Last week a couple of my students exclaimed that their singing sounded so much better when they rehearse in their conservatory than when they have lessons in my vocal studio.
A conservatory (and also a bathroom), with it’s many hard, smooth surfaces creates lots of small echoes which is referred to as reverberation (or reverb). The sound reflects against all these hard surfaces while you’re singing, which increases the volume of your voice and can make it seem more powerful. With the soundwaves bouncing all over the place at different times, the effect of reverb can blend your singing together to an extent, giving your notes a certain amount of sustain and creating a fuller sound. This reverb also has the benefit of helping to mask variations in your pitching – if you bend into notes, it’s much less obvious with a fair bit of reverb present.
Without acoustic treatment, many rooms also can give emphaisis to a particular frequency range (pitch) when the sound’s wavelength is exactly the length or width of the room, causing certain soundwaves to ‘double up’ when they reflect, resulting in an increase in volume. For certain songs, this can have a real advantage.
With the JC Vocals vocal studio, we’ve applied acoustic foam panels to the walls. Whilst this doesn’t soundproof the room, it cuts down hugely on the reflections that you would normally get from the hard surfaces of a normal room that create reverb. This helps towards providing an acoustically ‘dead’ environment to work in. Whilst it may not sound great for the singer, the important thing is that it provides an accurate environment in which to learn to sing. It allows me to identify issues with pitch, power and tone much better than in an acoustically ‘bright’ room. Students who can get it right in a ‘dead’ environment will then sound even better when singing with reverb!