Acoustics preferences in recordings and live
When I'm recording, I always love to throw on a ton of reverb (echo, for those that don't know what reverb is). I think it makes the violin sound so much more profound.
This is also my preference when playing in real life. In the past, I've driven to parking garages just to play in the reverb-heavy acoustics there.
It's my opinion that the violin is designed to fill a large, reverby space with sound, and not so much designed for smaller spaces with less echo. When I take my violin to a large space with lots of reverb, it's like I'm plugging an electric guitar into an amp for the first time.
Meanwhile, you have someone like my luthier, who seriously cringes at the slightly hint of reverb in a recording. He wants the deadest, carpetiest, most "honest" sound in a recording. We get in actual fights about this.
My theory on this is that he's looking at it from an analytical perspective, trying to hear the instrument itself, and nothing else. He values accuracy over beauty in a recording, whereas I am trying to hear the beauty of the sound and wanting to let the power of the violin "breath" in a nice big space.
You also have recordings like the ones done by "Strings Magazine" in their sessions, where the sound is totally dead, and they don't add post-recording reverb. All of the players there are excellent and playing on great violins, and yet the sound isn't terribly beautiful to me because it sounds utterly dead. So I'm assuming the editors there must prefer that form of sound.
Anyways, what are your preferences, both live and in recordings?
Lush, expansive reverb? Or dead, playing-in-a-snowy-forest acoustics?
I think its why people like to sing in the bathroom.
I get what you like as there are times when added effects give some tracks a cool sound, but for the majority of music I prefer it neutral,as close to the original recording as possible. I wouldn't call sitting in front of Hilary Hahn during a live performance "dead" sounding, correspondingly neither would an accurate unenhanced high bitrate recording using quality speakers or cans to listen to it with. It would be neutral or flat, as the artist intended.
Andrew then there is Willie Ruff's recording of Gregorian chants on French horn which he recorded in St. Mark's. Sounded really good.
"but for the majority of music I prefer it neutral, as close to the original recording as possible"
I prefer to practice in acoustically neutral, relatively large spaces. My music room, where I practice (and where I usually rehearse chamber-music with people), is about 600 sqft, with a 9-foot ceiling, and carpeted with thick padding. It's a space in which you can hear yourself accurately, and the sound is pleasant.
Lydia, I agree that practicing in a dead room is the best way to accurately assess flaws in playing, and to work on the natural resonance of the instrument without "coloring" affecting our perceptions.
It all depends on the nature of the music and the environment it was intended for. It goes without saying that most church music sounds best given the kind of reverberance that makes chamber music very difficult to listen to. Reverberation can be tailored according to the speed of harmonic progression and the density of fast detail.
The problem with reverb is that, sooner or later, one gets a "porridge effect". It is not selective as vibrato or other ornaments could be - just plain echo, cho, ho, o....
As part of his farewell concert with Bristol Chamber Orchestra in April its conductor Dennis Simons will be performing Marcello's D major violin concerto. This seems to be a relatively unknown and performed piece so I tracked down online a recording of it by Steven Staryk in order to get a feel for it for our first rehearsal this evening. The first movement is virtuoso quick, as befits Steven Staryk, but unfortunately the acoustics of the recording venue (sounded like an empty hall or church) and microphone setup were such that the many very quick sixteenth-note passages were so muddied by the acoustics that individual notes could generally not be distinguished - Rocky's "porridge effect" coming into play - thereby ruining the recording. On the same label, a performance of a concerto grosso by Torelli suffered much the same acoustic fate.
[Quote] "I would say that statement is kind of an oxymoron :) I'm assuming what you meant is that you prefer the recording to be as similar as possible to how it would sound ~live~. BUT, the thing about this is that it depends on where you're sitting in relation to the performer, and the acoustics of the hall it's being recorded in." [End quote]
Personally, I think I prefer a room with little reverb. I think it gets in the way of the sound.
I'm not really interested in people post-processing acoustic music, although probably almost all the non-classical music I listen to has extensive post-processing, and a lot of it isn't even really played live, so I guess that's the context for me. With that said, I often record myself playing at church and it doesn't exactly sound flattering as if I were recording myself in a bathtub or something, but it actually sounds pretty decent in the church if you are hearing it, so really it's an issue with miking and equipment.
When it comes to a quality recording, there's no doubt that the cleanest one will be produced by recording in a completely dead room, and then adding supplemental reverb artificially afterwards, as is necessary. In my own recordings, where I sometimes record 10+ tracks for an orchestral sound, too much reverb muddles the overall sound way too much and it starts to sound really crappy.
For of all the wonders that can be achieved by artificial post-hoc processing, I'm a great fan of early (1950's and 60's) stereo orchestral recordings which were obtained using simple microphone setups in natural acoustic settings, without the aid of artificial reverb. Somehow to me the instruments sound more present than in most recent recordings. When sounds emanating from particular instruments are mixed from multiple microphones the element that gets lost is the precise timing or phase of the frequencies. This is particularly important in how the source is perceptually localized on the sound stage by the time difference between sounds arriving at the two ears. When interaural time difference information is sacrificed we are left with just the left-right difference in sound intensity. This is the predominant factor for frequencies above about 1.5 kHz but much less influential at lower frequencies.
We will play differently in different venues: more or less attack, legato, contact point. We play not just our instrument, but the room!
So true, Adrian. This is my problem when recording: if I record with reverb already on (so I hear my echo in real time), I play totally different. More space between notes, more distinct bowings. Then, if I decide to "change the room" with a different reverb setting, I have to re-record the whole damn thing. And visa verca is true as well, if I record totally dead, trying to fill the silence with sustained bowings and a ringing tone, and then having it be muddled when I add reverb.