ME 432 Acoustics and Noise Control Engineering

Term project Report : Concert Hall Acoustics

As a term project, contrary to what we have done so far, I tried to choose a topic that
combines engineering and art. The impact or impressiveness of a music has been thought
to depend only on the musicians’ skill, but it is known that interactions between the
concert-hall acoustics and listeners’ hearing also play a major role in musical dynamics
. The main goal of the project is to find what acoustic conditions are preferred in concert
hall so that music can be fully enjoyed and appreciated by both the musicians on the
stage and the audience. This subject is the area of architectural acoustics that is founded
by W.C Sabine in the early 1900s. Sabine was the first to investigate the properties of a
hall and he discovered the most important acoustical parameter up to date: RT,
reverberation time. This finding launched the science of architectural acoustics which is
a multidisciplinary field that spans in many fields. [1] Later, Leo Beranek did major
contributions into acoustics spanning from 1940 to today as an expert in the design and
evaluation of concert halls and opera houses. That is why all papers and studies has
extensive citations to Mr. Beranek’s books and other studies.
Until the eighties, the reverberation time was the only acoustic parameter considered for
the objective description of their acoustics. Expanding the existing knowledge about
concert hall acoustics has been provided with further parameters to describe their
acoustics. [2]
Many studies of subjective perception of concert hall acoustics have been conducted
with questionnaries with the musicians and listening of real concerts while others are
carried in laboratories using simulations and recordings.
Concert hall acoustics research have been studied for over hundred years and it can be
categorized into different studies. Focusing on the measurable physical parameters and
quantities, architectural solutions, acoustical treatments, prediction techniques and
psychoacoustical point of view using listener’s and musician’s experience and auditory
This report attempts to provide a contemporary overview of research into concert hall
acoustics and to present briefly some important results found mostly related with the
important physical parameters, orchestra orientation in the stage and psychological
effects of different properties on musicians.

direct sound is the sound that travels directly from an instrument on a stage to the listener seated in the audience .Figure 1 Sound Propagation in Concert Hall (Beranek. . Reverberation is a product of a large number of echoes building up. the RT is around 1. a concert hall can be described as ”dead” or ”dry” and orchestral or symphonic music is not adequately supported by the hall. Finally. If the reverberation time is too long. basic concepts should be kept in mind. For example. The term early sound includes the direct sound and all the reflections from all the boundaries. bouncing between the surfaces of the hall and slowly decaying as the sound attenuates by the inverse-square law of the distance from the source and is absorbed by the surfaces and the air. reverberation time is highly dependent on the volume of the space as well as the surface materials and amount of acoustical treatment applied in the space as stated by Sabine. mainly walls and ceiling. Thus.2.2 seconds depending on the purpose and shape of the hall. the reverberant sound encompasses all the reflections arriving to the listener’s ears after 80 ms. Reverberation time refers to the time period in which the sound attenuates 60 dB after the source has stopped generating a sound. [3] If the reverberation time is too short. the acoustics may be perceived as too ”live” and the music as distant or lacking presence.8 . clarity and strength. It is now well established that in concert halls with appraised acoustics. 2004 ) Part 1 : Physical Parameters To proceed with more techniqual information in next sections. reaching the listeners position in the first 80 milliseconds after the arrival of the direct sound. Reverberation Time To provide an optimum value for reverberation time is the first step for acoustical design.

p. 2004. While reverberation time continues to be regarded as a significant parameter. p. 1996. such as relative sound pressure levels. 23). 29). if a hall’s reverberation is increased in the lower frequency region it is often said to be ”warm” (Beranek. there is reasonable agreement that other types of measurements. ”Liveness” of the acoustical environment is enhanced (Beranek. lateral energy fractions. 1989) If the reverberation is sustained in the region between 350 to 1400 Hz. interaural cross-correlation . 2004 ) Figure 3 Recommended Reverberation Time (Wilson.Figure 2 Reverberation Time (Beranek. early/late energy ratios. On the other hand.

