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Acoustics

of
Worship
Spaces
April 21
2014
Aditya
Ganvendra Singh Chahar
Rashmi Ray
Saurabh Rohila
Vibhor Gupta
Term Paper
Report, Noise
Engineering
Introduction
Most but not all worship spaces will be in one of three categories, characterized
by reverberation times appropriate for different music styles. A congregation
should first consider where it fits among these styles.
Contemporary Music : These spaces often seat a large congregation in a fan
shape. They will have a reverberation time in the range of 1.0 to 1.5 seconds. A
primary goal is to make the room friendly to the sound system. All speech and
music are usually amplified with electronic instruments frequently used. The
preachers often employ a wide dynamic range in their voices. This system is
designed to provide powerful music. The sound of the music is controlled more by
the audio system than the room. The room is designed to avoid harmful
reflections, which often requires significant wall treatment. The room volume
should be limited to prevent the need for excessive added absorption that could
hurt congregational singing. The sound system is often expensive because of
many sophisticated production features and powerful music capabilities.
Classical Music: These spaces place a strong emphasis on classical music and
organ. A reverberation time in the range of 1.7 to 2.2 seconds requires careful
design of the sound system for clear speech. Some rooms may have longer
reverberation times, making it very difficult to achieve clear speech. The most
successful of these rooms are usually arranged in the classical "shoe box" shape
with a moderately high to high ceiling. Those congregations planning to invest in a
pipe organ should consider this style. To preserve loudness of congregational
singing, the room should be optimally sized to reduce the need for added
absorption. This means the sound system must be carefully designed to aim the
sound into the people and minimize wall reflections and reverberant sound. The
system designer should be selected carefully. The sound system may be expensive
because of the speakers needed to control the placement of sound for speech.
Supplementary stereo music loudspeakers may be desirable.


Affecting factors
Reverberation time
Speech clarity in room
Strength of sound (dB level)
Room features
Wall material
Ceiling design
Flooring
Room dimensions and their comparison with normal music rooms, concert
halls.
Seating arrangement

Worship Space Acoustical Design Tips
1. Treat architectural acoustics as an important part of the overall design. Begin
evaluating acoustics at the schematics and early design stages.
2. Acoustical engineering and consulting firms throughout North America have
the expertise to make sure you "get it right acoustically." Whenever possible,
bring a consultant on early in the design stage to work with your architect.
3. Audio/video professionals can be helpful with architectural acoustics, but,
remember, their training is in A/V equipment design not architectural acoustics.
Verify your consultant's experience in architectural acoustics, hopefully with
similar projects.
4. Beware blaming the audio equipment for poor room acoustics and design.
Conversely, installing a new audio system, when the problem is actually the room
design, can be very disappointing.
5. There are often aesthetic and interior design adjustments required in order to
achieve great acoustics. Maybe that beautiful domed ceiling that will focus sound
into one small area is not such a good idea.
6. Acoustical interiors products, sound absorptive panels, acoustical diffuser
panels, and overhead sound reflectors can greatly enhance the acoustic quality in
a space. Proper selection and location of acoustical finish materials, along with a
good room design, will optimize acoustic quality.
7. Too much reverberation reduces sound clarity and speech intelligibility.
8. Too little reverberation reduces the quality of music and creates an acoustically
"dead" space.
9. Controlling unwanted sound reflections can be done with acoustical absorber
panels, which reduce the sound intensity of the reflection, or sound diffusers,
which scatter the sound.
10. Concave or inwardly curved wall or ceiling surfaces focus sound. This can be a
negative if the focusing occurs at the listener level.
11. Convex or outwardly bowed surfaces scatter sound. Irregularly shaped
surfaces scatter sound. This can improve acoustics in a large space by maintaining
a desirable level of reverberation and sound intensity while more evenly
distributing sound throughout the seating area.
12. A quiet space allows speech and music to be best heard and enjoyed. Design
the HVAC system and the shell of the space to keep the background noise in the
room very low.




Church Acoustics:
The contemporary church is built around communication verbal, musical, and
emotional as well as worship. The minister communicates with the
congregation by preaching, leading prayers, and announcing church activities.
Music attempts to communicate ideas and concepts while it simultaneously
enhances the worship experience through emotional involvement.
The acoustics of the worship space have a profound impact on all of these
functions.
A space is said to have good acoustics if it provides the sound environment
conducive to the way we want to use it. For a worship space to have good
acoustics it must allow good verbal and musical communication. It has poor
acoustics if it makes that communication difficult.

