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Thread: Room Acoustics

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    Default Room Acoustics

    My den is about 12x14 with and eight foot ceiling. I have a mandolin that sounds kind of "thuddy" (that's a technical term) when I play. The other day I took the mandolin to a luthier for a set up to solve this problem. She did describe the set up as "unusual" but she did not elaborate.

    Her shop is about 40' x 50' with a 14' ceiling (a very old elegant building). In that room the mandolin sounds awesome. Still in need of set up but a dramatic improvement just by getting it into a bigger space.

    So, my thought is that the different room acoustics profoundly impact the perception of intonation.

    Experiences or thoughts on this?

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Stand in a corner of a room, about 3-5 ft from the two walls, facing into the corner. Play your mandolin and listen to how it sounds. This should give you a fairly good idea of how others will hear it, and it won't matter very much what the size of the rest of the room happens to be.

    Of course, the room acoustics have nothing to do with the "INTONATION" of a mandolin. Note that "intonation" has nothing to do with "tone", even though the root word is the same! But they may change your perception of the intonation. And they may change your perception of the tone, as well.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    I play in a small camper that has a variable-speed ceiling fan/vent. When it’s on at low speed you don’t hear it, and yet, it produces a subtle tone that makes my E string sound flat anywhere on the fretboard and makes the A strings sound out of tune with each other. Not especially on thread, but harmonic distortion caused by so much as computer cooling fans might be more pronounced in a smaller space.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Depending on whether a room is 'soft' furnished ie.carpets,soft furniture,curtains etc,.or 'hard' ie no carpet,bare walls no furniture,any instrument will have some frequencies accentuated or reduced. a 'soft' room,will reduce reverb.,a 'hard' one will usually increase it & accentuate higher frequencies.

    However,as sblock correctly points out,room acoustics won't 'change' the inherent 'tone' of your mandolin,they simply might make is sound better / worse.

    How is your mandolin sounding in your room now,after the set-up ?. IMO - the G & D strings of a mandolin should produce 'strong' sounding clear notes = not muffled. The A & E strings should ring out clearly & strongly without any 'over emphasis' ie.they should sound 'clear' but not 'over-bright',
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    It would seem to be more of a different issue that you simply feel might be attributable to room acoustics. In what direction were you sitting? Were you facing a wall or heavy curtains? Humidity levels? How you held the instrument? When you're actually playing the instrument itself, you're so close that room acoustics matter very little. The only time this would change is if you head into the bathroom and play in a tiled tub or shower enclosure. It would seem to me like it's something else, the room you played in initially is large enough to be neutral. It's more a question of sound reflections if anything.

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    My mandolin seems to sound worse in a room full of people

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    In the luthier’s space you also get the sympathetic vibrations from all the instruments hanging on the walls. Sort of a choro effect, if you will. The two rooms we play in at church are vastly different. The sanctuary is a very “hard” room that’s acoustically alive. The fellowship hall is all carpet, acoustic ceiling tiles, and insulated divider walls. It absorbs sound rather than reflect it, and it shows in the amplifier settings needed to fill each space. So, yes, the room can make a huge difference in how your mandolin sounds, though I agree it shouldn’t affect intonation...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Rooms will have resonant frequencies. Those frequencies will be stronger for the signal/music/instrument being played. Most rooms amplify 250 cycles, or around there. The tubbyness you hear at home could be part of the frequency of your room boosting lower notes on your mandolin. It will not change where your bridge is set for intonation, but you may hear you are out of tune easier if your intonation is off.
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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    My mandolin seems to sound worse in a room full of people
    My mandolin ONLY sounds good when somebody else plays it . . . .
    I recently finished a new homemade 4-song EP of original solo acoustic songs; (sorry, no mandolin content this time). If you are interested in a FREE copy, feel free to send me your address via Private Message, and I will be glad to send you one. Trust me, it will be worth the price!


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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Did you ever play your mandolin in the bathroom? Oh my! What a sound. Makes just about any mandolin sound good. Just like when you sing in the shower. That reverb is absolutely awesome!
    ManjoMan

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Different rooms can have a huge impact on what we hear coming out of the same instrument.

