Tips to Help Deal With a Reverberant Venue

Tips to Help Deal With a Reverberant Venue

July 29, 2016 10 Comments

Stage with lights

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!



10 Responses

Klawrence
Klawrence

August 13, 2016

We recently had a gig inside a very large aluminum building. The reverberation inside was impossible to deal with.

The irony is that people outside the building said we sounded incredible. People inside the building could barely hear us because of all of the sound bouncing around.

Fun time

Les Peterson
Les Peterson

August 10, 2016

Reverberant often means hard surfaced, and it has been useful to also roll the highs back somewhat.

Paul Honeycutt
Paul Honeycutt

August 08, 2016

I used to tour as sound engineer for a four piece folk group. We played everywhere from the Barns at Wolf Trap to little clubs and auditoriums. One of the scariest things for me would be when we’d play a church and someone would say “The acoustics are great. Our choir sounds so good here.” It meant that there was a lot of reverb in the room and it would rarely be good for an amplified musical group.

One thing that worked for me on occasion was to turn it up. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but for some rooms it worked. I would only recommend that as the last resort, and I wouldn’t suggest that the band turn up, but running the PA hotter can be a solution and might be worth a try if all else fails.

Filling the room with bodies is still a great solution acoustically and financially!

Louie Bond
Louie Bond

August 04, 2016

Another thing that works in difficult rooms is to use your PA speakers only on one side, a single point source. I found this out one night when another player put his guitar case on a speaker cord on a break, disconnecting one side. This also had the effect of reducing power, but it sounded much better even when I turned back up. One point source, fewer sources to generate reflections.

Zalmo
Zalmo

August 03, 2016

Most venues, at least the ones I’ve played in, are less than perfect when it comes to a musical/sound performance. If you’re a travelling band/act, EACH stage (if you’re lucky enough to have one) will be different and each room will react differently when it comes to sound projection. My best suggestion is to USE YOUR EARS in evaluating the surroundings and figuring out the best way to sonically proceed. A simple “clap” of the hands can help you evaluate the inherent echo/reverberation properties of each venue. Unfortunately, it’s not the more the merrier here and the more return you hear, the lower your volume MUST be. If it’s a small room, maybe only your monitor amps should be on. And THAT can be a lot for a band to get used to, especially if you’re a wham and slam act. And, if it’s really bad, maybe your band should emulate the “unplugged” concerts you see and hear. Up for a new experience, guys?
Playing closer to acoustically may save the gig! It might also give your band new musical ideas….and direction. You can still do the Mammoth thing, but, maybe not there, for that job.
Much more to say, as I’ve said, each venue will probably take a different amplification/performance approach. But, hey, we’re in it for the music(ality) of it, no?

Uncle Ralph
Uncle Ralph

August 02, 2016

Good-friggin’-luck with that. When I played gigs hennerds of years ago, we were a LOUD band because the drummer couldn’t (or wouldn’t) play at anything but coliseum volume. The rest of us just had to turn up till you could kind of hear us, but the sound was still dominated by the drums.

So why didn’t we dump the dude? We did eventually (actually a couple of us changed schools and the band just kind of fell apart), but we put up with him for two solid years because he sang half of our songs AND he had a Econoline-stretch van. If it weren’t for his damn van we wouldn’t be playing any gigs at all.

That, my friends, is life in the music biz. I wish you all the luck we never had!

Ronald Mullins
Ronald Mullins

August 02, 2016

This is a great article

Hal Redekop
Hal Redekop

August 02, 2016

All good suggestions; another technique is to add powered speakers along the room depending on the size of the room; delayed in proportion to the distance. This reduces the reflected sound the audience hears, and increases
the direct sound from the speakers. Granted, this is a costlier answer.

Mark Woodward
Mark Woodward

August 02, 2016

In an environment where you have a lot of hard surfaces and get a lot of echo, how about the use of reverb to ‘squash’ or effectively use the reverb as an effect to reduce the room issue. This way, the slight time delay from the PA SYSTEM will meet the echoed sound and act like a dampner. We have done this in clubs were all the surfaces were hard (floor/ceiling/walls) and the sound would echo around. The slight delay that the reverb caused was enough to effectively meet the reflective sound and basically stopped the echo. A friend who is a sound tech did this at a ‘Battle of the Bands’ and it was an amazing experience. Try this a few times and you’ll discover the right settings. More people equated into the loss of low frequency and didn’t cure the echo.
Food for thought. Let me know your thoughts and or experience here. Thanks for posting this interesting article and see if this may remedy the ‘Hard Room’ syndrome! Remember, we are talking loud volumes here. …..

larry
larry

August 02, 2016

“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.”

I disagree with this. The key is understanding the room and the sound reinforcement situation. In all but the largest venues in makes sense to blend and control both sources so the PA reinforces/complements the sound coming from the stage. It is when you set up a battle for supremacy in the mid sized spaces that trouble happens.

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