very little information about the acoustics of stage has appeared in the acoustical literature until late 1970s. are needed for a more complete evaluation of the acoustical quality of rooms.functions and background noise levels. Anders Gade has been active in research concerning the development of the understanding concert hall acoustics. Support Knudsen described the concept of ‘‘support’’ in early 1930s.5] Gade has listed recommendations for measuring ST [6] :  the platform should be occupied with chairs and music stands  all objects in a 2 metre radius from the transducers should be removed  the transducers must be placed at least 4 metres from reflecting stage surfaces to make sure these surfaces are include beyond the 20 ms integration limit  on smaller stages the 20 ms limit must be reduced and all furniture removed (since many reflections will arrive before 20 ms)  distance from sound source to microphone set to 1 metre and the height of both set to 1 metre above the stage floor  calibration is needed for the frequency bands where the sound source is not adequately omni directional Figure 4 Measurement setup . Gade made studies in several concert halls concerning ensemble and developed the stage support measurement [ST] . support is the property which makes the musician feel that he can hear himself and that it is not necessary to force the instrument to develop the tone. ST measures how much of a musician’s emitted sound energy that is reflected to a fellow musician sitting at a distance of one meter. Gade reported a series of pioneer studies carried out in the laboratory as well as in the field . However. It can be felt even during the onset of tones and is therefore believed to be related to properties different from reverberance. Put it differently. In 1989. Since the beginning of the 80’s. [4.

1000. effects of early energy can be understood briefly with the help following summarized findings taken from various studies below:  Early reflections are the main factor for achieving support. .7) and is highly correlated inversely to the reverberation time. Furthermore. Depending upon what energy is reflected from other surfaces this height will make SUPPORT equal approximately to -12 to -15 dB”. while the late part provides support to one’s own instrument. Often published C80-values are averaged over three octaves bands namely: 500. an expected value of C80(3) should have a value between +1 to + 5 dB. when the hall is unoccupied. or during time gaps where they do not play themselves. Acoustics. during performance. an expected value of -1 to -4 dB might be considered appropriate. its height should be between 7 to 13 m. . is defined as the ratio between the early energy to the late energy according to equation (2. increased clarity contributes to rapidly played passages for instruments such as the violin [3] It may be noted that C80 with te = 80ms is usually used in room designed for music. This or any other possible “most critical paths” within the orchestra could be used instead of averaging between many paths. but the late part also influences the total orchestra loudness which may mask hearing of oneself as well as the useful early sound from others” [7] Without giving much details and mathematical descriptions. this average value is denoted C80(3). [3] Clarity Clarity [C80 or C50]. Clarity is measured in dB. adjusted according to the orchestra’s preference. while C50 with te = 50ms is usually used in rooms for speech. Early Reflections and Early/Late Energy In his report. Gade [3.4]  The sound field characteristic of greatest importance is the spectrum of early sound [8] . During rehearsals. Gade points out the relevance of distinguishing between early and late energy: ” [. This allows for details in the music to be heard more clearly. Henceforth.] The early energy from others is useful for ensemble. In contrast. and Architecture that “When a canopy is used to create a favorable SUPPORT on stage. Leo Beranek states in his book Concert Halls and Opera Houses: Music. and 2000 Hz.Findings indicate that the strings are the most demanding for support and the brass/percussion has the largest potential of getting too loud for the strings. An interesting question with regard to this is to which degree the musicians listen to the others while playingthemselves.

the orchestra is usually arranged in the same order as listed here: strings at front. woodwinds in the middle and brass and percussion at the back as Figure 1 shows. . The brass group consists of trumpets. brass and percussion. The strings consist of violins. vibraphone. Reflections arriving 10 – 40 ms improve ensemble [9]  Reflections beyond 35 ms can contribute to ensemble at lower frequencies [10]  Reflections before 35 ms preferred.5 – 2 kHz sound important for ensemble. below 500 Hz may be detrimental [12]  Singers disliked a 40 ms delayed reflection [12]  Too much early energy on stage can cause the orchestra to sound too quiet in the audience [13]  Reflections beyond 100 – 200 ms are detrimental for the orchestra [14]  Singer had best intonation when level of self was -5 to +15 dB louder than others [15]  Strong early reflections at 5 – 20 ms can cause unfavourable coloration effects [16]  For fast tempo solo singing a 17 ms delayed single reflection is preferred [17]  Musicians should only get 1st order reflections within 25 ms and late sound from the hall. Soloist singers are situated at front of the stage like any instrumental soloist (normally violin or cello). The choir is normally placed behind the orchestra on stage and can often have above 100 persons. They can be categorized into four main instrument groups: strings. if weak direct sound or fast movement & long RT [11]  0. bassoons. Seen from the audience. violas. harps and piano. celli and double basses. which is the most common arrangement today. trombones. French horns. The woodwinds consist of oboes (including cor anglais). The percussion group includes timpani. Griesinger (2006))  Part 2 : The Orchestra and Choir on Stage A symphonic orchestra normally consists of approximately 100 players. A piano can be treated as both a string and percussive instrument. Alternative arrangements exist as shown in Figure 6. woodwind. and tuba. (D. The orchestra plan known as the American is shown in Figure 5. clarinets and flutes.