Roll of Reverberation:
This reverberation can be a thing of great beauty, as the listener is able to hear
many notes of a musical solo layered on top of each other, enriching the sound
beyond measure. Reverberation can also be disastrous, as the listener is
subjected to different parts of a word or sentence piled on top of each other at
the same instant, making it difficult to understand speech. This is the basic conflict
of acoustics which are great for music but bad for speech. A well designed sound
system can overcome this kind of conflict.
The optimum reverberation time for a space in which music is played depends on
the type of music that is to be played in the space. Rooms used for speech
typically need a shorter reverberation time so that speech can be understood
more clearly. If the reflected sound from one syllable is still heard when the next
syllable is spoken, it may be difficult to understand what was said. "Cat", "Cab",
and "Cap" may all sound very similar. If on the other hand the reverberation time
is too short, tonal balance and loudness may suffer. Some reverberation is very
desirable to enhance singing by the choir and the congregation. It is hard to sing
in a dead, non-reverberant church. A good reverberant environment is one which
provides a pleasing mix of direct and reflected sound to enhance the musical
experience. This is accomplished by a careful combination of regular and irregular
room geometries and surface finishes.


Design of ceiling of a church:
A shallow vaulted ceiling is better than a flat ceiling. Most churches build their
vaults running front to back so that there is a high wall section at the front.
However, a shallow vaulted ceiling actually sounds better if the vault runs side to
side. This is because the sound is stored in the high volume part of the space,
which is located under the peak of the vault. So, the sound is stored side to side in
the area where the people sit.
Furthermore, people's ears are separated sideways so we are more sensitive to
side to side sounds. People tend to like the spacious effect of side to side sound
storage. A slightly sloped ceiling at the front of the church moves sound away
from the front towards the congregation, keeping the launched sound clear. A
slightly sloped ceiling towards the back of the seating area compresses the sound
coming from the front making it louder for people sitting further away, which is
good, too.
A slightly sloped ceiling still keeps the sound of congregational singing within the
congregation, where it belongs, just like a flat ceiling does, which is good. Flat
ceilings are not good, though. All sounds that hit the flat ceiling are reflected back
down to the floor at the same time. The timing for floor-ceiling reflections is the
same everywhere in the church. This creates a horrible droning tone problem.
Circular Wall Design:
Usually the walls of churches are curved, mostly in a circular manner. There are
two problems with circular sound reflecting surfaces. One is that sound travels
very well around the curve of the wall. The other is that sound that starts from a
location out somewhere in front of the curve gets reflected back to a focal point,
something like a magnifying glass. The location of that focal point moves around,
depending on where the sound source moves or is located. Refocused echoes are
very loud at the focal point and when you hear it, the sound seems to come from
some mysterious place, some odd direction which usually doesnt make any
sense. When working with churches and most public spaces, the sound reflecting
wall is never completely covered with absorption. This causes a dead acoustic
effect that is very undesirable for people to hear. However, the focusing effect of
curved walls is so strong that applying a normal amount of sound absorption to
the wall barely effects the sound at the focal point. One then adds more and then
more again until you find the wall to be completely absorptive. The focal point
problem went away but now we have the dead wall effect, also a disagreeable
sonic effect.
When working with curved walls, the thinning effect of absorption is not enough.
Here, two different acoustic functions are needed to get the job done.
1) Some of the sound needs to be absorbed at the surface of the curved wall, as
with any back wall.
2) The remaining sound needs to be scattered, reflected in directions away from
the focal point.
Whatever sound that is not absorbed on the curved wall needs to be scattered off
in some direction away from the focal point. The typical sound scattering device is
a curved panel, called a poly. The poly panel is essentially a thin flat panel that is
bent to have a curvature that is reversed to the curve of the wall. A poly only
scatters mid and high range sound. The poly must also be a bass trap so that the
reflecting low frequencies do not focus. By mixing up the absorption and
scattering of sound on curved surfaces, people sitting near the wall still hear a
lively wall and those near the focal point dont hear the focused sound. Both
seating areas are now comfortable.

Role of Beams in Church:
Large churches have big ceilings and are at considerable height and to support
such ceilings big beams are needed. The beams are so big that they really reflect
the sound that hits them. Speakers are usually hung in the ceiling, nested up
inside of or just below these big beams. The beams catch the sound emitted from
the speakers and redirect it, usually in the wrong direction. Big beams can be big
trouble in churches. Beams restrict the free expansion of sound in the room and
when the sound gets trapped between a pair of beams and travels down their
length, the sound between the beams remains very loud. Reflection of sound
between beams also creates a reverberant effect overhead, right by the speaker.
This reverberation isnt like the more familiar, room reverberation which takes
around 2 seconds to build up strength. This cross-beam type of reverberation is
very strong and takes place very fast. So fast, people cant separate the cross-
beam reverberation from the voice of the speaker.
There is only one way to deal with bad acoustics from big beams and that is
to add sound absorbing material to the beams, way up there. If the acoustic fabric
has a similar color, close to the beams, no one notices the acoustic material that
has been added to the hall. When it comes to church acoustics, the best
opportunity for success is a design that incorporates easily, that no one would
notice and that works. The way the church looks is important to people, and
usually they are resistant to changing the aesthetics to a large degree.

