When it comes to musical performances, multi-purpose rooms are traditionally acoustical nightmares. They’re loud, boomy, full of echoes and prone to excessive reverberation. Acoustical solutions for these areas must be approached from two perspectives. First, where the sound originates – the performers’ area. And secondly, where the sound needs to go – the audience area.
Whether the stage is built-in or portable, the acoustical solution for the performers is the same – acoustical shells and overhead panels. Shells and panels contain the sound in this area and keep it from getting lost in the fly-loft or behind the group. They also blend and balance the on-stage sound. This is extremely important so performers can hear one another and maintain their timing and tone. Shells and panels then help to project the sound out into the audience area.
Audience Area Acoustics
Once sound enters the audience area, a variety of acoustical surface treatments will be needed. The best solutions will come from professional acoustical consultation which will determine surface treatments that are specifically engineered to absorb, diffuse and spread sound. The acoustical section of this guide, on pages 29-31, will also help to provide a general understanding of what must be done to create quality acoustical environments.
Avoid the Gym
If at all possible the gymnasium should be avoided as the primary performance area. The problem is mainly acoustic. In the gym, the floor, walls and ceiling are hard and usually arranged in parallel formations. This greatly increases loudness and reverberation problems. And, because of bouncing balls, acoustical treatments on the walls and ceilings could be damaged easily.