The German arrangement gives a better “stereo effect” of the orchestra with the first and second violins on opposite sides (Meyer [18]). American. (Approximate positions. based on Internet) (Meyer. and string players have commented that it is easier to listen outside the string group with this arrangement. while the rightmost is the German (or European) arrangement. and the stereo effect lost its value on mono recordings. The middle is Furtwängler’s version. the German is not the most popular arrangement. violins). But at the beginning . The American is said to be motivated by the monophonic recording technique used during the ‘50s With the American arrangement a synchronized onset of tone is easier achieved between the two 2 of 14 violin groups since they are sitting together using this arrangement. Because of more demanding playing conditions for the orchestra (especially the strings. 1987) The leftmost arrangement shown in Figure 6 is the American. Many symphonic works have been written with this arrangement in mind. creating a “dialog” between left and right side of the orchestra among the violins. But it is popular for its stereo effect for the audience.Figure 5 Orchestra arrangement.

25 “An organist will take all the reverberation time he is given. The implication of this conclusion is that music appreciation influenced by reverberation time is independent from other indexes. The musicians’ focus is not just on enjoying the music. which makes it more difficult to find relations between cause and effect on a stage. The focus has been more on the audience because this is actually where the music is to be appreciated and thus conditions for the musicians are less clear . Ando and his colleagues (Ando. the violinist does not feel that his playing is bare or naked – there is a friendly aura surrounding each note” . and then ask for a bit more. directivity of the different instruments and how the orchestra is arranged on stage. [20]. Development in hearing physiology and experimental methods in the past 60 years has resulted in more scientific research in this area. In this interactive process the musicians automatically adapt to their environment. and therefore can be studied separately. The musician interacts with what he/she hears quite differently from a (passive) listener. In general the highest power levels in the orchestra were found for percussion and brass instruments. from daily experience we know that people tend to be more on tune when humming in a reverberant space like bathroom than open space. and provided more solid evidence for the importance of reverberation time from the physiological ear-brain mechanism perspective. Normally the percussion and brass instruments sit at the back of the stage pointing their instruments towards the audience/conductor. the stage conditions for the musicians are highly relevant since this is the origin of the sound/music. To quote Issac Stern. E. However. As he goes from one note to another the previous note perseveres and he has the feeling that each note is surrounded by strength. Obviously this is for the enjoyment of the notes as they remain suspended in the air” . Part 3 : Psychological Effects for Musicians In concert halls the preferred conditions for the audience are quite well understood. For example. musicians expressed their sensitivity toward the reverberation of the performing space. They also discovered that reverberation time is the dimension in the temporal perception of left hemisphere.2004). When this happens. 1985) performed important research in this area. one thing people underestimates is the importance of optimum conditions for the musicians. But for the audience to hear great music. and its influence is orthogonal with spatial perceptions of right hemisphere. (Meyer. Consider the pause that follows the ornamented proclamation that opens the famous Toccata in D minor. affecting their ability to interact confidently in the mutual process of music making [21]. is that the direct sound levels from the different instruments vary considerably within the orchestra. for ample reverberation is part of organ music itself.of rehearsals many string players experience more difficulties being split up in two separate groups (Orestad [19]). Power Biggs makes comments on the dependence of organ music on the long reverberation setting. Similarly but more critically. “Reverberation is of great help to a violinist. What the musicians hear is crucial. but producing it. A major consequence of source levels. Many of Bach’s organ works are designed actually to exploit reverberation.

exposed stage is preferred by the orchestra and also appears to be beneficial for the conductor and audience as well (mentioned by Meyer (2008) and Griesinger (2006)). leading to excessive sound levels with risk of hearing loss among the players. but also on a well designed main auditorium. Definitions are to express subjective judjement in a common language in acoustical environments. Enclosures and its Effects Some of the existing stages today have enclosures providing more early reflections than appear necessary. reverberation time etc. A narrow and high. also with regard to repertoire. Well designed stage enclosures can make the venue more versatile. Beneficial conditions for the players regarding reflected sound rely not solely on the design of the stage enclosure. Subjective Parameters It is also very important to link the subjective music appreciation with the physical parameter of a space that is mentioned before (Support. but struggle to define what they experience as different and what could be the cause(s).) In his book How they sound: Concert Halls and Opera Halls Beranek makes an attempt to define common terms among musicians and acousticians. but apart from giving their overall acoustic impression. chances are high that they will make exciting music for the audience as well. If the players are able to communicate easily between each other and enjoy making music. most players struggle to describe in detail how the acoustic conditions or the design of the stage enclosure affect them. With a narrow stage enclosure the double basses will be next to a hard reflecting surface which helps raising sound levels at the lowest frequencies from the double basses contributing to a fuller sound. The players appear to be able to tell when acoustic conditions differ. . Some of the subjective judgement examples are given below.Most players agree that acoustic conditions are essential to them. A lack of reflected sound is also frustrating for the players. or select repertoire where for instance the structure and durations in the music are less predictable (more improvised music compared to classic or romantic repertoire). For instance better communication across the stage among string players can make it easier to use the German orchestra configuration.

