Acoustics... and a bit more


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    Ok, this is a post I've long considered where to put... there is so much in it (yet not in depth). Let it rest here, and see what comes of it.

    Yesterday, we played a concert, "Musc from Animated Movies". Choir, kids, choir, small smphonic orchestra, combo. Titles ranged from "When you wish upon a star" to "Happy", with excursions into Shrek, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jungle Book and the like. Venue, a large, somewhat unorthodox school hall: One central hall three storeys high, with two large open staircases doubling as seating leading down, and an additional wing with seating. Seating all over, up to the top (with the audience being on two balconies, as it were).

    One staircase had to be kept free as eergency exit, so we placed the stage there. Front to back: Kids, Choir, Combo, Orchestra (with the orchestra well hidden from the audience's view by the choir). Conductor directly in front of the orchestra, conducting the choir via a camera and screen arrangement.
    At rehearsal, everyone complaining that they could not hear a thing. Sound going off into Nirvana, so bad you could barely hear yourself.
    Performance: Hall filled with 800+ audience (oversold, and some people standing around in the aisles contrary to fire prevention regulations...
    And the hall suddenly came alive! One really could hear the whole structure... wonderful. I had a one-brand gig bag with me - Courtois flugel, Courtois C, Courtois Balanced Bb. And that old Balanced Courtois made the day - filling the entire hall without amplification.
    Correction: I had the ACB picc with me as well, for "Fairytale" from Shrek, but that was in it's own case... read more there.



  • I originally posted this in "Little Humor" but I do believe it applies to this thread to illustrate where the discussion can go:
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  • @Dr-GO And as I mentioned elsewhere, pigeons also have other things that stick...

    As far as Barlimans experience in that playing venue, on stage we get lucky sometimes, sometimes we lose - not being able to hear anything... That can be from a "dead" sounding environment (playing outdoors or in a conference room), or a very live environment with 6 seconds of reverb or more.

    The trick is to not play more loudly when we are unsure/insecure...



  • IMO acoustics at a venue requires a balance of science, art, and experience to be successful. It's impractical to test-fill the space with the anticipated number of warm bodies prior to the performance and to replicate in advance air density, temperature, and humidity.

    Two events stick in my memory, with lessons to be learned from each.

    The first time I played in front of a microphone was an ear-opener. I have a good sense of balance, as all good musicians have, so I can correctly judge how my volume and projection relates to the rest of the ensemble. On this occasion I was featured soloist in front of the band, and the sound crew insisted on turning up my mic, forcing me to play softer and softer, while they kept turning up my volume, making my sound drown out the band no matter what I did to compensate, including backing away from the mic. During rehearsal I mentioned this to the director, who assured me that everything would be OK when the audience was in the auditorium. Well, come concert time, a good friend of mine recorded the show from the audience, and in spite of me playing from pp to m, guess what?... I drowned out the band! Awkward. I learned to be more assertive about my perception, but the ultimate decision is made by the sound crew. Plus, no matter how much you'd like to dent the rim of the bell of your horn on the thick skulls of some inept AV people, you have to remain diplomatic and fatalistic about the situation, because if you're at odds with them, they can make you sound even worse out of spite.

    The other event was a sold out Rodney Dangerfield performance at a vintage local theater, capacity 4500+. My wife and I were in the loge, and when Rodney came on, his words were garbled to the point that we couldn't understand what he was saying. It didn't get better, and when other patrons started complaining too, we went downstairs to the orchestra level, as the laughs were coming from there. Luckily we found standing room before there was no more. The patrons from the loge, mezzanine, box seats, and gallery flooded the lobby and stormed the theater manager's office, demanding refunds. Sooo... the outcome was that the theater refunded approximately half of the money of what could have been a lucrative event, but wasn't, because the sound crew got it really, really wrong. The lesson to be learned here is that even experienced, professional sound crews can be caught out in a venue that was built before acoustics were given the consideration that they receive today.



  • @ barliman - I've read several of your posts where you write, "orchestra". In the U.S. that means a large ensemble with strings (ELO withstanding). When I worked in Germany, the term orchestra was used for any large instrumental group, with or without strings. Which do you mean? Thanks.


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    @Kehaulani said in Acoustics... and a bit more:

    @ barliman - I've read several of your posts where you write, "orchestra". In the U.S. that means a large ensemble with strings (ELO withstanding). When I worked in Germany, the term orchestra was used for any large instrumental group, with or without strings. Which do you mean? Thanks.

    In this case, it was the Vienna Lakeside Symphony Orchestra. Eight first violins, six second violins, three violas, three cellos. Two flutes, two clarinets, one bassoon, one saxophone. Two trumpets, one trombone, one baritone horn, one tuba. Electric bass, drumset, piano.
    I think you can call that an orchestra...
    In earlier posts, I was referring to the Vienna Klezmer Orchestra which had a large string section as well, in addition to an unholy number of clarinets (nine!! including a bass clarinet), seven flutes including a bass flute, three recorders, a full brass section and four accordions...


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    @J-Jericho said in Acoustics... and a bit more:

    IMO acoustics at a venue requires a balance of science, art, and experience to be successful. It's impractical to test-fill the space with the anticipated number of warm bodies prior to the performance and to replicate in advance air density, temperature, and humidity.

    Well, in one orchestra we had a Red Cross worker, and at every dress rehearsal, the Red Cross provided up to seven hundred woollen blankets to simulate the audience... they usually declared this an "emergency exercise".



  • But what is it that really enhances YOUR performance. It's the monitors. If you sound good to yourself, you sound good to the audience. I always make the sound man give me the sound I want on the monitors. They leave the knob there all night. So if the balance is not perfect in front of me, at least the audience gets a perfect performance out of me.



  • @barliman2001 said in Acoustics... and a bit more:

    Well, in one orchestra we had a Red Cross worker, and at every dress rehearsal, the Red Cross provided up to seven hundred woollen blankets to simulate the audience... they usually declared this an "emergency exercise".

    Now THAT is thinking ahead!


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    @Dr-GO said in Acoustics... and a bit more:

    But what is it that really enhances YOUR performance. It's the monitors. If you sound good to yourself, you sound good to the audience. I always make the sound man give me the sound I want on the monitors. They leave the knob there all night. So if the balance is not perfect in front of me, at least the audience gets a perfect performance out of me.

    No monitors for us - everything unplugged (except for the MOC and the kids' choir).



  • @J-Jericho said in Acoustics... and a bit more:

    @barliman2001 said in Acoustics... and a bit more:

    Well, in one orchestra we had a Red Cross worker, and at every dress rehearsal, the Red Cross provided up to seven hundred woollen blankets to simulate the audience... they usually declared this an "emergency exercise".

    Now THAT is thinking ahead!

    I would call it overthinking.


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    @Kehaulani Well, it worked and did not cost anything.


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