to pretend you’re somewhere else.
Maybe instead of autotune and chorus the next thing is to write some software to put in other instruments playing along? After that, whoops and smatterings of applause when you finish a tune? Or, more likely, the roar of the crowd sampled from that Teada video that was posted a few weeks ago? After all, what’s better than an adoring crowd screaming for an encore to get you to play one more tune?
If that idea seems weird to you, it seems just as weird as the reverb to me.

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Ooo, Jon great idea for an iPad app! I’ll get right on it!

(c’mon, you set me up for that, right?) :-)

You think that image is creepy? Imagine me playing in my Microsoft WinHEC teeshirt and Stewie from Family Guy themed pajama bottoms to get the full picture.

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Oh, and the majority of these posts have been from my 3G iPad while sitting in my Prius in the parking lot of Fry’s. For you not in CA, it’s the geek center of the universe where you can buy a computer, a flatscreen TV, a digital oscilloscope, Hustler magazine, Jolt Cola, and SATA cables all at the same huge store.

Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

I admit, I did think it an idea you could make use of. To be honest, if you and Bryan got together and made something that could pick up the tune you’re playing and put in a few other players, I’d find that an impressive piece of programming.

Horrifying, sick and wrong, a further knife in the back of goodness and decency, but a pretty cool piece of programming. :)

The crowd noise you can do in an afternoon, I’ll give you no props for that. :)

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Oh man, the mind reels at the possibilities and the fun that could be had here dealing with consequences… Sounds like an ideal summer project.

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I’ve got a billion of ‘em. Terrible ideas, cheap. Contact me by PM to arrange bulk rates.

First one’s free, but spell my name right in the credits. :)

Holy Frak!
:-/

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Re: Acoustics changing the way you play

Extra advice for flute & whistle players: Enjoy having a play in the ‘reverb room’ (bathroom), but don’t practise in room with ‘good’ acoustics all the time - if you do you will suffer when required to play in a carpeted room with no response. From disappointing personal experiences!