Hi everybody, today I want to talk about some different factors involved in creating the quality of live sound in different venues. We’ve all been to ‘that’ concert of a favourite artist and been let down by the quality of the live sound. So let’s look at why that might be…
I’ll start this comparison at one of the original places people would come to see live music, a church. I went to Brisbane’s St. John’s Cathedral to record their piano and while I was there, noticed that the large ceilings and their arched shapes seem to enhance the quality of the piano I was recording. I didn’t have time to spectrally analyse the space, but decided to look further into the influence religious spaces have had on the development of live music.
There has been studies done on the Basilica of San Marco Church in Venice that indicate that complicated acoustic design was being practiced as early as the renaissance. It is believed that an intentional architectural feature of the church would create a stereo effect of the choir, especially for the seating area for nobility and royalty. It is well known how much music itself advanced through secular influence but I found it to be of great interest that most churches were not just built for beauty, but to amplify and add ambience to sound created within. Many of these advancements were later adapted to modern sound venues, with the main emphasis being on the shape and size of the room and material and style of the architecture.
REFLECTIVE SURFACES & SIMPLE MICROPHONE TECHNIQUES
In a University visit to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) I learned about the different acoustics and technical equipment necessary for both symphony music and theatre. Where the specifications of the room where symphony performances are played concentrate on a good reflection time, dampening where necessary (through use of curtains and various other structural and material dampeners) to create an honest representation of the performance with great reverb to enhance its qualities, the theatre room is more designed to assist performers by delivering a reverb that helps the actor to clearly hear their own voice.
In the symphony performance space, great expenditure has been made on the mixing console (Midas Heritage 2000 48-channel) and its PA system (12 x L’Acoustics Kara Line Array Elements, L’Acoustics SB18 Subwoofers), whereas a cheaper desk is used in the theatre space as most touring theatrical performance productions will have their own sound and lighting systems and technical staff to operate them.
In the symphony space, all microphone techniques are stereo and the space between performers and the audience is enough to provide the distance required so audience sound does not disturb the instrumentalists, creating a feeling that you as the audience are having the performance projected towards you, while in the theatre space, close microphone techniques are used to create the opposite effect where the audience feel a part of the story unfolding on stage. The more intimate experience of the theatre space is created through use of surround sound rather than the reliance the symphony room has on its natural reverb to embellish an acoustic performance.
HOW TO MAKE IT ROCK
My fellow students and I also visited the Hi-Fi Bar in West End, Brisbane. The Hi-Fi Bar is a renovated space created quite recently which has grown to be one of Brisbane’s top venues for medium-scale music performance. It has earned a place amongst venues like The Tivoli and The Arena, showcasing such artists as Public Enemy, Ghostface Killah, Gomez, Little Birdy and many more.
Basically the place was designed with the intention to play high-intensity music with large dynamic ranges to large audiences. Room acoustics in this space rely heavily on a good sized crowd, using high-quality equipment with a Digidesign Profile Mixrack Console and 12 x Outline Butterfly Line Array Speaker Boxes in conjunction with 6 x Outline Subtech 218 Sub Speaker Boxes, with an advanced monitor section using a Digidesign SC48 Console which covers the monitor wedges, drum fill and side fill for the stage.
From personal experience the front and center can be a bit boomy from the crowd’s perspective, but this problem is lessened when there is a large crowd in that area. The monitor section makes for good foldback sound for the performers. The mezzanine area has its own PA so sound does not dissipate if an audience is in this area.
In comparison to a church, the natural sound projection is not great (this is likely to be to its advantage, as loud instruments such as an electric guitar would not benefit from this) but through the quality sound equipment, a feeling that is both engaging to the crowd and a projected performance is achieved. It is almost a mix between the two effects created in the QPAC symphony and theatre spaces being less formal and detached than a symphony performance while more separated than a theatre show.
QPAC Concert Hall (2013). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.qpac.com.au/resources/images/concert_hall_techs_specs.pdf
Sacred Architecture, Geometry, and Harmonics (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.crystalinks.com/sacredarchsgharmonics
The Hi-Fi – Features and Equipment – Brisbane (n.d.). Retrieved December 2014, from http://www.thehifi.com.au/brisbane/features