    I don't think my mandolin changes in output when I move from room to room, but it sounds slightly different in the living room, with heavy drapes and upholstered furniture than it does in my office, with mostly hard surfaces. And if I take it into the hallway or bathroom, it sounds louder, with a touch of reverb from the echos.

    I also was never bothered much when I was younger when playing in a room with a ceiling fan, but now it drives me crazy, so I blame that on aging ears.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    When you're actually playing the instrument itself, you're so close that room acoustics matter very little. The only time this would change is if you head into the bathroom and play in a tiled tub or shower enclosure. It would seem to me like it's something else, the room you played in initially is large enough to be neutral. It's more a question of sound reflections if anything.
    I disagree with the premise that because you're close to the mandolin, room acoustics matter very little.

    We tend to talk about the difference between soft vs. hard surfaces (the classic tiled bathroom example). But just as important is the duration of the reflections you hear -- short vs. long, or early vs. late -- and whether you're hearing a mix of the two instead of just one or the other.

    Typically, you'll get a short duration from the floor and any nearby furniture and walls, then another reflection from the ceiling, and finally a reflection from the most distant walls from the player. The later reflections mix and form a "diffuse" reverb field, behind the sound of the early reflections from nearby surfaces. So size of room and height of ceiling makes a big difference. It's not just how hard or soft the nearby surfaces are.

    As a side note, this is why good reverb plugins for DAWs don't just include soft vs. hard simulated materials, but also separate settings for short and long reflections. It's the mix of short + long (with diffusion for the late reflections) that makes for a good, "natural" sound. Otherwise you sound like you're in a cardboard box or a cave, at the two extremes.

    The OP said his practice room is 12x14' with an 8' ceiling. That's a small room, where he's only going to hear early, short duration reflections. The shop was 40x50' with a 14' ceiling, so now there is a mix of early reflections from the floor and anything nearby, mixed with later reflections from the higher ceiling and more distant walls in a diffuse reverberation field. It's that mix that makes an acoustic instrument in a big room sound more "rich," or "open" compared to small rooms with low ceilings. You can hear it even with a fairly quiet instrument like mandolin, unless it's obscured by ambient noise like HVAC, conversation, or outside traffic.

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    And, that's a much better explanation than what I driveled out earlier
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    I find bounce back from an empty Manhassett ( solid desk ) music stand, gives me the sound my F hole mandolin is projecting outwards..

    and more comfortable sitting.

    standing in front of a sliding glass door works too..


    Ive seen a plexiglass ring disc, surrounding a microphone , used in concerts by

    horn players to hear themselves better..

    A friend, here, brings a broad brimmed hat to wear for much of the same reason,
    to monitor his own voice, better.. Us old folks with not the best hearing..








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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    I find bounce back from an empty Manhassett ( solid desk ) music stand, gives me the sound my F hole mandolin is projecting outwards..

    and more comfortable sitting.

    standing in front of a sliding glass door works too..


    Ive seen a plexiglass ring disc, surrounding a microphone , used in concerts by

    horn players to hear themselves better..

    A friend, here, brings a broad brimmed hat to wear for much of the same reason,
    to monitor his own voice, better.. Us old folks with not the best hearing..








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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    What was that, I can't hear you.

    An old friend of mine always said "can't means won't" I wonder how he hears these days.
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I disagree with the premise that because you're close to the mandolin, room acoustics matter very little.

    We tend to talk about the difference between soft vs. hard surfaces (the classic tiled bathroom example). But just as important is the duration of the reflections you hear -- short vs. long, or early vs. late -- and whether you're hearing a mix of the two instead of just one or the other.



