While there’s no doubt that intentionally adding some echo or reverb to your band’s vocals can be a nice effect, the overbearing natural reverb and echo that results from the acoustical properties of certain concert halls, churches, and other venues can be a huge problem for your band’s overall sound and result in an unintelligible mess! If your band is all mic’ed up through the PA, playing and hearing mostly echo instead of instruments can make it really difficult to perform well, let alone stay in time and in tune with one another.
This article will give you an idea of what to do if you are faced with this situation and help you to prevent a reverb-filled venue from being your band’s worst enemy.
- Turn it down. The more sound your band puts out, the more echo there will be. Keeping your overall stage volume to a minimum can work wonders! A best practice on any stage is to keep amp volume to a minimum and let the PA do most of the work in delivering your sound to the audience, and that rings true especially in this situation.
- Adjust your technique. If you’ve got a heavy hitting drummer or singer who loves to belt it out, have them try and adapt to the room and modify their technique. This may be difficult, considering many musicians have a set way they like to perform and don’t like being told to change on the spot. It definitely helps if you have knowledge of the venue’s acoustical properties in advance so you can give your band a heads up, and even practice the adjusted technique in rehearsals leading up to the show.
- Easy on the Bass. Bass frequencies are huge and omnidirectional, which spells out bad news in a reverberant venue. These lower frequencies also have the longest reverberation time, so that rumbly low E your bassist played may carry over for more beats than it should. Your bassist may disagree, but it’s for the greater good of the band if you go easy on the bass.
- Switch up your speaker setup. A high quality line array like the Carvin Audio TRX3210A or the TRC Column Array Systems can greatly assist in reducing echo. If you’re a venue owner or sound person looking to tame an echo-filled room, a line array system distributes sound far more evenly and can be focused better than conventional loudspeakers and does not waste power sending any sound upwards towards the ceiling. Considering one of the original purposes of line arrays was to put more sound on the audience and less bouncing on the walls, they are one of the finest solutions available.
- Fill up the room. Having lots of people in a venue helps to soak up the sound, seriously! Human bodies absorb sound directed at them, so the more people you have in the room, the better. Go ahead and invite all your friends and tell them they are helping your band to sound its best, because they really are!
The only way to completely remedy an echo chamber is to modify it physically or acoustically, but 99% of the time that is not a feasible solution (unless your guitar player is an acoustic engineering guru who can move at the speed of the Flash and fix the room before you play). Next time reverb is an extra instrument in your band’s sound, try out these tips!