Role of floorings:
In order to strike a balance between the requirement of musical purposes and
speech purposes the church hall should be designed with a fine blend of reflection
and absorption of sound. Absorption of sound is taken care by absorbing material
on walls and beams. For reflection purposes floor is made of marbles so as to
maintain a balance between clarity of speech and a quality classical music
experience.


Acoustics of a Buddhist Temple
The types of prayers conducted in a monastery are low frequency chants.
One of the aspects of human hearing is that we will perceive a progressive
loss of bass (lower) frequencies as sound intensity decreases according to
inverse square law, as is the case if we move away from a sound source;
this is called as bass loss problem.
This is the result of natural discrimination by human ears for lower
frequency as sound intensity decreases.
This problem can be overcome by increasing reverberation time for low
frequencies than those of high frequencies.

The graph shows a progression to higher reverberation times for low frequencies.
It is typical for the reverberation time for low frequencies to be some 30% higher
than the overall average reverberation time. This characteristic helps to deal with
the bass loss problem.
Actually, the longer reverberation time for lows usually happens naturally,
particularly if a lot of wood, curtains or any other sound absorbing material
is used in the construction since these materials absorb high frequencies
more than lows.
Thus we can find that Buddhist monastery is usually filled with sound
absorbing materials like wooden floors and ceilings, silk curtains, tables
with cloths.

Study of a Japanese Buddhist Temple
Architectural acoustics of a Buddhist Temple is similar to string instruments in
western music. The altar (hard table, also known as the Lords Table) of the
temple is a hard reflecting board that is coated with Japanese lacquer and
polished similar to the surface of a violin. The bottom side of this is supported by
a sound post from the basement also similar to the western string instruments.
The altar is pushed from the top as well as from the bottom. This keeps the altar
under many stresses. Although the details are not known, this is supposed to
contribute to the acoustics of the wooden temple.
Location of speaker (sound sources)

Sources S1, S4 and S4 are located along the central axis and are known as the
symmetry keeping positions. On the other hand, S2 and S3 are having asymmetric
positions. S1 and S4 are the positions of the tuning monks whose singing is
followed by the rest of the people in the temple. S4 is used for regular purposes.
Sound measurements were taken by ten receiver microphones positioned at the
locations shown in the figure above. The sound levels and reverberation times
were plotted against octave band frequencies for different sources and receivers.
River between
live and dead
Aisle- Live region
for monks and
ordinary people
Altar- Dead region



Sound levels and reverberation times for sources S1, 2, 3 and 4.
We can observe that the sound levels are higher in the low frequency and also the
reverberation times are lower at low frequencies. Reverberation time is around
0.4-0.6 sec. It can also be seen for S4 (tuning monks speaker) that the sound
levels are higher in the live area (area for monks and other people), shown in blue
lines, and the reverberation times are higher in very low and very high
frequencies. This gives a better enchanting experience to the people in the
temple.
The asymmetric location of S3 has also shown to contribute to the prayer
environment, especially at high frequencies. This suggests that breaking of
symmetry can give desired results in the acoustics of a prayer hall.

Comparison between Monastery, church and Concert halls
Formula used:
Clarity index : C
exp
= 10 log [exp(1.104/RT) 1] dB
Strength : G = 10 log (RT/V) + 45 dB

From calculating these values we can make distinction among the church,
Buddhist monastery, and a concert hall and make a comment on the preferential
use of these buildings.
T
60
Clarity Strength Comments
Monastery Low High High Ideal factors for speech
and preaching purpose
and chanting
Church High Low High Good conditions for
choir singing as well as
strength for preaching
Concert hall Medium Medium Low Designed by keeping
everything in mind


References:
1) http://www.sae.edu/reference_material/pages/Coefficient%20Chart.htm, Date: 17/4/14. Time: 5:34
pm
2) The holiest Sacred Hearts Church, Assessing the acoustic properties of Roman Catholic churches: A
new Approach- Krzysztof Kosaa & Zbigniew Witold Engel. Date-18/04/2014 time-7.27pm
3) Aichi Prefectural Art theatre- http://www.aac.pref.aichi.jp/english/gekijyo/guide/c_holeg.html Date-
18/04/2014 time-7.27pm
4) Beijing temple of heavens- http://www.chinatour360.com/beijing/temple-heaven01.htm, Date-
18/04/2014 time-7.27pm
5) http://www.religiousproductnews.com/articles/2009-February/Supplement/Room-Acoustics-and-
Worship-Space-Design.htm
6) Concert Hall Sound Clarity: A Comparison of Auditory Judgments and Objective Measures, Andrzej
MIKIEWICZ, Tomira ROGALA, Teresa ROCISZEWSKA,Tomasz RUDZKI, Tadeusz FIDECKI.
7) Broken Symmetry of Spatial and Temporal Design in Japanese Temple Ken ITO, Ryota SHIMOKURA,
Yoshiharu SOETA, Tomohiro OHSAWA, Shin-ichi SATO, Yoichi ANDO