    Typically, you'll get a short duration from the floor and any nearby furniture and walls, then another reflection from the ceiling, and finally a reflection from the most distant walls from the player. The later reflections mix and form a "diffuse" reverb field, behind the sound of the early reflections from nearby surfaces. So size of room and height of ceiling makes a big difference. It's not just how hard or soft the nearby surfaces are.
    Yeah, I didn't explain myself very well.. However, to be technically correct, the mandolin doesn't change it's sound regardless of distance or room. It sounds exactly what it sounds like, and can only sound exactly what it sounds like. It's physical sound-producing properties don;t change from room to room. What you hear are the reflections from other surfaces, so you're hearing the effects of the room, not the mandolin. A large room simply offers more diffractive (and reflective) surfaces as opposed to absorptive. So, the reflected sound you hear is different, the mandolin isn't. That's what I was trying to say. As I and others pointed out, play in a tiled bathroom; the mandolin takes on volume that you'd never think it had. It's not louder, the reflected sound waves are simply stronger.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    like interior echos ringing stone castles , maybe hang some tapestries from the walls?




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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    Yeah, I didn't explain myself very well.. However, to be technically correct, the mandolin doesn't change it's sound regardless of distance or room. It sounds exactly what it sounds like, and can only sound exactly what it sounds like. It's physical sound-producing properties don;t change from room to room. What you hear are the reflections from other surfaces, so you're hearing the effects of the room, not the mandolin. A large room simply offers more diffractive (and reflective) surfaces as opposed to absorptive. So, the reflected sound you hear is different, the mandolin isn't. That's what I was trying to say. As I and others pointed out, play in a tiled bathroom; the mandolin takes on volume that you'd never think it had. It's not louder, the reflected sound waves are simply stronger.
    All of this is true, and yet it doesn't change the perceived sound that you're hearing, which can influence one's judgement of a particular mandolin in isolation. Which is what the OP was talking about.

    When I move from my practice room/library in my house, which is very "soft" in acoustic terms, and also somewhat short reflection, to the big room where we invite friends over to play, which is much larger with a mix of early and late reflections.... my mandolin suddenly sounds twice as expensive in that room with better acoustics.


    These are subjective value judgments that are especially important for anyone shopping for a new mandolin in a store. Especially if your home acoustics are less than ideal, and the store is the opposite. This also applies to anything you listen to on YouTube as a sound clip, where you have to apply a fudge factor based on room acoustics and whatever was done in post-processing.

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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Agreed.. If the shower effect doesn't prove it to you, then nothing will. The effects of the room or lack of, is Huge. Humidity, even temperature. Everything comes it to play. Some more so than others.
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  26. #21
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Going back to the early 1970's,a friend of mine set up his own home recording studio. The room wasn't huge,around 12 ft x 10 ft with a 9ft ceiling like most Victorian built houses of the time. The floor was carpeted & the walls were simply emulsion painted plaster. However,he'd fitted curtain rails all around the room, full length on every wall. By pulling the curtains together,or further apart,it was amazing how the room acoustics could change,from being almost reverb,free,to a tad 'lively',
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    I find the bathroom if tiled is the best place for sound, you've got a built in seat as well
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    I find that a mandolin doesn`t sound as good when being played by its self as it does when being played with a full band, guitar, banjo and bass...For some reason those other instruments seem to bring out a different tone, maybe because they are moving the air around, I don`t know what that is called in technical terms, never try and adjust a mandolin with a fan blowing.....

    My band plays a gig in a church that was built well before any electronic amplifiers were invented and the acoustics are just beautiful, the church is now used as a museum and the music just rings out as well as any place that I have ever played, we did play one place that had high cathedral ceilings and the sounds seemed to just bounce around and around like an echo and confused the heck out of me...

    Willie

  29. #24

    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    My mandolin seems to sound worse in a room full of people
    Well, count yourself lucky. I'm totally awesome when playing alone, really special, but it only takes one person to make me sound like I haven't even been playing two years.

    I like to play with a condenser mic out about three feet, into my recording interface and back out through phones. I can have any sized room I like. I find a reverb setting I like, then back off the blend untill I can't really hear it.
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    Default Re: Room Acoustics

    I like the sound of my mandolin when I am playing alone and can hear it really well. Playing with others is great fun and I do it often, but can never hear the nuances of the sound like I can alone. I love the way it sounds if you can't tell.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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