pp. 1996. 2004.26) (Beranek.Table 1: Explanations of subjective parameters according to Beranek (Beranek.35). 28 . . 22 . pp.

the precedence effect is negligible (Rossing. while a large room with few reflections will lead to lack of hearing others. p. Lack of support often leads to intonation difficulties. rather than listening to it as if through a window. 485). occurs when a sound has a discontinuous or transient character as in music or speech.Another important perception is called “Listener Envelopment” (LE). A good listener envelop is that the sound comes from all direction rather than from limited directions. while lack of hearing others leads to timing difficulties within the orchestra (Gade). 2007. ‘Ensemble’ has been used to represent the degree to which a musician can hear others. LE addresses how the listener feels surrounded by the music. Nevertheless. Cocktail Party Effect The Cocktail Party Effect is the phenomenon when many sources are located in a room and the brain and hearing mechanics have the capability to highlight certain sounds in comparison to others. but ensemble can also be interpreted as the . It is measured by Lateral Energy Fraction. the sound pressure level has to be about 10 to 15 dB above that of the masking sound (Meyer & Hansen.. p. or Haas effect. Localization of the sound source is preliminary due to the direct sound from the source even though reverberation is present. there seems to be agreement that musicians have one main concern: getting the right balance between hearing one-self (support) and hearing others. as a ratio of sound energy arriving laterally over sound energy arriving from all directions. In brief. Precedence effect The precedence effect. in order to be able to locate the source. 17). In the end. results in the literature shows that a small reverberant room will lead to lack of hearing oneself. 2009. If the reflections are 10 dB louder than that of the direct sound.

Distributed early reflections are important. Among the main uncertainties are time interval of useful and detrimental reflections. and preference for late sound. Reflections arriving in the 8 of 14 time span from 40 to 200 ms (between the time regions for early and late sound) can be detrimental. independent variables as we wish. but most often we can not control the many possible. distribution and diffusion of reflections. The most important frequencies are 0. while strings which are the weakest instruments in terms of sound power. in field experiments the musicians are exposed to the “real thing” including the entire complexity of all the sounds from the orchestra correctly modified by the acoustic features of the hall. as this will reduce ensemble and likely make each musician play even louder!  Modify the playing style towards finer nuances instead of more loudness. There is no question about the degree of realism. If the needed early reflections are removed. Discussion In brief the findings may be summarized as follows: direct sound and source-receiver distance within the orchestra are important and are influenced by orchestra arrangement and risers.5 – 2 kHz. the effect will most likely be the opposite: the musicians will intuitively play louder! A lot of paper and conference studies that I encountered is related with field experiments. and with those being many (one can easily list at least ten independant variables in concert hall and stage design) it is necessary to have data from many more than 10 halls in order for significant . This leads to strings normally being the most demanding on acoustics for their own support. Some general advices for a concert hall according to literature is as follows :  Provide adequate space on stage to avoid close proximity to loud instruments  Install sound absorbing screens where close instruments are still too loud  Do not install absorption on reflecting surfaces close to the orchestra (except near very loud instruments). The situation is slightly different if experiments are carried out in a single hall with variable acoustics on stage. It remains to be answered what measure is actually required to balance these two listening perspectives. These are all controlled by the architecture of the stage and the hall itself. However. minimum requirements for the results from a field experiment to be of general value must be that the number of halls are larger than the degrees of freedom required to represent the possible variables. Especially for soloists more reverberation (late sound) is appreciated. comparisons are difficult with long time intervals between the stimuli and likely different music has been played in the different halls.balance point between hearing one-self and others. To put it differently. but lower frequencies can play an important role for intonation. The key message is: do not treat the problem like a normal noise case in which installation of absorption is the natural choice. direction. Brass and percussion are the loudest instruments. but the variation in independent variables will still be limited. (not simulations or modellings).

This can only be done if we agree on a minimum set of questions to be included in every new subjective survey of halls and on a minimum set of objective date to be measured and collected as well. The first task is to select objective parameters. to collect all those data and evaluate/interpret them is cumbersome and a very tedious task. researchers and consultants must unite in an effort to collect sufficient data on musicians’ evaluation of halls as well as on objective parameter values and architectural descriptions from these halls. collection and distribution of data and organize analysis of results. Therefore.results to emerge. define measurement procedures. take care of communication. [22] . although huge effort is produced in last century. As a result.

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